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Culture wars (or, occasionally Kulturkampf "Culture Struggle") is the term for the ongoing battles fought in the United States political system. The term became popular in reference to U.S. politics after Patrick Buchanan made it the theme of his speech in the 1992 Republican convention, although the endless debates over social issues of secularization vs. religious conservatism go back much earlier in the U.S, and the German word Kulturkampf dates from the late 1800s.
Most of these battles are over things like gay rights, abortion, feminism, pornography, the sexual revolution, drugs, multiculturalism, the role of religion in American society, school prayer, and the teaching of evolution. Other battles come and go depending on what moral panic is currently in vogue. These debates have been going on for decades long before Pat Buchanan popularized the current term for them. During the 1960s and 1970s the culture wars were often framed as a "generation gap" between rebellious youth and their more conventional parents and included debates over long hair, rock music, conscription, and the hippie movement. During the early 20th century it took the form of endless debates over alcohol prohibition, fundamentalism versus modernism in religion, a perceived threat to American cultural hegemony from Roman Catholic immigrants, Bolsheviks, and labor radicals, birth control, Germanophobia during World War I, and the old standby, evolution, which seems to be a constant.
 Why the culture war persists
Most political observers will tell you they are sick of these wars, yet they will never give up their own side.
The truth is that the culture wars threaten every individual's ideals at the deepest levels, making them intensely personal. Even though the wars are often just over symbols, they strike so deep that we feel the need to respond, in a way pocketbook issues just can't. Furthermore, despite frivolous issues like the War on Christmas being lumped onto the broad label of culture wars some fronts are literally a matter of life and death for the people involved.
Also, the idea of there being separate political spheres for economic and cultural political conflict tends to result from the limited perceptions of members of more privileged groups. For example, when considering issues such as the receipt of spousal benefits by same-sex couples, the economic and social aspects are intertwined indivisibly, as these issues concern the disparate economic statuses held by members of different social demographics. Indeed, these intersections between economic, social, and cultural issues are why the term "socioeconomic" has seen widespread use by political commentators and policymakers.