Cliff's Take: Culture wars come out of hibernation

As we reemerge into a post-pandemic landscape, so do our cultural discontents.

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  • Clifford Young President, US, Public Affairs
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COVID masked America’s underlying cultural foment. A global pandemic draws focus, for sure.

But as we reemerge from hiding, so do our cultural discontents. Now, rather than debate about whether the pandemic is real or not – as we did for the past year – we’re moving on to other topics.

As just one example, you’ve likely come across a spate of stories about critical race theory (CRT) and its application in K-12 schools in the news lately. (If you’re not familiar with the concept, EdWeek has a good explainer.)

Like most things in America, opinion is split about CRT – outrage on the right, and outrage about the outrage on the left. While there’s a lot to unpack in these debates, let’s zoom out big picture.

What this phenomenon – among others – tells me is that the culture wars are back! I'm getting flashbacks to the ‘90s…

To be clear, these are not the same culture wars of that era. We’re a different country now. For one, discussions about race and injustice are now much more out in the open – the current dialogue around CRT being just one example of that. As a nation, we’re feeling unsettled about who we are and our place in this changing post-pandemic landscape.

I detail the relevant data below.

  1. New focus. Race and inequality are emerging national priorities, up there with issues like immigration and the coronavirus. This would be hard to imagine even just a decade ago. Main issue


  2. The problem is real. And at the same time, few deny that racism is a part of daily life. But again, partisanship conditions how Americans feel about this. Reality of racism


  3. Critical…, what? Our latest polling with Reuters shows that most Americans are unfamiliar with CRT. For many it is still an enigma.  But FOX News viewers feel like they know what it is, even if much of that belief is not accurate. As a media narrative, it has taken on a life of its own. A convenient wedge for the 2022 midterms? Possibly. Familiarity


  4. Localized fear. Americans are split on whether CRT is being used to erase our heritage. But again, it all comes down to where you get your facts. A supermajority of conservative media consumers only see doom. Look at the data. Negative perceptions


  5. Feeling pushed out. Again, let’s remember that many Americans feel that the playing field isn’t level – for them. There is a red view and a blue view. Look at the data; look at the differences!   The tale of two Americans. Grievance


As we've seen before in America, perception so often is (or quickly becomes) reality. CRT is one of the latest items to succumb to this cultural trend. It’s unlikely to be the last.

As always, be safe, be sane.

For more information, please contact:

Clifford Young
President, U.S.
Public Affairs
+1 202 420-2016
[email protected]

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The author(s)
  • Clifford Young President, US, Public Affairs