Historian: America's culture war is transforming into an actual war

Historian: America's culture war is transforming into an actual war
Image via Wikimedia Commons / Gage Skidmore

One historian is expressing concern about the American culture war that is slowly evolving into an actual war. In an op-ed published by The Guardian, Thomas Zimmer —a historian and DAAD Visiting Professor at Georgetown University focusing on the historical study of the United States' democracy and its dissatisfaction— explained the disturbing evolution.

Zimmer began with the ever-growing divide in America. Over the last several years, America's two main political factions have become more prevalent. There's the so-called liberal left and the far-right. While this isn't a secret, Zimmer noted what's changed.

"The authoritarian ruler in the Kremlin deciding to invade a democratic neighbor – that’s the type of international crisis that traditionally might have inspired some closing of the ranks: set differences aside, let domestic quarrels rest," Zimmer said.

He went on to note Republicans' varying reactions to the disturbing scene unfolding in Ukraine. "The right’s reactions to Russia’s attack on Ukraine have ranged from blatant admiration for [Vladamir] Putin to anti-Russian saber-rattling combined with a shrill critique of President Joe Biden," Zimmer wrote. "Donald Trump initially called the invasion 'genius'; he then defended his position at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) over the weekend, adding that Nato was 'not so smart' and 'our leaders are dumb.'”

According to Zimmer, there are multiple Republican figures who have contributed to the rise in radicalized thinking. Former President Donald Trump and Fox News' Tucker Carlson are among the most vocal conservatives fueling far-right rhetoric.

Zimmer used the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) as a prime example of the negative narrative contributing to the growth of extremism.

"Donald Trump is the political leader of the Republican party and likely its next presidential candidate. Tucker Carlson is one of the premier right-wing culture warriors in the country," Zimmer wrote. "Trump and Carlson are not fringe voices, and they aren’t outliers either: a last week’s CPAC, conservative speakers focused their ire on Joe Biden’s supposed weakness as the real cause for Putin’s aggression; and they left no doubt who they considered the biggest threat – the 'enemy within,' as Senator Rick Scott put it, the 'militant left-wing in our country.'”

Since Trump's presidential victory in 2016, Zimmer notes, "the simmering admiration for Putin morphed into GOP orthodoxy, with Donald Trump himself leading the Republican party’s pro-Russia turn."

To make matters worse, the approval of Russian President Vladamir Putin among Republican voters has gradually increased over the years. As of January 2022, Republican voters found Putin more favorable than President Joe Biden. So, why is that? Zimmer explained.

"Such authoritarian, white Christian nationalist, anti-“left” leanings are now informing the right’s reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine," he wrote. "The far-right is all in on Putin – Steve Bannon, for instance, declared his support because 'Putin ain’t woke, he is anti-woke.' On the Christian nationalist wing of the Republican party, Lauren Witzke, the Delaware Republican party’s candidate for Senate in 2020, proudly declared that she supported Putin because he protects 'our Christian values. I identify more with Russian, with Putin’s Christian values than I do with Joe Biden.'”

He later added, "Rightwingers everywhere understand the transnational dimension as well as the world-historic significance of the current fight over democracy more clearly than many people on the left: is it possible to establish a stable multiracial, pluralistic democracy? Such a political, social and cultural order has indeed never existed."

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