blogenlust
11.04.2004

Mobilizing Democratic Values


In his column yesterday, Nicholas Kristof really shines a light on the problem facing Democrats and liberals that came to the fore in Tuesday's election:
One of the Republican Party's major successes over the last few decades has been to persuade many of the working poor to vote for tax breaks for billionaires. Democrats are still effective on bread-and-butter issues like health care, but they come across in much of America as arrogant and out of touch the moment the discussion shifts to values. "On values, they are really noncompetitive in the heartland," noted Mike Johanns, a Republican who is governor of Nebraska. "This kind of elitist, Eastern approach to the party is just devastating in the Midwest and Western states. It's very difficult for senatorial, Congressional and even local candidates to survive." [...] Bill Clinton intuitively understood the challenge, and John Edwards seems to as well, perhaps because of their own working-class origins. But the party as a whole is mostly in denial. To appeal to middle America, Democratic leaders don't need to carry guns to church services and shoot grizzlies on the way. But a starting point would be to shed their inhibitions about talking about faith, and to work more with religious groups. Otherwise, the Democratic Party's efforts to improve the lives of working-class Americans in the long run will be blocked by the very people the Democrats aim to help.
There is a reason why Republicans push values the way they do, and it is because their economic and domestic policies are extremely hard to swallow for the majority of the country. It is a classic bait and switch. If Democrats can create their own message on values and present it to the country, it will go along way towards courting the so-called 'red staters.' Along this line, George Lakoff recently said (on NPR) that there are more liberal evangelicals in this country than conservative, and that the problem is they are just not as well organized as their conservative counterparts. As hard as this might be to believe at the moment, I think he is probably on to something. Democrats and liberals cannot let Republicans and conservatives monopolize Christian values. Liberal values like making sure the worst off in society are taken care of are just as much a part of the foundation of Christianity as the right to life. As I see it, there are two major components of religious and evangelical values in this country. Conservatives have done a good job of using Old Testament values to win elections. I think Democrats can go along way if they really embrace Beatitude-values and connect them with their political policies. So instead of Red vs. Blue, we will have Old vs. New.