USNews and World Report–Opinion–March 6, 2012

It seems strange that we are in 2012 and the Republicans believe it is in their best interests to rewage the culture wars of the 1960s.

It is true that we are in the midst of contested primaries where the Republican candidates are trying their best to get to the far right of each other. The decision to appeal to those jeering crowds in debates is far from appealing.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum questions women working outside the home and former Gov. Mitt Romney fights not to get outflanked by Santorum on contraception.

This is not a pretty picture: a joke about aspirin between the knees that was told before most of us were born; questioning a college education as “snobbish” (new phrase dictated by Mrs. Santorum); standing with Rush Limbaugh or, at least, not standing up to him when he delivers his vulgar, misogynist lines; taking on gays and lesbians in the military and elsewhere.

The Republicans are rapidly building the reputation as the intolerant party. The Republicans are fighting fights that are settled in law, settled culturally, settled, for sure, among women. They are infuriating younger voters, they are driving a wedge with suburban voters, they are seriously off message with Americans who are concerned about the economy and don’t want to hear candidates railing against “women’s lib.”

That is all so yesterday.

It is very clear that the economy is on the upswing, and if the Republicans are searching for another issue to go after Obama and the Democrats on, trying to ignite a new culture war is probably not their best idea. Barry Goldwater held that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” this Republican crowd seems to believe that “extremism to rid us of vice [as they define it] won’t deprive us of our liberty.” Goldwater would be appalled by the Santorums and Romneys of the world.

After all, what is next: hemlines? Long hair? Rock n’ Roll music? Freaking out over Mick Jagger at the White House?