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Why Should We Care About Culture Wars?

Thought-provoking piece from JLF Senior Vice President Jon Pritchett, who makes the case that we need to engage the culture wars while we are also fighting for liberty.

Many of my cohorts in the free-market, think tank world believe it’s counter-productive for us to engage culture wars. They think our time is better spent on policy initiatives and legislative outreach. And while that is a critically important component of our job as advocates for ideas that limit government and encourage human flourishing, I believe we should also be engaged as a voice in the actions taking place in our culture. While policy and political actions tend to be lagging indicators of our society, culture is a leading indicator. And the progressives (opponents of free-markets and limited government) dominate the discussion in the culture wars. If we fail to engage on culture, we’ll only be reacting to societal shifts with our policy ideas and political solutions.

Fighting progressive culture wars is akin to weeding your garden. If you’re trying to establish a beautiful and fragrant flower, you need to feed it sun, water and nutrients but you also need to remove weeds. If left unattended, invasive weeds can grow stronger and stronger. If not pulled early, they can take root in the soil and begin to compete with your flower. Over time, the weeds can steal water, sunlight and nutrients until they become bigger, taller and more vibrant than the precious flower you planted. While we are focused on nurturing the flower of liberty, we can’t neglect to fight the weeds of collectivism, liberalism and progressivism.

As a result of the culture debate that has been taking place in NFL stadiums about national anthems, I find optimism in the results thus far. Why? Because while progressives have infected the arts, higher education, Hollywood, and news, we still have a chance to keep sports inoculated from the infection. Until recently, sport has maintained its status as a great unifier of people from all different backgrounds. No matter our race, color, sex, age, country of origin, or political interests, we share our love for our team. As NFL owners and players, ESPN, and parent Disney are learning the hard (read “expensive”) way, sports consumers want their sports delivered free of social commentary and political opinion. If a consumer wants political analysis, the alternative media options abound.

While we may have only prevailed in a small skirmish in the larger culture war, it provides hope that many of our fellow citizens are prepared to preserve liberty from the progressives. If nothing else, perhaps we preserved the joy of watching live sports delivered to our devices without political interruption. It remains to be seen how long the defense will hold.

Donna Martinez / VP of Marketing and Communications

Donna came to the John Locke Foundation in January 2003 after freelance writing for Carolina Journal and contributing to projects for the North Carolina Education Alliance. He...

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