Hearts and Minds (Liberals re: America, not Iraq)

All right…

::dusts butt off::

The feeling that I might want to spend the rest of my life sitting in a corner sucking my thumb and watching while the world comes tumbling down around my ears (along with the ears of culpable Republicans) is starting to recede.

I notice that there’s a post-election “blame Kerry” thread and at least one “how did the Democrats manage to fuck this one up” thread.

I don’t think Kerry or the Democratic party did anything particulary wrong, strategically. Our problem is not that we didn’t snag enough votes in Florida or Ohio to put us over the top (although it would have been damn nice if we had, of course). Our problem is that an incompetent President running on a platform of religious-tinged social conservatism, international imperialism, and fiscal spendthriftity wasn’t working his butt off to successfully carry Utah and Wyoming.

Forget '08 for a moment. Think 2016. Think about the hearts and minds in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas. Ask yourselves: why the fuck aren’t these folks voting Democratic?

a) Economically: These folks aren’t millionaires. The old notion that the Republican party is the party of the filthy rich oligarchy while the Democratic party is the party of the common people is in the toilet and in danger of being flushed. And yet it continues to be true that the Republican party eviscerates Federal income via tax cuts (especially tax cuts for the wealthy), thus jeopardizing services that the common folks in these states utlize, find useful, and in many cases would perish without. Certainly not all Georgia, Kansas, Virginia, etc., voters would necessarily be Democratic voters by economic nature, but why are we getting our ass kicked amongst what oughta be our natural constituency? Is it purely the social-religious stuff, or are the existing/available Federal services somehow not being perceived as a benefit of having a government, or are existing Federal services genuinely not providing them with useful services, or what? WE NEED TO KNOW. And if Federal government services aren’t meeting these folks’ needs, we need to conceive of programs that would. (The free market can only effectively offer services that result in profit to the offerers, so there should always be a range of other stuff that only government services can effectively address unless all human needs can be addressed through processes that also generate a profit – yes?). On the other hand, if we’ve got good services in place, we’ve got a serious PR problem with these folks. What’re we going to do about that?

b) Also Economic: Our best wedge issue is, surprisingly enough, that we’re the party of fiscal responsibility. After all those years of being tarred with “tax and spend liberals” labels, we now have a decent history of running social programs only out of the proceeds of taxation, i.e., not engaging in deficit spending. I think it’s damn good fiscal policy and we should embrace it in a big way, and make lots and lots of noise about it. We can pick up otherwise-Republican voters who feel dismay at the untax-and-spend-anyway deficit-spending behaviors of the current Republicans. Part of the reason they’re doing it is to “starve the beast”, i.e., run the Fed gov so far into debt that it needs to spend all its tax proceeds on servicing the debt so it can’t offer much in the way of domestic services. We need to barbecue them on this issue, and to embrace balanced budgets as a Democratic tradition, in my opinion. What do you think?

c) Social Issues: We’ve been on the defensive too much. Egalitarianism, expanded civil rights, considering any “moral” issue from the standpoint of whether or not to come down on the side of letting people do as they wish instead of imposing coercive force to stop them — these should all be winning us support. Admittedly it won’t win us support from whatever contingents believe in a definable “right” and “wrong” and think that “right” should be enforced at the expense of “wrong” and “wrongdoers”. We need to claim the moral high ground and do battle with those who think this way instead of pussyfooting around the moral issues. We need to call them names, if necessary. Meanwhile, we need to spell out what we stand for, in moral terms, in justice terms, in American-traditional terms, and cast it down as a moral challenge rather than equivocating and squirming and acting as if our social positions are questionable. Yes, I’m strongly opinionated on this. OK, I’ve said what I think, how about you folks?

d) The Vision Thing: The Republicans have a vision. It’s an “Ozzie and Harriet / return to the American 1950’s when things were uncomplicated and better” vision in lots of ways, and there are disparaging things I could say about it, but hell at least they’ve got a vision. We need to have a vision. What is the idealized Democratic future? We can’t fly on “Well, we sort of still stand for helping out the poor and disenfranchised although we’re rethinking quotas and aren’t necessarily committed to taxing the rich to help the poor and we don’t really believe Big Government is a good idea anymore, and mostly we just want to not see further changes in a Republican direction”. Where do we want to take the country, and the world, in the next 50 years? World government (how? how to frame it, how to sell it?)? Increases in democracy, in distribution of decision-making power (how? got prototypes? are there formidable objections, and if so, what are our responses?) Are there adjectives and adverbs we can use to designate what possible social/domestic programs are the sort that we’d encourage, as legitimate and worthy expenditures from the collective national pocketbook? We’re against lots of sleazy creepy shitty things that the Republican party seems to have embraced, but we need more than what we’re against. We need a vision.
Wanna do a think tank?

I can answer the economic question for you.

As a Christian and a conservative who is, at the moment, considered poor, I do not vote my pocketbook. Doesn’t make sense, you say? Ok, I guess it doesn’t make sense on its face.

I believe, though, that my economic success is not dictated by who is in office. I will not prostitute my convictions and sell my vote to the highest bidder.

Not only do I not want to do that, I don’t need to. God is my source, not Uncle Sam. I’ll be blessed regardless of who is running Congress.

The south is full of Christians like me who are going to vote their conscience over money. Maybe to you that sounds nuts, but to me, it makes sense. What liberals don’t understand is … and I’m not meaning to sound mean here … WE DON’T NEED YOU. Most Christians are looking to God to take care of them, not the government.

And really … these days social programs are a joke, especially welfare. They are designed to keep poor people poor, because then they are easier to scare with election year threats. They exert WAY too much control over daily life and punish ambition and the drive to succeed financially. Instead of rewarding those who work, the states punish them by cutting them drastically the second they get a job, before they even get their first paycheck. I could go on and on.

Simply put, the liberals offer social programs that do more harm than good, while Christians are finding that depending on God works 100% of the time and He’s a lot less controlling.

Well, this wouldn’t be a problem if you’d stop voting for Republicans…

Tell that to welfare recipients in West Virginia who received a devastating cut in benefits from a Democrat-controlled legislature this summer.

I’ll just comment on this part for now as I find something very confusing, and a little bit disturbing, about your analysis. It almost sounds like the wording a drug dealer would use: They don’t like drug A, so we need to find some drug B that we can get them hooked on. Why force government programs on people who don’t want them? Maybe the best strategy is to just leave people alone and let local institutions (public and private) take care of things at the local level. For most people, and especially those in non-urban areas, the last thing they want is some federal guy from Washington coming around to tell them what they need. People trust their local governments more than Washington.

I do think you hit it right with fiscal responsibility. But stop proposing 500 new social programs every election cycle. People know that only means one thing-- higher taxes.

OK, look, the highways were a good idea, right?

Sure, if there are governmental services that aren’t helping people, snip 'em, they cost money. And yes, obviously having programs that cost money means raising the money through taxes. The job of government is not to provide as many funded programs as possible, it is to address the areas where the market economy is not meeting needs because meeting them is not profitable, but where the need is real nonetheless, and to go into those areas and meet those needs.

Public schools are, for some reason, a bit of a disaster in lots of big cities, but in the small cities and towns where I grew up (Valdosta, Georgia; Los Alamos, New Mexico) public schools were overwhelmingly where folks’ kids went, and the quality of education as well as the general school environment were considered good. Lots of families could not afford to send their kids to schools if you simply turned back over to them the tax money that would otherwise have gone for schools and then left them with the bill for their kids’ education. (And yes I know some portion of the revenues for public schools are from municipal or state taxes). If all we had was private schools (and no “vouchers”, vouchers are governmental programs), the poor could not educate their kids who would then remain poor.

I would not have been able to go to college without grants and Federal loans.

Abbie Carmichael: I don’t think the Democrats are going to get your vote, nor do I think they should seek it, insofar as the social politics that you support are an abomination in the eyes of God and need to be stopped dead in their tracks. :wink: Seriously, the question was how best for liberals to win the hearts and minds of voters. To do that we do need to understand social conservatives and other factions that voted against us overwhelmingly (and I started another thread before this one, in which you and I have both participated, where that’s the intent) — but we don’t need to become them. That would kind of defeat the purpose and the political system doesn’t need the redundancy. Given the choice of becoming a more socially conservative party as a means to doing liberal economic things or becoming a more fiscally conservative party as a means to doing socially liberal things, the latter wins hands down.

And just what do you expect to happen with the unemployed if the government stops helping them? God hasn’t sent Himself down to feed the hungry for over 2000 years. What do you tell the family that wouldn’t eat without food stamps? That your God takes care of you, too bad for the other guy?

Fortunately, Liberals do not need any of those votes to take back the government. We only need to convince 1.5% of the voters, a small fraction of the moderate independents that swung for Bush this time. I don’t even think we need a single Republican vote at all.

I am pleased to see that the right-wing is so dismissive of the left, as you will be surprised and horrified in 2006 when we take back the Congress. Just desserts.

No- that’s what churches are for. That’s what families are for. That’s what neighborhoods are for.

That’s not what the government is for.

At least, that’s the belief of the social conservative- that welfare and support is best delivered from the community and from relations, not from a government.

John, do you honestly believe that there are enough well meaning people and churches in the South Bronx to feed all the hungry? Do the shelters have enough room to house all those that would lose their home were it not for energy assistance programs? Show me one place where it works.

Some social conservatives disagree with you.

I followed some Bushite communities and I think I understand their reluctance to support social programs and a more equalitarian America. I’m giving my opinion as a well informed (i think so) outsider.

Firstly I think your OP is the right way of thinking of these election results… your on the right track… I’m just pointing stuff out.
(btw I wasn’t bashing Kerry in the thread I started… just pointing out things he sucks at and that I couldn’t speak of before the election.)

Americans hate losers. Voting for the “poor” party is voting for losers. (They aren’t rich… but they vote for the party they would like to be part of ? Wierd yes.) Also no one favors hand outs. Europe is full of unemployed who don’t care about working and they live off unemployment checks. Without government help many would be working again… naturally a few would be robbing or criminals too. If you propose generous government help… people will vote against you. The U.S.A. is extremely capitalistic compared to other countries and cultures.

b)  Your right on... its about time that Democrats stop the "labeling" about tax and spend. I don't know how Republicans managed to get the "liberal" word to become a negative... but they have done the same thing to "Democrats". Either you do the same... or become synonymous to failure. Fiscal Responsibility and Bush are anathema.

c) Forget social issues… go for civil rights and education. Blacks love you… Latinos will love you. Emphasize being for a more equalitarian society as far as laws are concerned… not hand outs. Education isn’t an election winner… but is rightly something democrats can save. Once more without relying on spending excessively.

d) Vision is harder… especially with the Bullshit Cold War2 against Terrorism. Its easier to “motivate” by fear or patriotism. Do you think people will rally for gay rights ? For better education ? Nope.

You have to avoid “attacking” the rich though… all americans think they can make it big… but every generation the majority don’t. Still if you depend on bashing the rich… you come across as a whiner or loser. The vision should be about less crime… about helping mothers… whatever… this is the hard part. Especially if it requires spending money.

For some reason americans prefer to spend money in Iraq rather than help empoverished americans… but you have to deal with that dichotomy. How to reduce Defense spending without political backlash… how to help create a better american society without creating economic dependence on government.

I think there are enough well meaning people and churches in the country to feed all the hungry in the country; assuming that only South Bronx churches will assist South Bronx people is the fallacy.

And if there’s no place where churches are doing it, it’s because too many people have given up on the idea of anyone but the government being able to do it.

Some social conservatives are bigots, or at least too self-centered to see beyond NIMBY. On the other hand, the tent city itself seems to be sponsored by church and Catholic organizations, which would be social conservatives.

Which is exactly my point. Conservatives are in favor of faith-based support systems, so long as they are out of sight and out of mind. But as soon a church (conservative liberal, it doesn’t matter) tries to open a soup kitchen, halfway house, women’s crisis center or a homeless shelter anywhere near a “compasionate conservative” neighborhood, their true colors are shown. Ther isn’t fig leaf big enough to cover the selfish bigotry that masquerades as “compassionate conservatism”.

Wanna bet?

Let me preface with an Al Gore level sigh.

Obviously, some social conservatives were willing to allow it, as the church and its parishoners supported it. Therefore, your premise that “Conservatives are…” is untrue. Some social conservatives were against it, some were for it. Declaring that this means “All social conservatives are hypocrites full of selfish bigotry” is as disingenuous as myself claiming that “*All[i/] social liberals are hypocrites full of selfish bigotry” because some of them voted for the anti-gay marriage amendments.

And you haven’t even proved the point that the people against it are necessarily social conservatives. You’re just assuming that.

No. Too many lives on the line for anything so tawdry as betting. People are dying, more are going to. He looked you right in the eye, and lied to you. And you gave him a pass.

It would be like betting on my mother’s biopsy.

But community and relations are not always there. I’ve lived in six different cities on both coasts in the last eight years; of all the moves I’ve done in that time, the shortest has been an ten-hour drive. I have no “community”, and it’s not because I’m an asocial bastard who can’t settle down, it’s because I’ve had to follow the jobs in my profession.

In our modern economy, we except labour to be as mobile as possible to compete with capital that can move anywhere in the blink of an eye, but apparently social conservatives expect us to bond into communities and set up family homesteads at the same time. You’ll forgive me if I find that just a tad unrealistic.

Not everyone has a community or a family. That’s just a sad fact of the twenty-first century. But everyone has a government. And I don’t think it’s too much to ask that everyone have an ally in case of hard times, not just those with the luxury of a strong social network.

Well, that’s excellent; a real moneysaver on the face of it.

Tell you what: Since God will feed you, mind if I don’t? Let’s go totally libertarian, then, and dismantle the social net completely at the national level. That way, I, reasonably affluent agnostic, don’t have to have to waste my money on you, low-income Christian, since you don’t need aid for food, health care, housing, etc. I mean, my tax money is superfluousl; God has you covered! I can keep it all! This is brilliant!

And he can educate and transport them too! If only Christians would just stop cluttering the roads and the schools and let their god do it’s job.