Despite my objections, I should give USA Today credit for putting this into a blog and allowing readers to post comments to the story online (would that Philadelphia’s “newspaper of record” did the same thing).
Why Democrats are losing the culture warAnd by the way, as nearly as I can determine, the “problem” is that Democrats/liberals/progressives/whatever don’t bend over backwards for people who will never agree with them the same way that ABC producer Mark Halperin did yesterday).
Republicans’ edge: Seeing the problem
By Amy SullivanOK, before this column gets started, I want to point out once again how all of this recycled “blame the namby pamby liberals and embrace the almighty Third Way to reach Mr. and Mrs. Bedrock Whitebread (for the most part) America” claptrap is nothing more than a “chicken vs. egg” conundrum that can never be solved, with Democrats looking bad no matter what they try to do.
On the surface, solid majorities of Americans agree with Democratic Party values. They want universal health care, support increasing the minimum wage, believe stricter environmental regulations are needed and worth paying for, and think the best way to achieve peace is through diplomacy.
By contrast, only 12% say abortion and gay marriage are more important issues than poverty and universal health care, according to a recent survey by the Center for American Values in Public Life, a project funded by the liberal group People For the American Way. And a paltry 5% of Americans identified abortion and gay marriage as their top issues.
If they embrace gay marriage and support abortion (and most Democrats I read and hear about support civil unions with the attendant legal benefits but not gay marriage, and I find a pro-choice position to be reasonable also along with most other people, something else that negative-narrative-reinforcing columns like this ignore), then they’ve surrendered to their liberal base. If they don’t and address the issues Sullivan mentions (which I personally believe are more important also, but I can easily understand why someone else wouldn’t feel that way), then they’ll be dogged by the Repugs (of course) and their media sycophants until they admit that they actually do, along with the attendant “AHA!” faux outrage.
Based on these numbers, Democrats should be beating Republicans at the ballot box. But precisely the opposite has happened in the past few national elections.This is because the Republicans simply cannot be touched when it comes to appealing to people’s prejudices and baser instincts, along with some heaping doses of voter disenfranchisement and fraud in strategic Democratic areas, though the Democrats aren’t utterly blameless either. The Repug strategy works best primarily when the charade is successful, but since Katrina and its aftermath, it has crumbled to pieces.
One answer is that national security is still a major issue, generally favoring Republicans. But more important is the fact that abortion and gay marriage are proxies for deeply held cultural concerns. They tell voters something about the character of a candidate — or a party.“Proxies for deeply held cultural concerns”...what clever wording for southern and western white rural prejudice and northern “lu-bu-ruul” resentment.
So Sullivan said earlier that “only 12% say abortion and gay marriage are more important issues than poverty and universal health care,” though it turns out that they may be more important statistically than that? I’m confused (guess I’m not smart enough to properly interpret such deep analysis).
Real anxietiesUh, where the hell is she going with this? Now, the issues of abortion and gay marriage are somehow morphing into cloning..??
Most voters worry about escalating challenges to family stability and the losing battle to instill good values in their children instead of the materialism and coarseness peddled by popular culture. They fear that our society has developed a casualness about life, especially as science has made it easier to manipulate and create beings.
Banning gay marriage and outlawing abortion don't directly address those anxieties.Ah, but if the Democrats did advocate that, then those so-called “values voters” would just flock to our party in droves, wouldn’t they?
Can we explode and utterly destroy that fiction once and for all now and forever, please? That being said, though, I realize there are rare exceptions to everything, including Mr. Casey Jr. who is about to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Pa. running on a similar platform. I should add, though, that Casey has been aided in no small part by the fact that he’s running against a Repug incumbent who has completely and utterly lost his mind.
But proposals like these at least acknowledge that the concerns exist and are valid. So while Republicans offer the wrong prescriptions, they get the diagnosis right.Over time, though, the “patient” would die anyway.
And they win because most of the time, Democrats won't admit that anything is wrong. In politics, as in most areas of life, something always beats nothing.Sullivan will provide a couple of anecdotes shortly to support this flimsy contention – I’ll give her credit for trying to back this up with some chronological events from the real world.
However, I absolutely and utterly defy her or anyone else to provide an example to me of a Democratic politician ridiculing “people of faith” or their religion or stating that they don’t think their concerns are valid. THAT is what (as nearly as I can determine) is at the heart of this “value voter” resentment. The only reason I know of why they would feel that way based on the conduct of a Democratic politician is because of John Kerry’s decision not to campaign in southern states where he was projected to lose in 2004, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s a flimsy excuse to hold a grudge.
Despite the uproar over Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction a couple of years ago…You just knew “the tit that will never die” would figure into this somehow, didn’t you?
…most parents don't fret that the accidental sighting of a breast or hearing of a swear word will scar their children. They're more concerned about the unrealistic ideas kids get from popular culture about consumption and body image and violence as a way of handling conflict.I wish that that were true, but somehow I have a feeling that it isn’t.
Sadly, too many liberals react to complaints about popular culture as if they're teenagers. They either jut out their chins and growl, "If you don't like it, don't watch it," or they stay silent for fear of looking like prudes. Given the ridicule that Tipper Gore faced for promoting warning labels for explicit music lyrics and the derision that followed Hillary Clinton's effort to keep violent video games away from kids, perhaps it's no surprise that most keep their mouths shut. That silence, however, hands conservatives a victory. As David Callahan points out in his book The Moral Center, "When the right complains about the media's descent into tawdriness, it puts them on the side of most Americans."What a festival of generalities!
I don’t recall what happened in the case of Hillary Clinton, and I’m not going to do the research on this that Sullivan should have done herself. However, I admit that she has a point about the Tipper Gore thing with the parental advisories. I thought that was absolutely ridiculous at the time, but it’s kind of funny how being a parent changes your mind about some things.
Despite that, I still believe these two incidents are anecdotal and relatively trivial. The fact of the matter is that the Democratic Party doesn’t believe that the government has a right to intrude into people’s churches or bedrooms or doctor’s offices, and it doesn’t believe that it has the right to tell people how to take care of their bodies, practice their religion, or raise their kids. I think that’s sensible. And just because we believe that and stay out of these issues doesn’t imply that we don’t have an opinion on them. It just means that we believe that it’s none of our damn business!
And as far as this lie that conservatives are some kind of moral guardians (notwithstanding their support of the Iraq war, which is about as immoral an enterprise as this country has ever seen), consider that perhaps their biggest shout box is FOX Television. Well, do you know what Rupert Murdoch does with the ad revenue generated from “family fare” such as broadcasts by Bill Bennett, Michael Medved, and the rest of these holier-than-thou characters? He uses it to produce such morally uplifting programming as “How To Make Love Like A Porn Star.”
“Bait And Switch 101,” ladies and gentlemen...
Even an issue on which Democrats seem to have the winning position can turn out to be a loser for the party in the long run. Most Americans now believe that research on stem cells should be allowed. But as Noam Scheiber recently pointed out in The New Republic magazine, the polls also suggest that they have serious concerns about the morality of unrestricted scientific research. They don't want to wake up tomorrow and discover that we're cloning humans without ever having a conversation as a society about the moral issues involved.Though there are currently no federal laws banning human cloning in this country (explained in this Common Dreams article), according to Wikipedia...
“Current regulations prohibit federal funding for research into human cloning, which effectively prevents such research from occurring in public institutions and private institution such as universities which receive federal funding.”The notion that anyone could “wake up tomorrow and discover that we're cloning humans without ever having a conversation as a society about the moral issues involved” is true freeper nonsense.
By framing the debate as a choice between theology or science, Democrats essentially argued that anyone who has qualms about scientific progress is a troglodyte.Says you (and what else are Democrats supposed to do here? It IS a debate between theology or science!).
If I were to point out all of the ways that pioneering scientific advancement in this country has led to the development of the prosperity we’ve inherited and much of the way of life that we take utterly for granted, then it would probably take three days to read this entire post.
That puts them on the losing side of the moral question, even as they win the specific policy debate.In those terms, it’s impossible to “win” on the “moral question.”
There's promising evidence, though, that this moral tone-deafness of Democrats may be about to change. Abortion, perhaps the most contentious moral issue of them all, is also the one area in which Democrats are poised to move past the political debate and address the real concerns of Americans. Over the past two years, a growing number of Democrats in the House and Senate have gotten behind "abortion reduction" efforts that seek to prevent unwanted pregnancies and provide support to women who want to carry their pregnancies to term.I currently cannot obtain data on abortions in the United States performed beyond 2001 or 2002 – I have a feeling the number has decreased across the country, but I cannot confirm that at the moment.
However, the following from this article (again, courtesy of Wikipedia) is noteworthy..
The Democratic Party platform considers abortion to be a woman's right, while the group Democrats for Life of America has growing strength within their own party.By the way, when you talk about preventing unwanted pregnancies, you’re talking about contraception, which the Repugs and their followers have fought tooth and nail. Their “abstinence only” teachings don’t work, and most parents favor a mix of abstinence and teaching their kids about contraception also. I don’t have any links to verify that at the moment, but trust me; as a parent who spends time with other parents discussing kids, I know what I’m talking about on this.
Chairman Howard Dean has welcomed pro-life Democrats more than previous chairs and DFLA's 95-10 Initiative has increasing support. There is also a large disconnect between convention delegates who pass the party platform and rank and file Democrats. In 2006 pollsters found that 74% of Democrats favor the availability of abortion in most circumstances.
This new approach reduces abortions without risking women's lives. And let us NEVER forget the political party that would advocate or encourage that, by the way (and it’s NOT the Democrats!). I have two words for you on that – South Dakota (I scanned this article and saw quotes so barbaric that I'll have to find a way to post on this by itself later).
The average American doesn't want to overturn Roe v. Wade or start locking up doctors. But neither does she buy the liberal line that 1.3 million abortions per year are just the price you pay for living in a free and modern society.I don’t know what “liberals” Sullivan spends time with, but never in my life have I felt that way either.
Threshold issuesAgain with the “cultural voters”…yes, as a Democrat, you can tweak your fundamental message without altering it or outright lying and win over some “swing” voters in the process, but there are certain “cultural voters” who would slit their wrists before they voted anything but Republican.
Democrats are right when they argue that their party's position on issues such as poverty, health care and job creation reflect a powerful moral value — helping those who have less. But they're wrong to think that's enough to win back the cultural voters they've lost.
Abortion and gay marriage — and the deep-seated cultural anxieties they represent — are threshold issues for voters. If a candidate can show he understands voters' concerns about the culture, then they'll listen to what else he has to say. If he tells them instead that there's nothing to worry about and tries to change the subject, they've already tuned out.I was sympathetic (a bit) to Sullivan at the beginning of this, but as I read her continuing to use phrases like “proxies for deeply held cultural concerns,” “a casualness about life,” “getting the diagnosis right with the wrong prescription,” “winning the policy debate but losing on the moral question,” and “deeply held cultural anxieties,” I came to the realization that she’s merely pandering to the Fox/NRO/Jewish World Review/Free Republic crowd who she wants to buy her book. Beyond that, what she says has very little validity.
The good news for Democrats is that if the party can just get past the threshold, it stands a much better chance of connecting with voters who already agree with them on the pressing issues that should decide elections.“Should” decide, but don’t (at least, not up to now).
But we’ll see about that in a couple of weeks, won’t we (and by the way, I don't want anyone buying Sullivan's book for me for Christmas, OK?).
And for what it's worth, this is actually my 1,400th post - no fanfare please...