In May 2022, during his closing remarks at the Pennsylvania mid-term primary debate, GOP Senate candidate Mehmet Oz declared that his party needed to step up its game in America’s culture wars. “We keep showing up at cultural war knife fights with neatly arranged 3-by-5 index cards,” he told the crowd. “We have to get into these issues. The liberals are taking over our media, they control much of government, the corporate suits are dominated by the ‘woke’ ideology, and our universities as well.” As someone who has sat through numerous Conservative Political Action Conferences (CPAC), I’ve heard versions of Oz’s argument before; as far as I’m aware, Republicans have never seen a culture war they haven’t tried to fight in. But are these battles starting to become political quagmires for the Republicans?
Oz’s proclamation was four months, and a Dobbs decision, ago. After a messy summer of doctors reportedly postponing or refusing to provide medically necessary abortion care, Republicans face an unfamiliar setback: For the first time since Donald Trump busted onto the scene like a racist Kool-Aid Man, it looks like Democrats might have the upper hand in the culture wars. This jarring shift hasn’t gone unnoticed. As Michael Brodkorb, a former deputy chair of the Minnesota Republican Party, told Politico last week, “The environment is upside down … The intensity has been reversed.”