What's fueling the political conflict is an underlying culture war. And at heart, this cultural issue comes down to one single area of disagreement, and it permeates almost everything else. That issue is sex.
Judicial activism? First Amendment and censorship? Freedom of religion and theocracy? It's really all about sex.
We Americans are largely agreed on a lot of issues, and our disagreements are usually about whether we should do a little more of something, or a little less of something. Agricultural subsidies? Mebbe a little more, mebbe a little less. National defense contracts? Mebbe a little more, mebbe a little less. Fuel standards? Mebbe more, mebbe less. Or we disagree on tactics ... see the War on Terror, subset, Iraq.
But when it comes to sex, we in the U.S., are deeply divided about this question: Is it anyone's business but your own who you have sex with?
We are so deeply divided on this question that, IMHO, we are simply members of different cultures — might as well be completely different nations. And that's why it makes the conflict so intractable, so difficult and so long-lasting.
Why is the Catholic Church and evangelicals attacked by elites? Ain't for running soup kitchens ... it's because of its teaching on sex deeply offends the elites.
Why was Rick Santorum despised? Because of his opinions on sexual morality. He's called a "woman-hater" and a "homophobe" because he sought to uphold traditional sexual morality.
And the answer to this question is so emotion-laden that, IMHO, it fuels most of the current anger in the political climate.
How you answer that question, I think, determines which cultural camp you're in.
One "culture" answers the question reflexively: "Of course it's none of anyone's business who I have sex with, and that means when, how, with whom, with the usual caveats. I am the arbiter of my own sexual morality, and no one else has any say, as long as I don't break the law. We live in an era of antibiotics and birth control, both of which made most of traditional sexual morality obsolete. I can enjoy sex without consequences and by the way, shut the fuck up. The only limitations are age and consent."
Others respond: "Mebbe you can have sex with no larger consequences, at least for a while, but that sucks as social policy. Excuse the pun, but fuck yeah it matters who you have sex with. Those 'usual' caveats are not little ... they quickly grow into big issues and they determine, largely, how society will come to be organized, for good or ill, and how happy the members of that society will be. And the arguments you use to destroy traditional taboos such as pornography, promiscuity and homosexuality will come back to haunt you when you try to defend against polygamy and sex with children."
And as you can tell, these points of view cannot be easily reconciled. One side is furious with the other -- and it's an anger rooted in fear, fear that the other side will attempt to regulate their sexual behavior. The other side, meanwhile, is concerned about the consequences of unregulated sexual and sex-related (such as abortion and pornography) behavior, particularly as promoted by the media. Hence, the cultural war.