culture holds dear are much closer to those held by the people atnlarge than those of the central culture.nElectoral politics is more closely tied to the peripheral culturenthan to the central one, because electoral campaigns are conductednover the length and breadth of the nation, withnsubstantial direct contact between representative and constituent.nThe communication channels between representativenand constituent (brochures, local radio and television advertising,nelectoral meetings) are controlled primarily by the organsnof the peripheral culture. Consequently, the concerns of the ordinaryncitizen carry much more weight in the electoral processnthan in the legislative process. So the electorate mistakenlynassumes that the good men it has elected to office will do thenright thing in Washington. The frequent complaint thatnSenator X says one thing at home and does another in Congressnreflects a psychological division that is rooted as much in culturenas it is in politics—as the central culture defines the overallnagenda of legislative politics. It decides which issues are importantn(nuclear power, racism, feminism, Israeli “imperialism”)nand which are not (the Soviet threat, genocidal aggression innAfghanistan and Angola, the right to life, school prayer, busingnfor racial balance). Party leaders in Congress often have safenconstituencies, with token opposition or none at all: they arentherefore less influenced by the peripheral culture, and so listennprimarily to the political demands of the central culture. Thenstaffs of Congressional committees who arrange legislativenhearings form a part of that central culture, and the permanentnbureaucracy of the executive branch also derives its notions ofnwhat is politically vital from the central culture. Only rarelyndoes an elected official in Washington display a sufficient graspnof the central culture’s workings to be able to resist it consciouslynand consistently. To be sure, after the 1980 elections thenperipheral culture has been able to place some items on thenpolitical agenda, but the central culture has prevented the actualnenactment of most of them.nA he central culture realizes not only that culture definesnpolitics, but also that political action can mold both the centralnand the peripheral cultures. Abortion is a case in point. Beforen1972, the right to abortion on demand was preached only bynparts of the radical left and by the McGovernite wing of thenDemocratic Party (which was decisively repudiated by the electoratenthat year). Shortly afterward, however, in a signal politicalntriumph of the central culture, the Supreme Court decreednwhat amounted to an almost-untrammeled right to abortion.nNow, thanks to the authority of that political institution,nthe peripheral culture has shifted toward an acceptance of whatnnot long ago was still considered a serious moral transgression,ndespite the impressive efforts of the defenders of the right to lifenduring the intervening decade. Thus, under pressure of thencentral culture, politics has influenced the peripheral culture.nAmerican society’s view of homosexuality could undergo an• POLITICS & CULTURE ‘nnnsimilar evolution. Although the peripheral culture opposes anynofficial recognition of this deviation from behavioral norms,nthe central culture works unceasingly to legitimize it throughnlegislation forbidding discrimination on the basis of “sexualnorientation.” Some localities, including the nation’s capital,nhave already adopted such laws. If similar legislation werenpassed at the national level and not prompdy reversed, within anfew years the peripheral culture might move to a much greaterntolerance of homosexuality.nOf course the central culture also seeks to advance its aimsnthrough its own direct channels. For instance, it works toneliminate what it considers “sexism,” largely through culturalncensorship: byconsciously eradicating the “sexist” assumptionsnof the English language, it believes it can alter the reality whichnthat language reflects. Other elements of the central culture arenalso used for this purpose, as, for example, a current networkntelevision advertisement which shows a girls’ volleyball teamnignominiously defeating a boys’ team. The central culture willnnot succeed entirely in its radical objectives here, for reality isnmore intractable than it knows; but it can move in that directionnand occasion much social dismption in the process.nA he liberal left in Western society has always recognizednthe social and political importance of culture, and it thereforenhas been willing to invest substantial financial resources innorder to control it, ultimately for political ends. The left has invadednthe nervous system of our society—the communicationsnmedia. A social organism can react only to the signals it receivesnthrough that nervous system, and to the extent that the centralnculture controls the nervous system, it also controls the societynas a whole. Beyond that, the left knows that even apoliticalnelements of culture can contribute to the defense of theirnpolitical purposes, and so the Public Broadcasting System effectivelynshields its slanted public-affairs programming throughnthe presentation of ballet and opera and poetry readings.nTraditional conservatives have been slow to awaken to thenvital importance of culture as a determinant of politics. Now,nhowever, young conservatives are finally being trained to enternthe media at the bottom; resources are being invested inncultural enterprises; and publications like Chronicles ofnCulture have come into existence. The creation of a substantialnalternative to the liberal central culture is a herculean task. Thatnalternative must be extensive and impressive enough to overcomenliberal influence both at the center and at the periphery,nand powerful enough to form a milieu within which traditionalistnpolitical leaders can exist. The undertaking is difficult, butnit is entirely worthy of those who feel the need to defend thenfinest accomplishments of Western civilization.n—Charles MosernProfessor Moser teaches at the George Washington Universitynin Washington, D.C.nJanuary 1983n