Although Sarah Palin says she would be a fresh face in Washington, she really represents the end of a long line of Republican culture warriors, writes Peter Beinart in the Washington Post. "She's depicting the campaign as a struggle between the culturally familiar and the culturally threatening, the culturally traditional and the culturally exotic," but her argument falls flat, and history can explain why.
Cultural battles over immigration and prohibition colored elections in the 1920s. But during the Great Depression, identity politics became just another luxury America could no longer afford. More recently, decades of economic growth and the encouragement of Palin's predecessors allowed cultural divides to widen again—until the economy started tanking. "Palin's brand is culture war," Beinart argues, "and in America today culture war no longer sells."