Competing Theories of Life Can Coexist

Katherine Emily
7 min readDec 15, 2020

From federalism to representation in Congress, America was designed to promote pluralism.

On his radio program, one-time leaving voice of movement conservatism Rush Limbaugh recently declared “there cannot be a peaceful coexistence of two completely different theories of life, theories of government, theories of how we manage our affairs.”

This is the rhetoric of the culture wars. And it’s in complete opposition to the foundational ideas of America.

The narrative of the culture war is an old and tired one at this point: it’s left-right sectarianism, different ideological values, which usually manifest themselves through party identity, instead manifested in social and cultural spaces. It’s the idea that disparate lifestyles and preferences create unique communities.

That should be a good thing: it should mean individuals of disparate beliefs and lifestyles can coexist, each pursuing their own choices and consuming the things they believe in without infringing on anyone else’s ability to do the same.

But not in the context of the culture wars. The culture wars is an outgrowth of the modern-day mindset that all conflicts that arise in the nation ultimately ought to be adjudicated by the federal government. It conflates rights with values, acting as if any impediment to a person’s preferences is an injustice against them.

And it’s because of this that the emotional freneticism that is perhaps the defining characteristic of the culture wars exists: shifts in political power are more than just that; they represent the deathblow of a way of life and all the oppression that accompanies it. In this mindset, there’s no room for pluralism. You’re either in the majority or you and everything you believe in is actively being destroyed by people who disagree with you.

But the entirety of American government is constructed to allow pluralism to flourish: it foundationally recognizes that people with different mindsets exist and should be able to coexist.

It’s why the federal government is limited to a few delegated powers and why the 10th Amendment exists.

It’s also why the legislative branch contains its own internal checks and balances that prevent a majority in one…

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Katherine Emily

Founder, The Subversive Scrivener. Writer. Thinker. Intransigent ideologue. Radical individualist. Talent fully developed is the highest moral good.