Revenge of the Repressed in 2024

2024 may well be a fateful year.  Unlike, for example, 1929 and 2008 which witnessed major financial crises or even 1963 which saw the assassination of a president, the coming new year may witness the revenge of the repressed, the Christian right’s “culture war” victory over a half-century of secular life.

The new year may well be shaped – and remembered – by the outcome of the elections.  Will Joe Biden be reelected in the face of the ever-worsening situations in Israel/Gaza and the Ukraine? Will Donald Trump secure the Republican nomination – let alone be reelected — in the face of the serious legal cases he faces?  Will the Democrats hold onto the Senate, let alone recapture the House or will the MAGA Republicans capture more seats in both Houses?

While these are open questions, a rightwing Christian campaign is being waged to finally (!) claim victory in the culture wars.  These wars have been fought on many fronts.  In his 1970 book, Dare to Discipline, James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, ranted against the cultural upheavals of the 1960s, “God is dead; immorality is wonderful; nudity is noble.” He was repulsed by the permissiveness championed by A. S. Neill’s Summerhill.

Dodson feared the “rapid reversal of social mores [that] is unparalleled in man’s history” and warned, “Never has a society abandoned its concept of morality more suddenly than … in America during the decade of the sixties.”  For many traditionalists and mainstream Americans, pot, LSD, rock-&-roll, sex, civil rights anti-war politics and the new sexual freedoms were threats to the nation’s moral order.  His sentiments were shared by California’s newly elected governor, Ronald Reagan, who denounced a 60s hippie as someone who “dresses like Tarzan, has hair like Jane, and smells like Cheetah.”

The Christian right’s culture wars were undercut by the capitalist market economy.  Nothing more effectively softened the sting of long-haired hippies, uppity Blacks, pushy women, challenging music or looser morals than their absorption into the marketplace.  Styles changed, fashion was reinvented, social relations began to change, and corporate America realized it could make lots of money from the new secularized and sexualized culture. Slowly, the nation’s values changed.

Amidst the neo-liberal remaking of the nation’s values, the Christian right was slowly regaining power. In 1992, Republican strategist Pat Buchanan gave an impassioned speech at his party’s convention, recalling the past and foreshadowing struggles yet to come:

There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself. And in that struggle for the soul of America, [Bill] Clinton and [Hillary] Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side.

Bill Clinton won the ’92 presidential election.


By 2016, a new, new right was in ascendency marked by Donald Trump’s election as president and the Republicans’ capture of the House of Representatives in 2022.  The most consequential–and Trump’s most lasting action–was packing the Supreme Court with three conservative Christian Republicans. Their decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health (2022) helped repeal Roe v. Wade (1973), thus limiting a woman’s right to the privacy of medical care for an abortion. Symbolically, Dobbs ended the culture wars.  Since Dobbs, 14 states have enacted near-total abortion bans and two states – Georgia and South Carolina – have banned abortion past roughly six weeks of pregnancy.

The Court’s ruling appears to have been a politically calculated decision.  As The New York Times reported, “Justice [Samuel] Alito appeared to have pregamed it among some of the conservative justices, out of view from other colleagues, to safeguard a coalition more fragile than it looked.”  It noted:

The most glaring irregularity was the leak to Politico of Justice Alito’s draft. The identity and motive of the person who disclosed it remains unknown, but the effect of the breach is clear: It helped lock in the result, The Times found, undercutting Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Breyer’s quest to find a middle ground.

The Dobbs decision – and more yet to come – will have rippling effects throughout the country that will likely only get worse in 2024.

Many of the Christian right are nationalists and need an enemy to target their rage. They have singled out non-documented immigrants for attack.  At a December 16th Republican rally in New Hampshire, Trump gave voice to this nationalist rage by ranting, “They’re poisoning the blood of our country.”  Going further, he complained that immigrants were coming to the U.S. from Asia and Africa in addition to South America. “All over the world they are pouring into our country.” This rage will likely only get worse in the new year.

The Christian right has also targeted education, both public grade schools and higher ed.  Over the past three years, legislators in 28 states have passed at least 71 bills controlling what teachers and students can say and do at school.  As has been reported, “A wave of library purges, subject-matter restrictions and potential legal threats against educators has followed.”

Parallel to this effort, 32 states plus Washington, D.C., offer some type of school choice program, an effort to employ free market principles to the K-12 education.  Many of these programs use school vouchers, education tax dollars diverted from public schools to help subsidize the tuition of private and religious schools. These programs are being pushed to end “public” education.

Republican-controlled state legislations and governors across the country have moved aggressively against what children and college students can read.  Book bans are soaring in number. PEN America reports during the year from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023, there were 3,362 instances of book banning in public school classrooms and libraries. This is a 38 percent increase from the year prior and is spreading throughout the country, with 1,406 in Florida; 625 in Texas; 333 in Missouri; 281 in Utah and 186 in Pennsylvania. Sadly, additional bans in more states are likely in the school year 2024.

Equally troubling, right-wingers have moved aggressively to reshape the school curriculum.  In Texas, Republicans want to see the Bible, prayer and the Ten Commandments back in the classroom and other government buildings.  “Critical race theory” has been banned and 20 states have introduced more than 30 bills targeting “diversity, equity and inclusion” (DEI) programs.

Part of the broad attack on education is the challenge to science and public health. This gained great visibility during the Covid pandemic and the rise of the anti-vaxxer movement.  It is promoted by Robert Kennedy, Jr., and championed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). One study reports “22 percent of Americans self-identify as anti-vaxxers.”

And then there is the targeting of transgender youths.  The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that 75 percent of white evangelicals felt strongly that there are only two genders, “man or woman,” compared to only 44 percent of adult Americans overall. The Equality Federation reports that in 2023, state lawmakers introduced 200 anti-transgender bills, more than all of the anti-trans bills introduced in 2022.  These measures would ban gender-affirming health care for youth and young adults; restrict bathrooms; prevent families in hostile states from traveling elsewhere for care; and force teachers to “out” transgender students to their parents even if those parents will harm the kids as a result.

The Christian right has also targeted “drag” or cross-dressing performers.  For example, the Judicial Committee for the Nebraska Legislature heard public testimony over LB 371, a bill that would criminalize drag shows where minors are present.  Will “homosexuals” — whether female, male or non-gendered identified — be the next target?

Elements of the Christian right are moving to redefine the meaning of U.S. democracy. One example is Texas GOP’s proposed “right to secede from the United States, and the Texas Legislature should be called upon to pass a referendum consistent thereto.”  Another involves the well-funded campaign by ALEC and others of the right to gain control of state legislatures.  As detailed by The Progressive, “Citizens for Self-Government” seeks “to return this nation to its pre-Constitution roots under the Articles of Confederation, with a weak central government and sovereign states.”

And then there is global warming, the environmental crisis.  As clearly revealed in the UN’s COP-28, profits come first, and the environment and humans come a far second.  The U.S. ranks second to China as the worst global polluter and four-fifths (81%) of the nation’s energy comes from fossil fuels – i.e., oil, coal and gas.  Little is likely to change — and it might well get worse – in the foreseeable future.


The current rightwing Christian insurgency is a result of significant, structural changes remaking the nation.  The 2008 fiscal crisis helped ushered in the growing shift from a U.S.-dominate “unipolar” world order to one John Mearsheimer identified as a “change in the balance of power has created a situation where we’re moving away from unipolarity and toward multipolarity.”

Perhaps more indicative, the 2020 Census makes clear that the demographic clock is ticking against the white Republicans – and they know it!  The racial/ethnic composition of the country is changing and by 2050, the U.S. will be a “majority-minority” country, with white non-Hispanics making up less than half of the total population.

Equally critical, the U.S. is becoming an ever-increasing urban nation with about 83 percent of the population living in cities.  Rural America is losing it population to more attractive urban centers, most often supporting Democrats.  It seems that as their relative proportion of the U.S. population shrink, their rage increases.

But most troubling, income inequality is deepening.  As Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) wrote, “The top 1% now own more wealth than the bottom 92%, and the 50 wealthiest Americans own more wealth than the bottom half of American society – 165 million people.”

This perception was confirmed by the U.S. Census Bureau that, in January 2022, the U.S reported that in 2020, there were 37.2 million people in poverty, approximately 3.3 million more than in 2019 – that’s an official poverty rate of 11.4 percent, up 1.0 percentage point from 10.5 percent in 2019.  The “poverty threshold” for a four-person family in 2020 was $26,496.

The Census Bureau also reported that between 2019 and 2020, the poverty rate increased for non-Hispanic Whites and Hispanics. Among non-Hispanic Whites, 8.2 percent were in poverty in 2020, while Hispanics had a poverty rate of 17.0 percent.  In addition, Black Americans had the highest poverty rate at 19.5 percent.

2004 may well be a fateful year.  The Dobbs decision formally ended the half-century culture wars, marking the ascendency of the Christian right.  The conservatives’ victory is reverberating through menacing campaigns being waged on innumerable fronts, from privacy rights and education to global warming, the nature of U.S. democracy and beyond.  Republicans in smaller and more rural states are moving aggressively to impose their values on not only Congress but the nation as a whole, especially more “liberal,” urban states.

In the face of these challenges, 2024 may well see the resurgence of a new “liberal,” “progressive,” critical and humane social movement – one anchored in the redistribution of wealth and the end of ever-growing inequality.  Such a movement may well be able to save the nation from its long-held fears of the other, the unknown and the different.

David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at; check out