Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Suggestions for Democrats

I am completely delighted with just about everything found in Mark Kleiman's essay about Liberalism (not liberalism, Liberalism). Yes. Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

Linked to their uncontrolled compassion is liberals' perceived (and to some extent real) indifference to the Puritan virtues -- chastity and sobriety and thrift -- or at least their unwillingness to act on behalf of those virtues in any way that might seem to imply disapproval or intolerance of those who display the corresponding vices.

On the other hand, liberals are perceived -- again, not entirely falsely -- as having strongly-held moral commitments and being willing to impose them on other people.
People who constantly rail against the Religious Right as some kind of Spanish Inquisition fail to realize that for many slightly more moderate social conservatives, the Liberal Left is seen in just as threatening a light. The fact that the liberals often have more illustrious podiums and better access to philosophy classes does not help their cause; some of the most attractive statements, to me, in Kleiman's essay, are the ones in which he admits to not understanding certain conservative issues:
Lots of my liberal friends are like me: they may not disapprove of target-shooting, but they really don't get hunting (which I think is mostly a guy form of nature-meditiation). They (we) think having guns for self-protection is sort of weird and primitive, and regard the "armed citizenry against tyranny" stuff as utterly nuts. Having guns around makes them (us) very uncomfortable. I've asked gun-carrying houseguests to leave their guns in their cars.

OK, fine. I don't like having guns around me, and try to arrange my own environment accordingly. The problem is that lots of liberals are willing to write that into law.
I have much more willingness to listen to someone who approaches my views with an outlook of, "I really don't get it, but hey, we're all different," than someone who decides that their own sensibilities have determined in them a superior comprehension of how my brain works.

Let me put it another way.

Democrats, if you want to win in 2008, there are some things you might wish to consider.

For instance:

You can not interpret a single event in two opposite ways if you wish to form a coherent strategy. Pick one: A) Bush used unfair methods to push an incredibly narrow margin and steal a win. B) Bush was elected by a red America filled with holy-rolling retarded church chimps. I'll ignore the fact that both of those assumptions are absolutely wrong, and simply point out that they just can't sit next to each other without getting into a fight. Pick one. If you pick option B, and manage to somehow live in that bleak worldview bubble for four years without killing yourself or leaving the country, then obviously your duty will become to educate the mindless masses. If you pick A (which I would prefer, but hey, we're all different), then you have very different goals: institute some security into voting, and court the swingers.

As far as the first part of that goal goes, I don't think Bush cheated, but I'm still all for better voting methodologies. I've already invited a guest blogger who's more of an expert on the potential technologies than I am, and I eagerly await his presentation of the data. Please! We could all use some improvement.

As far as the second part of that goal goes...

All I'm saying is consider it. Because there is much evidence to suggest it was the swingers and the moderates who turned the tide:
Evangelicals made up the same share of the electorate this year as they did in 2000. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who are pro-life. Sixteen percent of voters said abortions should be illegal in all circumstances. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who say they pray daily.
(Aside: Can we repeat that number, please? 16% of voters said abortions should be illegal in all circumstances. Every time I think I've escaped the liberal media bubble, I'm reminded that I haven't. I had no idea that there was so little popular support for a flat ban on abortion.)

The reason you want to consider it is this: you can not win the Religious Right, and you can not evict them, and you probably can't even sit down to dinner with them at this point without coming to blows, Dar Williams' optimism notwithstanding. This much I promise: the more you say you understand them, the more they absolutely know that you do not.

But you can win the moderates. You can even learn to like them.
"If she could give love to IT perhaps it would shrivel up and die, for she was sure that IT could not withstand love. But she, in all her weakness and foolishness and baseness and nothingness, was incapable of loving IT. Perhaps it was not too much to ask of her, but she could not do it.

But she could love Charles Wallace."

--Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle In Time
Dramatic, yes. I quote lots of fictional or silly things that just so happen to spring to mind, in reference to the oh-so-Serious issues of the day. And here I say: come back to us, Democrats. You know you can never love the Religious Right. But you can love the moderates. They are still a part of your family. Remember?

James Carville's quote about the election is instructive: "The purpose of a political party is to win elections, and we're not doing that." I say, shame on the Democratic party for not doing that. SHAME on you. Shame upon your heads for considering your petty hatreds and lofty schemes to interfere with the knowledge that, if you do not win, you do not matter. This isn't a game of chess, where pleasure can be taken in the strategy and the art, and points given for an exceptionally elegant style. This is a democracy. The party that works to win, and only to WIN, and then, after that, concentrates on WINNING, is also going to be the party that vigorously seeks out the issues that the voters really want, not the issues that "really matter" ("didn't John Kerry win every substantive point on the issues that really matter?") according to some other standard -- and hence, it's going to be the party that represents the majority. There is no virtuous or principled loss, here, because the only prize that matters is this: who really represents the people, and who just pretends to.

In the meantime, while you're working so hard to ferret out those issues and use them to your advantage (YES! WIN!); it wouldn't hurt for you to put a cork in a few of your louder polemicists. Kerry was not a bad candidate, you know, and his difficulties were not insurmountable (for every person I knew who was ignorant of social security laws, there was another person who didn't know what in the hell a swift boat was). His chief difficulty, as his campaign committee saw it, was a lack of a coherent vision. I'd be willing to take that a step further: the electorate would have been able to see whatever vision he did represent much more clearly, had the cacophany of the Bush-haters not drowned him out at every opportunity. It's just a personal hypothesis, but I think it could be valid. If you can't get the very loud, very published, and very annoying fringe elements off your side, then you at least have to make sure you find a candidate who can talk moderation as loudly as they scream epithets.

You should be no more handicapped by your lunatic fringe than the Republicans are handicapped by the Religious Right; they're very similar elements. The difference is, Republicans are currently going around repudiating the Religious Right. Don't believe me? Check a roll of the most popular Republican-tilted blogs, and tell me you don't spot a resounding chorus of, "But I don't mind gay marriage!" (If you think that blogs don't matter, well, then, that releases me from the obligation of having to argue about early exit-poll data with you.)

So let's summarize:

- First, decide what your goals are.

- If you want to win, pick the goal that is achievable (plausibility helps).

- You'd better want to win.

- Repudiate the fringe.

Some of us wouldn't mind seeing a vigorous, healthy Democratic party springing from the ashes of the current one. I, for one, as a career Republican, hate to see my party get all fat and lazy with no real opposition to cut its teeth on.