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Opinion | Republicans: A misguided crusade in culture wars

If Republicans truly aim to win hearts and minds, perhaps it’s time to remember that progress isn’t the enemy.

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A seemingly endless parade of culture warriors find new enemies daily in the world they are fighting to preserve: Critical Race Theory; Environmental, Social, and Governance investments; LGBTQ citizens; transgender youth and their parents; and the terrifying presence of “woke” ideology invading every fiber of American life, especially here in Alabama.

It’s just another Tuesday, and the latest Republican attempt to wage a culture war is still hot. What’s on the docket this time? A handful of concerned citizens want to ban books in public libraries, a lawmaker works to overturn university policy, and a grandmother sees an image in a pumpkin patch that could be a sign from heaven.

It’s almost comical — tragically so — when you see a party that once stood for limited government and individual freedoms divert so much energy to policing thoughts, art, and even historical facts. Aren’t there more pressing issues at hand? Or have they decided that reshaping cultural perceptions is more crucial than addressing the very real challenges Alabamians face?

Are Republican strategists reading the room correctly? Are they genuinely tuned into the sentiments of their electorate? Or are they mistaking the loudest voices for the majority? It seems as if they’ve pulled out a dated playbook, trying to tackle today’s intricacies with yesterday’s tools.

Recall the age-old saying: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It’s a lesson some Republicans seem eager to forget. Every era has its share of individuals and groups resisting progress. Often, in the clear lens of hindsight, we see these resistors as being on the wrong side of history. From those who opposed civil rights to those who decried women’s suffrage, history hasn’t been kind to the naysayers.

Yet, here we are, witnessing a segment of Republicans trying to wage a war on the cultural shifts defining our era. They seem to overlook that culture, by its very nature, is organic. It evolves with or without legislative input. Attempting to suppress it is much like trying to hold back the tides with a broom; it’s futile and looks quite ridiculous.

Surely, there are those in the Alabama Republican Party who recognize this. Those clear-headed, forward-thinking Republicans who understand that to be relevant and resonate with the electorate, they must adapt and evolve, rather than staunchly resist. Culture wars might rile up a base in the short term, but they seldom lead to lasting, positive legacies.

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It seems as if they've pulled out a dated playbook, trying to tackle today's intricacies with yesterday's tools.

Perhaps it’s time for the more pragmatic voices in the Republican Party to step up. Voices that understand that engaging in substantive discussions about the economy, infrastructure, and healthcare will serve their constituents far better than contrived panic over the outrage du jour.

Leaders in the business community here in the state understand vividly that culture wars harm business opportunities, devastate the talent pool, and mock their efforts to make Alabama a land of opportunity.

It is far past time for the state’s business leaders to use its dollars and political capital to elect candidates who understand that regressive societies die a slow but sure death from a lack of economic prosperity.

As authors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt found in “How Democracies Die”: “Playing with fire, however, is a dangerous game. More often than not, politicians who willingly handed their fates over to the zealots and demagogues were eventually consumed by them.”

After all, in the end, when the dust of these battles settles and history writes its tales, do today’s Republicans genuinely want to be remembered as the party that tried to curtail progress and diversity of thought?

Today, the politics of Taylor Swift is prevailing over those of Jim Crow and only a blind mule can’t see the daylight in that reality.

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While the battle rages in the so-called Red States, it’s not too late here at home to change course. But it requires recognizing that these culture wars, this endless shadowboxing against imagined enemies, aren’t just a poor strategy — they’re a disservice to the very principles upon which the Republican Party was founded.

If Republicans truly aim to win hearts and minds, perhaps it’s time to remember that progress isn’t the enemy. Sometimes, it’s the very essence of what a nation needs to thrive. Let’s hope that sober-minded Republicans still believe that and will guide their party back to its core values.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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