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The GOP’s Vietnam- How Republican foreign policy lost the culture war—and a generation

America doesn’t really have a two-party system. It has a one-and-a-half-party system, where one party at a time tends to dominate the national agenda while the other becomes a half-party—one that might hold onto the House of Representatives and some state governments, but that isn’t trusted by voters to run the country.

The Republicans are America’s half-party today. This is a reversal from a generation ago, when the GOP typically held the White House—for all but four years from 1969 to 1993—and occasionally the Senate, while Democrats, despite a 40-year majority in the House of Representatives, were the party Americans deemed incompetent to govern at the national level.

The root of the GOP’s problem now is the same as that of the Democrats in 1969: the party’s reputation has been ruined by a botched, unnecessary war—Vietnam in the case of the Democrats, Iraq for the GOP. This may sound implausible: every political scientist knows that Americans don’t care about foreign policy; certainly they don’t vote based on it. But foreign policy is not just about foreign policy: it’s also about culture.

That the “culture war”—as well as the “War on Drugs”—assumed its present shape in the wake of the Vietnam conflict is no accident. Vietnam polarized, realigned, and radicalized cultural factions. During the Lyndon Johnson administration, Republicans in Congress were still more likely than Democrats to support civil rights legislation. Attitudes toward abortion and homosexuality did not clearly divide left from right: Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater, and even William F. Buckley favored liberalizing abortion laws in the early 1960s, while as late as 1972 Democratic vice presidential nominees Sargent Shriver and Thomas Eagleton were antiabortion. Few mainstream figures in either party supported gay rights, but it was clear enough from their social circles that right-wingers such as Reagan, Goldwater, and Buckley were not about to launch any witch-hunts.

Nor were attitudes toward drugs a mark of partisan distinction: Clare Booth Luce was an early evangelist for LSD. She urged her husband, Time proprietor Henry Luce, to try it, and he “did much more to popularize acid than Timothy Leary,” in Abbie Hoffman’s opinion. Buckley, of course, was a longtime supporter of marijuana decriminalization.

One could find many more right-wingers who took the opposite views—but one could find just as many Democrats who did as well. The civil rights movement and the sexual revolution had supporters and opponents on both sides of the aisle.

Good article-read the rest: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-gops-vie...

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