CULTURAL CONSERVATISM

Immigration occupied only one front in what came to be called the Culture Wars—battles over moral values that raged throughout the 1990s. The Christian Coalition, founded by evangelical minister Pat Robertson, became a major force in Republican politics. It launched crusades against gay rights, abortion, secularism in public schools, and government aid to the arts. Pat Buchanan’s Republican convention speech of 1992 calling for a “religious war for the soul of America,” mentioned earlier, alarmed many voters. But cultural conservatives hailed it as their new rallying cry.

Demonstrators for and against Proposition 187, with police separating them, at a rally in Los Angeles in August 1996. Approved by California voters two years earlier, the measure severely restricted the services available to undocumented immigrants.

Figure 27.6 WOMEN IN THE PAID WORKFORCE, 1940-2000

By 2000, women represented nearly half of the American workforce, and unlike in the nineteenth century, a majority of women working outside the home were married.

It sometimes appeared during the 1990s that the country was refighting old battles between traditional religion and modern secular culture. In an echo of the 1920s, a number of localities required the teaching of creationism, a religious alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution. The battles of the 1960s seemed to be forever unresolved. Many conservatives railed against the erosion of the nuclear family, the changing racial landscape produced by immigration, and what they considered a general decline of traditional values. Cultural conservatives were not satisfied with a few victories over what they considered immorality, such as rules banning the National Endowment for the Arts from making grants to artists who produced sexually explicit material, or the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which barred gay couples from spousal benefits provided by federal law.

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