In my post on sticky vs. non-sticky communities – talking about LGF and Political Animal – one point that I thought hard about was this: the ‘sticky’ community of LGF is relatively marginal today, while the Political Animal community has expressed intentions of actually leading a political movement.
Yesterday, Chris Bowers, at MyDD – a site that’s clearly framed around electoral power, rather than commentary or random musings (like some blogs I
write for hang around at, stepped up and drank the Kool-Aid.
In partial response to the post on religion at Political Animal, Chris Bowers writes:
Democrats Should Target the Limbaugh Vote, and Other Brilliant Ideas
Internalizing and following the obviously poor election strategy offered up for Democrats by pundits within the established news media is one of the greatest problems we face when trying to win elections. The basic problem is that we are repeatedly told, and repeatedly believe, that in order to win, we must not go after either swing votes or rev up our own base, but instead focus our main strategy on actually trying to win over the Republican base itself. I call this the “Democrats Must Court The Limbaugh Vote” strategy syndrome, both because we tend to follow the election advice given to us by Rush Limbaugh types, and because that advice invariably means that we must target the hard-core Rush Limbaugh audience.
You know for a smart guy, Bowers really doesn’t act like one.
Here’s what he’s reacting to from Political Animal; Steve Waldman cited Michael Lerner:
“Overwhelmingly, the white activists who shaped the Left of the 1960s have remained mired in a culture of hostility toward religion and spirituality. If this were merely a historical curiosity, I’d leave this issue to the cultural historians. But since the Left’s hostility to religion and spirituality has become such a major stumbling block to the chances that progressive forces will ever win enough power to actually change the socially and environmentally destructive policies of the West, it becomes important to explore the roots of this hostility.”
The issue is twofold; first that there is nothing inherent in the fast-growing evangelical movement that locks them to the Republican Party – why aren’t the Democrats proselytizing in these “churches of service”?
I’m guessing it’s abortion, in some cases it doubtless is a significant wall between the churched and the Democrats – and I’ll bet that from the Democrat’s point of view, they tar the entire churchgoing public with Randall Terry.
As far as I know – and I know a fair number of evangelicals – there are some who will never be Democrats because of abortion. There are some who will never be Democrats because of education. But there are lots and lots of them who are looking for a mission to help others, and who would stand with progressive Democrats as they try to do so. They are one of the fastest growing groups in America, and tipping them into the Democratic camp would radically change the balance of political power in this country.
What would it cost the Democrats to do so?
Bowers suggests it would cost them their soul.
I think it would cost them one simple thing; a willingness to approach other people with a measure of respect, rather than the kind of contempt shown in the Political Animal thread, and in a related thread over at a site called ‘Faithful Progressive’ (I like that name – it’s almost as jarring as ‘Armed Liberal’), who’s blog I’ll be paying a lot more attention to.
That respect doesn’t presume that you encompass the notion that gays are evil, or that Bible Study should be a part of the grade-school curriculum in public schools.
It does presume that Democrats will offer similar respect to those whose lifestyle involves going to church on Sunday that they offer to those whose lifestyle involves going to the bathhouse on Saturday night.
It presumes that – and I keep dragging this quote out, because it is just so absolutely correct –
“Finally, if political education is to be effective it must grow from a spirit of humility on the part of the teachers, and they must overcome the tendencies toward self-righteousness and self-pity which set the tone of youth and student politics in the 1960’s. The teachers must acknowledge common origins and common burdens with the taught, stressing connection and membership, rather than distance and superiority. Only from these roots can trust and hopeful common action grow.”
– John Schaar, ‘The Case for Patriotism’
I keep coming back to this because I keep it close to my own heart as I try and figure out how to make my politics matter. I’m no better than those who go to church, or those who disagree with me; we’re all members of a polity together and my job, as a participant in that polity, is to try and convince others – through my words and actions – that my path is one worth taking.
Ask yourself when you read Kos, or Bowers, or any of the legions of the proud cosmopolitan netroots why someone who is a mainstream American voter should follow them, given the level of contempt and bile they dish out to everyone who isn’t part of their ideological clique.
Howard Dean said something a long time ago that hit me hard –
“I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks,” the former Vermont governor said in an interview published Saturday in the Des Moines Register. “We can’t beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats.”
Of course, the Chris Bowers’ of the party slapped him senseless for it, but he was rightm, and when we get Democrats fearless enough to accept that challenge, we’ll beging to have a Democratic Party that can win.