Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Values again

Mike the Mad Biologist said this in the comments:
we're not going to get the Dominionists, so why even try?
And DarkSyd at Unscrewing The Inscrutable suggests Giving the GOP a Wedgie:
A writer who goes by the screen name Septic Tank had an excellent diary on The Daily Kos yesterday entitled Pandering to the Mythical Values Voter. Septic pointed out that the numbers of the so-called values voter and their importance in determining elections has perhaps been over stated. And that it is a fantasy to try and court these folks regardless, because we will never make any serious inroads with them as voters. We'd probably lose votes trying. Chris Bowers from MyDD has some impressive stats up showing that non-Christians are a fast growing demographic. Both diaries are worth the read and I agree with them wholeheartedly. In fact I'd go one further. If by the values voter we mean specifically the hard, reactionary, fundamentalist Neo-Christian right, rather than pander to them, I think we should use them like a cheap rag.
In my meditation on religion yesterday, I think I wasn't clear that I agree with both. I want to use values as a wedge. The thing that I have always felt about Democratic candidates is that they have brilliant policy proposals, policy proposals which the American public loves, but the candidate can't show how all those policies relate to each other. This is what George Lakoff would call a frame, something that holds it all together.

Maybe it's just me, and I'm clearly not the guy they need to convince. But It seems like voters don't quite trust whitepapers as a strong signal of someone's ability to lead. Whitepapers and policy analysis is governance, not leadership. I expect that the public believes, probably wrongly, that you can hire or outsource the governance, but you elect leadership.
I'm not sure that's true, and I think the current president has shown that. He's a tolerable leader, in that people are willing to follow him, but he can't govern, and the nation is deteriorating because of it. On the other hand, no one seriously thinks that the candidate actually wrote the whitepaper. So voters respond to the candidate's discussion of how he thinks about the issues, and that means talking values.

I agree that the can't and shouldn't pander to the Reconstructionists. They are wackos and deserve a whacking. But there are a bunch of deeply religious people who aren't Reconstructionists, people who want to save the environment. People who take the beatitudes seriously. That's why I specifically referred to the poor and the meek in my last post.

Discussing values isn't a drop-in. But if progressives can explain each policy program from the same set of principles, there's a great chance that we can convince people who don't care about the details that we know what we're doing.