Republicans politicians see culture wars as their avenue back to power, according to The Washington Post columnist James Hohmann.
A chorus of Republicans have complained that President Joe Biden had accused two GOP governors of engaging in "Neanderthal thinking" over their decisions to rescind COVID-19 prevent measures. They also expressed outrage that Hasbro planned to drop "Mr." from its Potato Head branding and that Dr. Seuss Enterprises planned to cease printing six books that contained racist stereotypes.
"The familiar chorus of faux indignation from the bad-faith brigade illustrates more than just how reflexive and juvenile the discourse has become," Hohmann writes. "This week also put into stark relief how leading Republicans hope to fight their way out of the wilderness by leaning into grievance and picking culture war battles."
He adds that efforts to "capitalize on the cultural epidemic of grievance and victimhood" are "entirely rational," because they keep conservatives engaged.
Such battles also help to distract from the fact that Republicans are fighting against popular legislation. According to a Quinnipiac poll from February, nearly 7 in 10 Americans support the Biden administration's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, known as the American Rescue Plan.
"Republicans now face the familiar challenge of keeping their populist base riled up while opposing policies that would benefit many of those core supporters — this time without Trump," Hohmann explains. "Indeed, even as Republicans tried to convince their voters to take offense at Biden's Neanderthal label, they were voting en masse against a measure to extend unemployment benefits and send $1,400 checks to millions of households, while arguing against a $15 an hour minimum wage."
Biden and his aides, on the other hand, have mostly ignored the culture war battles.
"I don't think there is any danger in ignoring a debate on Mr. Potato Head and Dr. Seuss," John Anzalone, a Biden adviser and campaign pollster, told Politico.