Whether the country has become more or less liberal on economics depends upon both the time frame considered and definition of economic liberalism used. The country has moved towards the right in some ways on civil liberties issues since 9/11. On the other hand, while the pendulum sometimes moves briefly in the other direction, the country is becoming socially more liberal.
Stuart Rosenberg points out the difficulties now faced by social conservatives, as their archaic views are rejected by increasing portions of the country:
Starting with TV shows like “All in the Family,” “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Maude,” progressing to the very funny “Will & Grace” and going right up to today’s most obvious example, “Glee,” television has pushed socially progressive themes. Socially progressive characters are enlightened and admirable, while traditionalists are unappealing, to say the least…
The public and TV networks’ reactions to two recent Supreme Court decisions, one invalidating Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the other invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act, were noteworthy.
Both decisions were 5-4, but only about the Voting Rights Act decision did I hear the high court widely described as “bitterly divided.”
In the days after the Voting Rights Act decision, you might have thought that the high court had taken away the right to vote from African-Americans. Journalists gave plenty of attention to voices opposing the decision and arguing that the ruling would overturn all the progress of civil rights since the 1960s.
The media’s coverage of the DOMA decision, on the other hand, was almost euphoric, geared overwhelmingly toward those celebrating the decision…
The type of coverage of the two decisions undoubtedly also reflects the fundamental values of most journalists, who are generally more liberal than the country as a whole. There appeared to be plenty of cheerleading after the two rulings on same-sex marriage, and not merely from the obvious voices on MSNBC.
But it wasn’t only surrounding the Supreme Court’s opinions on marriage that some of the recent media coverage seemed tilted.
On his final show hosting CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, media critic Howard Kurtz commented on the media’s very sympathetic treatment of Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, whose 11-hour filibuster at the end of a special session prevented the enactment of a bill limiting abortions and requiring facilities performing abortions to meet certain standards.
“If Wendy Davis had been conducting a lonely filibuster against abortion rights,” Kurtz asked, “would the media have celebrated her in quite the same way?” Kurtz didn’t offer an answer — because he didn’t have to. The answer certainly would have been “no.”
For social conservatives, the greatest problem may be the undermining of traditional religious authority and belief.
While Gallup showed only a slight annual increase last year in the percentage of people saying that they had no religious identification (up to 17.8 percent in 2012), the trend is clear.
“The rise in the religious ‘nones’ over time is one of the most significant trends in religious measurement in the United States. … The percentage who did not report [a religious] identity began to rise in the 1970s and has continued to increase in the years since,” wrote Gallup in a January 2013 report.
In the 2012 exit poll, President Barack Obama won 62 percent of voters who never attend religious services but only 39 percent of those who attended weekly. He carried 70 percent of those voters who said they had no religion, compared with only 42 percent of Protestants and 50 percent of Catholics…
Social conservatives probably see Obama, liberals on the Supreme Court and Democrats in Congress as their main adversaries. But they are wrong. The most important leaders of cultural liberalism may well be the members of the media and entertainment communities, and social conservatives simply have no strategy to deal with that.
While the country is becoming more liberal, I see the record of the Supreme Court as far more mixed, making some rulings which liberals are happy with but also taking moves to try to move the country to the right, such as with the Citizen’s United ruling. Their efforts to reduce the ability of minorities to vote may also be of value to Republicans. I wouldn’t underestimate the value of looking at popular culture as an indicator of which direction the country is heading in, but a conservative Supreme Court can leave us with a government which continues to be overly intrusive in the private lives of individuals.