Supreme Court Rulings, Confederate Flag, Mark Shift In Culture Wars : It's All Politics Supreme Court rulings on the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage this week, and the debate over the Confederate flag, mark the apparent end of several battles in the culture war.
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Supreme Court Rulings, Confederate Flag, Mark Shift In Culture Wars

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Supreme Court Rulings, Confederate Flag, Mark Shift In Culture Wars

Supreme Court Rulings, Confederate Flag, Mark Shift In Culture Wars

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Today's decision is one of several recent events marking a reset in the culture wars. It comes as we're hearing calls from the Confederate flag to come down in Southern states and after the Supreme Court has, for the second time, voted to preserve the Affordable Care Act. The ACA, or Obamacare, was seen by many liberals and conservatives as a social issue - an issue of liberty and rights. NPR's Mara Liasson looks at what all of this means for the president and for Democrats and Republicans.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: So many big political events have cascaded through the culture lately, it's hard to sort them all out. But some see a through line. Stephanie Cutter is a Democratic strategist and a former aide to President Obama.

STEPHANIE CUTTER: I think that what these things say is that the country is ready to move on from some debates that have divided us, in some cases for generations.

LIASSON: That certainly seems to be true about the Confederate flag and to some extent gay marriage. Even Obamacare, while still unpopular, is generating less passion than it did two years ago. It's hard to come up with a simple scorecard in the culture wars. On the surface, when you take everything that's happened this spring together, it looks like a lot of big wins for the president and the Democrats. David Axelrod is Mr. Obama's former senior advisor.

DAVID AXELROD: You know, I have to smile when I think about where the conventional wisdom was the day after the midterm election, when many people were suggesting that he ought to go fishing for the next two years because there would be nothing left for him to do. And this past week with the passage of the fast track provision on trade, with the decision of the Supreme Court, leaning in on the Confederate flag, it's clear that there's still enormous power vested in that presidency.

LIASSON: But there also may be a silver lining in all of these developments for Republicans, starting with the gay marriage ruling. Republicans know their opinions are out of sync with the majority of Americans on gay marriage. And now that the Supreme Court has provided some clarity, they can work on a way to square that circle. Many of the Republican presidential candidates issued statements today saying that while they disagreed with the court and would work to reverse the ruling, they respected the dignity of those who disagreed with them. It's a start. And Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, approved.

RUSSELL MOORE: I think that many candidates are taking exactly the right approach - not backing down on fundamental convictions and yet, at the same time, recognizing that we have to persuade people who disagree with us, not simply scream at them. I think that's a wise move.

LIASSON: Yesterday's court decision to leave Obamacare intact may not have been such a big defeat for the GOP either. Republican congressional leaders are probably heaving a secret sigh of relief because they avoided the responsibility for millions of people who could have lost their health insurance overnight. Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway says there's a benefit for Republican presidential candidates, too.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: It liberates them to speak with clarity about what they would do if they were elected. They have a renewed platform to highlight the burdens and unfairness on American families and businesses. And I think the decision makes Obamacare no more popular or workable. And now we'll shift over from the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act on to the workability of the Affordable Care Act.

LIASSON: As for the Confederate flag, just as the Supreme Court rescued the Republicans from having to deal with the chaos of an unraveling health insurance system, Conway says South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, by swiftly moving to take down the flag, helped her party in their difficult quest to appeal to an electorate growing more diverse by the day.

CONWAY: For Governor Haley and Senator Tim Scott, first African American elected in the deep South since Reconstruction to the United States Senate - for them to stand there and really show their humility and their action but also the diversity of the modern Republican party really goes a long way for many Americans.

LIASSON: All of these issues - race and guns, Obamacare, gay rights and religious liberty - will be debated over the next year. But in the past couple of weeks, the terms of that debate have been reshaped, and both parties will have to readjust. Mara Liasson, NPR News, Washington.

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