The McCain-Palin Ticket Renews the Culture Wars

Deal W. Hudson
September 5, 2008

With the nomination of Gov. Sarah Palin as the Republican vice-presidential candidate, a fatal blow was delivered to the great myth of this campaign: that religious voters, as we have been told repeatedly, have embraced a broader issue agenda, having left behind their fixation on abortion and marriage.

On the contrary: The thousands of Republicans who raised the roof of the Xcel C0nvention Center were not cheering about Palin’s concern for climate change or the minimum wage. They cheered her for being a traditional woman, a mother, and a pro-life Christian.

The venom suddenly released in the media and the blogosphere was predictable. The spin about a broader issue agenda was forgotten, and the culture wars that were supposedly a thing of the past suddenly reignited.

In my recent book Onward Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States, I argue that the influence of religious conservatives in politics was far from over. The issues that fueled the rise of the Religious Right in the late 1970s are still bringing new legions of Christian voters into the political process. The ongoing alliance of religious conservatives with the Republican Party remains secure.

None of the critics of Governor Palin took her to task over global warming. These same pundits who spoke of the so-called “greening” of the religious conservative agenda couldn’t restrain their anger at the prospect of a traditional Christian woman being the first of her sex to work in the White House.

In this respect, the nomination of Sarah Palin actually brings a different aspect of the culture wars into the presidential campaign: It represents the rejection of the feminist movement and all the promises made in its name. If Palin becomes vice president, it won’t be a feminist who breaks the ultimate “glass ceiling” of American public life; this historic moment will be claimed by a PTA mom with five children who do not fear the intrusion of a Down Syndrome child on her time, energy, or career.

The Palin factor, in this way, introduces something entirely new in American politics. Until now, a traditional woman was never envisioned as the leader of a major political party, because feminism was assumed to be a requirement for women leaders in cultural and political life.

The viciousness of the media attack surrounding Palin’s nomination was fueled by its implicit repudiation of the feminine mystique. Whether they are aware of it or not, I believe the thousands of Republicans who cheered Governor Palin were expressing their relief at a woman political leader created outside the mold of Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi.

Thus, the choice of Palin by McCain has a consistency that goes beyond politics into the debate over so-called gender roles. Like the stark contrast that exists between Sarah Palin and the women leaders in the Democratic Party, John McCain and Barack Obama are different breeds of men. McCain is a man who never took any sensitivity training, while Obama’s persona and rhetoric are perfectly attuned to the male ideal as established by the feminist movement.

Where Obama is eloquent and emotionally affecting, McCain is brusque and matter-of-fact. Where Obama seeks to satisfy the canons of political correctness (“That’s above my pay-grade”), McCain speaks bluntly (“I believe life begins at conception”).

Much of the election turmoil over the next two months will be generated, I believe, by the subliminal challenge presented by McCain’s choice of running mate to Obama’s embodiment of the feminist ideal.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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