Thursday, November 18, 2004

Common Sense In Iowa: Who Knew?

From what is quickly becoming my favorite MidWest online newspaper stop, The Des Moines Register: Liberals should ditch that snooty attitude.

Interesting nuggets begin here:

For openers, the situation for Democrats is not bleak. Another 125,000 votes in Ohio for Kerry and you wouldn't be reading this column. In losing, Kerry got more votes than many past candidates received in winning the presidency. He came within 3.5 million votes out of 115 million cast. (Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, "close" only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.)

This is probably the best thing for the Democrats to keep in mind. The Republicans will lose seats in the 2006 elections, and may have a difficult time even holding the House. And it is hard to see anyone who might look like a juggernaut in 2008 for the Republicans. McCain might run, but do you think he will really thrill hard core conservative Republicans? Probably not. The Dems will get their opprotunity, it will be up to them to make it their best shot.

• Religion. Democrats need to learn how to talk about their religious faith, or at least convey to voters they have one. Bill Clinton could do that and he won. Kerry never did it much and lost.

A third of the electorate in Iowa calls itself evangelical or a born-again Christian. Bush won 66 percent of their votes. And 43 percent of the voters were people who attend church or religious services at least once a week, and Bush won them 58 percent to 41 percent. There were 12 percent of the voters who attend more than once a week, and they went for Bush 69 percent to 31 percent. Among those who only go once a month, voters split 50-50.

Kerry did win 66 percent of the voters who never go to church. Unfortunately for the left, this heathen bloc is only 12 percent of the electorate, so the seculars here aren't going to win many elections. These splits are known as the "God gap" in American politics, and it will be a factor in future elections. The religious left has work to do if it hopes to defeat the religious right.

• Elitist images. Related to this is an image issue. Elitism. Too many on the left have a snooty, we-know-better attitude. They post Internet images of Bush states as "Jesusland." You can hear it as they grumble over the outcome and complain about how stupid people are. It's a turnoff. Having rock-star celebrities touring the country for their candidate may appeal to the elites, but it also signals to other voters a message about their candidate.

I kind of find it hard to believe that this issue surprised people as much as it seems to have. I thought lots of people had read Stephen Carter's book The Culture of Disbelief back in the 1990's, which gave very clear warning to all those on the left. Being a political party means identifying some other group as "the other," the group you stand in opposition to and compete with. In the early part of the 20th century Democrats stood against the Republicans, big business, the cultural elites and the de facto American aristocracy and they did so in the name of ordinary folks most of whom were religious. Today the Dems still stand against the Republicans and most big business (at least theoretically), but by and large Democrats and other liberals are the cultural elite and the aristocracy. The Republicans have exploited this fact to make it clear to people who are deeply religious that the Democrats view people of faith as part of the "other," while the Republicans are now ordinary folks. "Look at those Ivy League pinheads," says our Republican, "They call you a dumb bumpkin, they think your religious devotion is a sign of stupidity pure and simple, and they support the ACLU's attempt to destroy your faith and your communities." Whatever the validity of the charges, this sentiment exists and is becoming more deeply rooted by the year, and if Democrats want to counteract it they will need to do something about it, or the so-called "God Gap" will help make the Democrats a true minority party.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I don't have time to give this post the response it deserves (as I'm already stealing time from work to do this much). But this story you quote from is part of a series of stories I've been reading in other places, making that argument that democrats need to stop name calling. I mostly find it galling to hear such an argument from conservatives, who are masters of the ad hominem argument, and have used loudly, successfully, and repeatedly. What these articles aren't being up front with is that they do not have objections to ad hominem attacks. Quite the contrary. You can tell that by the way they completely ignore this same tendency on the Right.

It's not that the Democrats need to stop name-calling, these articles ultimately lead me to conclude. It's just that they need to become better at it.

The Grand Poobah said...

Here's my two cents...maybe Iowa should ditch their snooty Liberal (read Tom Harkin). I know that would improve my attitude.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

If your point is that the Democrats need to express a more articulate argument against evangelical Christians and other religious people, I couldn't disagree more. The religious people are not going anywhere. They are still gonna vote. Democrats don't need to become "well spoken bigots" they need to fight the charge that they are anti-Christian bigots at all. It might strike you as incredulous that it has come to that, but it has.

Anonymous said...

Actually, that was not my point at all. My comment had nothing to do at all with the content of the ad hominem attacks, but the ad hominem attack as a strategy in itself. I in no way suggested that Dems needed to make more effective attacks on religious groups. What we seem to have here is a failure to communicate.

BTW, you may taunt me with the Stanley Cup all you want, but it will only sting if I actually harbored any belief that my team had a slush ball's chance in Hades of getting near that shiny grail this season. And last time I checked my harbor, no such belief was docked there.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Yeah, my Stanley Cup trash talk would mean even more were it not for the pesky fact that I'd sell my own grandmother to win the stupid thing.