George Will

The GOP, he says, courts whites ``whose interests are overwhelmingly focused on tempering, if not altogether rolling back, the civil rights movement.'' Please. Who favors rolling back guarantees of voting rights and equal access to public accommodations?

If Edsall really thinks Republicans are marching efficiently in lock step, he has missed bitter intraparty arguments about spending, immigration and nation-building. Edsall says the conservative agenda is ``to dismantle the welfare state.'' Oh? With a prescription drug entitlement that is the largest expansion of the welfare state since enactment of Medicare in 1965? With a 38 percent increase in discretionary domestic spending unrelated to homeland security -- including a 135 percent increase in the Education Department's budget -- since 2001?

When Edsall says middle- and working-class cultural conservatives vote for Republicans who then use their power ``for noncultural objectives,'' he is voicing a familiar liberal lament: All would be well if voters would vote based on important issues -- material, economic concerns; their wallets -- rather than unimportant ones such as abortion, the definition of marriage, the coarsening of the culture and other moral anxieties. But if those issues are unimportant, why is it that liberals, adamantly supporting partial-birth abortion and celebrating judicial redefinitions of marriage, are so uncompromising about them? As Edsall says, liberalism has become bifurcated. The largest faction looks to government for material help. But the socially liberal ``post-materialist'' cadre ``overwhelmingly sets'' the party's agenda.

Edsall notes that one-third of American children -- and almost 70 percent of African-American children -- are born to unmarried mothers. Then, in an astonishing passage about this phenomenon, which is the cause of most social pathologies, from crime to schools that cannot teach, he explains how Americans differ concerning what he calls ``freedom from the need to maintain the marital or procreative bond.''

``To social conservatives,'' he writes, ``these developments have signaled an irretrievable and tragic loss. Their reaction has fueled, on the right, a powerful traditionalist movement and a groundswell of support for the Republican Party. To modernists, these developments constitute, at worst, the unfortunate costs of progress, and, at best -- and this is very much the view on the political left as well as of Democratic Party loyalists -- they constitute a triumph over unconscionable obstacles to the liberation and self-realization of much of the human race.''

Looking for the real reason for the rise of ``Red America''? Read that paragraph again.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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