An end to culture wars?
Among the many things to celebrate in Obama's convincing victory is American voters' rejection of the "culture war" agenda that Sarah Palin brought to the Republican ticket.
05 Nov 08

This is a guest post by Anthony Dworkin

Among the many things to celebrate in Obama’s convincing victory is American voters’ rejection of the “culture war” agenda that Sarah Palin brought to the Republican ticket. Opinion polls showed clearly that, while Palin was loved by Republican voters, she put off independents and moderates and probably cost the McCain ticket a good number of their votes. Palin’s attempts to suggest that Obama did not see America the same way as “real Americans” did not gain much traction, nor did the inflammatory claim that he had been “palling around with terrorists” because of his association with William Ayers. Faced with real economic problems and a challenging international environment, the swing voters who decided the election were not interested in Palin’s wild attempt to stoke cultural divisions.

By conviction and by temperament, Obama is clearly inclined to consensus-seeking and toleration, and as president he can be expected to foster a more inclusive and respectful national dialogue.

Internationally, too, he will almost certainly shift the United States further away from the strident ‘with us or against us’ approach that Bush adopted in his first term and never entirely discarded. It’s becoming fashionable to say that people will be disappointed in Obama because the substance of his policies will not represent as much of a shift as people have allowed themselves to hope for. Perhaps, though there will be noticeable differences in America’s counter-terrorism policies, with an end to military tribunals and more genuine due process for detainees. In any case, political style and tone is important in itself. Obama will shift public debate in America, and America’s public engagement with the world, in the direction of greater respect for different opinions, outlooks and cultures. That will be an important benefit in itself.

Anthony Dworkin is executive director of the Crimes of War Project and senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.