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Thursday, November 04, 2004

So Now What? Part IV 

The "Moral Issues" Problem
Wrapping up today's ruminations (1,2,3) on Tuesday's electoral fiasco, here's some slightly more developed thinking on the "Moral Issues" problem I started discussing yesterday.

Mark Kleiman reprints an e-mail from a moderate Republican reader who suggests that Democrats need to aggressively point out that many of the "moral values" arguments offered by the GOP are just plain old bigotry. I agree completely.

Matthew Yglesias has a gazillion ideas (some of them better than others) but he starts with these three observations:
1. Shouldn't at least part of coping with the "moral values" problem involve some effort to do a better job of convincing people that more liberal positions than the ones they currently have are actually the correct ones?

2. More broadly, you've got to have a strategy for convincing people that at least some of your currently-unpopular ideas are ideas that they should like, not just a strategy for trying to figure out which ideas will be popular.

3. (1) and (2) above are less the task of campaigns than they are something other people need to be doing out in society when a campaign isn't happening.
What's the difference between the Kleiman and Yglesias approaches? One tries to convince voters that existing Democratic values are important. The other tries to convince voters that existing GOP values, which these voters may have thought they held, are actually BAD. The potential audience is perhaps slightly different, too. Both approaches, in my view, are absolutely necessary. More on this tomorrow.

Now to some bad ideas about how to fight the ongoing kulturkampf:
Robert Wright, writing in Slate, argues for a return to Tipper Gore/Joe Lieberman style schoolmarmery by the Democrats. Look: I'm a parent myself now, and when I think of my little girl growing up in a toxic culture, Tipper Gore and Joe Lieberman scare me as much as Hollywood and MTV. I'm willing to listen to arguments that I'm being irrational and taking my eyes off the prize here, but I find Wright's argument utterly unconvincing.

Jerome at MyDD argues that Democrats should be putting forth their own moral manifesto. He thinks perhaps we should borrow the Greens'. Here are the first five:
1. Humankind depends on the diversity of the natural world for its existence. We do not believe that other species are expendable.

2. The Earth's physical resources are finite. We threaten our future if we try to live beyond those means, so we must build a sustainable society that guarantees our long-term future.

3. Every person should be entitled to basic material security as of right.

4. Our actions should take account of the well-being of other nations, other species, and future generations. We should not pursue our well-being to the detriment of theirs.

5. A healthy society is based on voluntary co-operation between empowered individuals in a democratic society, free from discrimination whether based on race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, religion, social origin or any other prejudice.
Seriously. This isn't going to work. Yes, it's true that the Democrats have not actually tried to win a presidential election with this appeal. Yes, it's true that it would draw some nonvoters or Green or Nader voters to vote Democratic. But this kind of talk will scare off at least as many Democrats as it fires up, and most people won't even bother to listen. It's not scare talk ("the gays are coming to git ya!") and it's not buzzwordy ("Marriage. Life. Faith"). Go back and try again. Also, "colour?" What are you, Canadian?

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