Juan Williams: Trump calls ceasefire in culture war

Juan Williams: Trump calls ceasefire in culture war
© Greg Nash

Call in the dogs. Pack up the tent. Culture wars in American politics are done.

Since the 1970s, Republican politicians picked fights with liberals over abortion, gay rights and family values in order to stir their base.

But how can any Republican be a culture warrior in 2016 with Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders apologizes to Biden for supporter's op-ed Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Trump' if the US doesn't elect progressive Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover up,' 'national disgrace' MORE as the party’s leader?

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Trump has no problem with transgendered Caitlyn Jenner using the ladies' room.

The presumptive nominee has been married three times and is described by fellow Republicans as a “serial philanderer.”

Trump once called himself “very pro-choice.” He was also once a supporter of partial birth abortion. But now he says he opposes abortion and suggests that any woman who gets an illegal abortion should be given “some form of punishment.”

That directly contradicts the orthodox GOP position that abortion providers, not women, are the criminals. Trump has tried to walk that back.

Texas Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzJuan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump Sunday shows - All eyes on Senate impeachment trial Cruz: Hearing from witnesses could extend Senate trial to up to 8 weeks MORE repeatedly describes his erstwhile rival’s entire life as being lived according to “New York values.” That translates, according to Cruz, as meaning that Trump is “socially liberal,” “pro-abortion” and “pro-gay marriage.”

Yet none of Cruz’s objections stopped Trump from emerging as the victor of the primary process.

In fact, Trump’s win is based on his surprising success with the party’s powerful evangelical voting bloc. Socially conservative evangelicals in the South — and also in last week’s crucial Indiana primary — voted for Trump over Cruz, the son of an evangelical pastor.

In my new book – “We the People: the Modern Day Figures who have Reshaped and Affirmed the Founding Fathers’ Vision of America” – I write about how President Nixon, with help from Billy Graham, brought the evangelical movement into politics. Christian values and culture wars became central to GOP victories in election after election.

Cruz was following that playbook when he based his entire presidential campaign on appealing to evangelical Republican voters in the South and Midwest.

Cruz did score a victory in the Iowa caucuses. But it fell apart in the southern primaries. Cruz tried to revive his strategy in Indiana by naming one of the most vocal opponent of abortion rights in the 2016 contests as his running mate.

Carly Fiorina has called out the “moral depravity” of Planned Parenthood.

Meanwhile, Trump notes that Planned Parenthood does much more than abortion and deserves federal funding.

Cruz also tried – and failed – to make political hay out of North Carolina’s transgender bathroom ban to fire up the GOP’s evangelical base. He said Trump was no different than “leftist elites” and wanted “grown men to be allowed to use little girls’ public restrooms.”

"Leave it the way it is," Trump said in an interview on NBC’s “Today.”

“There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go. They use the bathroom they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble."

Trump later tried to walk back those comments by saying the bathroom law was a state and local issue.

None of his dancing around on culture-war issues did any harm to Trump’s campaign, however.

Conservative columnist Ann Coulter, an avid Trump supporter, tweeted last year, “I don’t care if (Trump) wants to perform abortions on the White House lawn.”

She was willing to ignore his position on abortion after he came out strongly in favor of building a wall on the Mexican border and throwing out the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants.

Even if he is not a social conservative, Trump is likely to allow the party’s platform to remain strongly anti-abortion when it is written at the Republican National Convention.

But the platform is a charade when everyone knows the party’s leader is just pandering. Even if Trump lets strong anti-abortion advocates speak at the convention, it will be widely viewed as a move to appease the far-right, not as evidence of any true conviction.

It was 24 years ago this summer when Pat Buchanan gave his famous “culture war” speech at the Republican National Convention. Buchanan railed against Democrats and their nominee, Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonMcConnell proposes compressed schedule for impeachment trial Trump lawyers urge senators to swiftly acquit Trump in impeachment trial The American disease and death bowls MORE, for supporting “unrestricted abortion on demand” and “homosexual rights.” He charged Democrats with “cross-dressing” as moderates and centrists.

Now Trump is the party’s leader.

According to Gallup, the percentage of Republicans supporting same-sex marriage has grown from 26 percent in 2013 to 37 percent in 2015.

Similarly, Gallup finds the percentage of Republicans in support of abortion rights has risen from 22 percent in 2012 to now stand at 31 percent.

A nationwide CNN/ORC poll of all voters taken in March found that 53 percent of Americans say abortion should be “sometimes legal;” 29 percent say it should be “always legal;” and only 16 percent say it should “never be legal.”

A March Pew poll of voters from all parties found that a majority of Americans, 55 percent, now support gay marriage while 37 oppose it.

Both abortion and gay marriage are the law of the land, codified by Supreme Court rulings.

Long gone are the days when the GOP could use ballot initiatives banning gay marriage in swing states to drive up evangelical turnout and re-elect President George W. Bush.

Long gone are the good old days of the culture war.

Now it is time to hail Donald Trump’s rewrite of GOP social values.

Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel. His latest book, "We The People," published by Crown, is out now.