Peter Beinart (like E.J. Dionne and Jim Wallis) thinks he just might -- by continuing to reach out to conservative evangelicals (as he did with the Rick Warren pick for the inaugural invocation) and by depoliticizing divisive cultural issues (as he did by postponing his revocation of the so-called global gag rule on federal funding of overseas abortion providers until the day after the thirty-sixth anniversary of the Roe v. Wade, which was last Thursday).
Now, I'm all for trying to undercut the political salience of culture-war issues. And I think symbolic gestures like these can be a very effective way to achieve this goal. But we need to be clear that keeping the religious right out of political power (by stealing the votes of its more moderate members) is not the same thing as ending the culture war. Indeed, the core of the religious right might very well respond to political impotence by becoming even more radical and more committed to its causes.
And mark my words: This unhappy outcome is guaranteed if President Obama signs anything resembling the Freedom of Choice Act that's been kicking around Congress for the past few years -- and which during his presidential campaign he famously (and for pro-lifers, notoriously) promised to sign. If he fulfills this promise, Obama will not only have failed to end the culture war. He will have ensured its survival for another generation.