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It felt visceral, almost violent, as if McCain had given his supporters permission to drill someone they hated. McCain flashed an uneasy grin, like a kid who had just set off his first firecracker, delighted but also a bit frightened by its power. They loved the idea of drilling now, and drilling everywhere, because their political enemies hated it.

Campaign Finance Red Tape: Strangling Free Speech & Political Debate | Institute For Free Speech

They were enjoying the primal experience of owning the libs, lashing out at the smug Democratic hippies who wanted to take away their SUVs and guns and Big Gulps. Oil exploration is a complex issue, but in the arena it was just another blunt-force weapon in a simple culture war. President Donald Trump has pioneered a new politics of perpetual culture war, relentlessly rallying his supporters against kneeling black athletes, undocumented Latino immigrants and soft-on-crime, weak-on-the-border Democrats.

He reverses the traditional relationship between politics and governance, weaponizing policy to mobilize his base rather than mobilizing his base to change policy. These days, even climate change, infrastructure policy and other domestic issues normally associated with wonky panels at Washington think tanks have been repackaged into cultural-resentment fodder. Transforming difficult analytical questions into knee-jerk emotional battlegrounds will dramatically increase the danger that thoughtless short-term choices will throw off our long-term national trajectory.

Our foreign adversaries like it when we yell at one another. Democrats and Republicans are increasingly self-segregated and mutually disdainful , each camp deploying the furious language of victimhood to justify its fear and loathing of the gullible deplorables in the other. One side boycotts Chick-fil-A over gay rights , Walmart over sweatshops and companies that do business with the National Rifle Association, while the other boycotts Nike over Colin Kaepernick , Starbucks over refugees, gay marriage and non-Christmas-specific holiday cups and companies that stop doing business with the NRA.

We live in an era of performative umbrage. Every decision about where to shop or what to drive or what to watch is now an opportunity to express our political identities. The hour news cycle has become a never-ending national referendum on Trump. Politically, it makes sense that debates over highly technical challenges like energy and climate change have been transformed into shirts-and-skins identity issues. But while DeSantis may win points with his base by distancing himself from the Church of Global Warming Leftists, just as Trump does by dismissing global warming as a hoax manufactured in China, global warming is real, no matter who belongs to its church.

Culture-war politics are often a crutch, a look-at-the-shiny-ball distraction, an easy way to shift complicated policy debates from inconvenient facts to emotion and identity. As long as America keeps sorting itself into two factions divided by geography, ethnicity and ideology, pitting a multiracial team of progressives who live in cities and inner-ring suburbs against a white team of conservatives who live in exurbs and rural areas, this is what debates about public policy—or for that matter about the FBI, the dictator of North Korea and the credibility of various sexual assault allegations—will look like.

We will twist the facts into our partisan narratives. The self-inflicted wounds will infect more and more of our lives. And if you want something else to worry about, consider where it might be spreading next.

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Politics has always been adversarial. Public Choice. Our survey indicates these costs arise from the fear of prosecution by authorities for alleged violations of reporting requirements. Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


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Skip to main content. Advertisement Hide. Article First Online: 04 February This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. Alexander, H. Financing the Election. Lexington: Lexington Books. Google Scholar.

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Take a Tour Permissions. By Thomas J. Billitteri Introduction The McCain-Feingold law, which sought to reduce the influence of money in political campaigns, faces an uphill battle in the Supreme Court, where a conservative majority already has chipped away at the law, and new cases are in the wings. Read the Full Report Subscription Required. All Rights Reserved. Campaign Finance Reform. Have efforts to rein in political donations failed?