The Culture War Is Politics Now — What Does That Mean?

Harrison Hamm
5 min readMar 1, 2021
This is probably how it’s gonna be for a while.

You probably heard about the Mr. Potato Head saga this week. Hasbro dropped the “Mr.” from the brand name in a move to be more gender-inclusive. This might mean something to you; it probably doesn’t. It is such a minor move that only the name on the box will change, not the characters themselves. I will never get back the three minutes it took me to find that information.

Why did you hear about it? It’s become the latest small-scale battlefield in a large-scale culture war that has overtaken American politics. No one will ever win this battle. But we all had the pleasure of watching posts saying “what is happening to society??” get 50k likes for a couple days.

The bigger battles of this culture war — Kaepernick, gay wedding cakes — etc. last longer. They all have staying power, and they are the basis of most political debates at this point. The Republican party, which opposes policies that have majority-support like gun control and a $15 minimum wage, has built its entire platform on waging this cold war against liberals.

The thing is, though, that there are real contents of the culture war. Mr. Potato Head doesn’t mean anything, but transgender people, as the Oreo brand confirmed on Twitter, exist. The Equality Act, which would amend the 1964 Voting Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity, faces opposition from Republicans in the Senate. That may be a culture war issue, but it’s also a real people issue.

It’s politically beneficial for the GOP to pretend like those real people don’t exist. This is their lifeline, as a party. They’ve decided, rightly or wrongly, that their best electoral chance comes down to riling up their base and getting white people fired up. Any Republican with no interest in doing that will be, ironically, canceled.

This is the result of fake issues turned into real issues. Years of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh quietly poisoned the brains of millions. They got people thinking that, as an example, the War on Christmas is a real thing, and that everyone saying Happy Holidays is a liberal that hates Jesus. Obviously there was never a single person that wanted to prevent you from celebrating Christmas. It was completely made up so Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly could get more viewers and make more…