David Courtwright, the pre-eminent historian of drug abuse and drug policy, asks that question — formally analogous to the political question asked in the post immediately below — in a book to be published by Harvard University Press. I can hardly wait.
Courtwright’s answer: the Blue Team won. When a “victory” by cultural conservatives consists of preventing some states, but not others, from recognizing gay marriage, and when they don’t even contest the abolition of the laws against gay sex, and when the live question about reproductive choice is whether minors can have abortions without their parents’ consent rather than whether married couples can buy contraceptives, it’s clear that this war is being fought deep inside Red territory.
So the culture warriors can’t repeal the Sixties any more than the economic conservatives can repeal the New Deal. But fighting deep inside one’s own territory has considerable tactical advantages; the other side’s supply lines are long, and the civilians near the battlefield are mostly friendly. Precisely because the rate of cultural change has been so fast, the median voter tends to be for slowing things down rather than speeding things up. So the Blue Team won the culture war, but the Red Team has been winning the elections.
Unfortunately, there are real-world consequences of being ruled by people whose defining political characteristic is hatred of the Sixties and the Dr. Spock/Baby Boom generation. (That can be true, of course, of people such as Bush and Bill Bennett who are Boomers themselves.) I’m a little bit leery (Leary?) of the Pleasure Principle myself, but being ruled by worshippers of the Death Principle (should we call them Death Eaters?) turns out to be a total drag.