Saturday, November 11, 2006

Everything To Everyone

Before the next would-be moral scold tries to "help" the Democratic Party by haranguing it over its putative issues with evangelicals (I'm lookin' at you, Barack Obama), they might do well to read Digby's trenchant observation:

You can't be all things to all people, people. If the large swathe of religious voters who are incorrectly alleged to have voted Democratic are widely seen by all these chatterers as religious liberals then great. More people concerned with social and economic justice would be a very welcome and logical addition to our coalition. (And even if it isn't true I have no problem if people think it is.) But if this unsubstantiated mass migration to the Democrats is used by Amy Sullivan and the like as a cudgel to force Democratic tolerance for such abominations as creationism or right wing "family values," then I see no margin in allowing the error to go unchallenged.

Let's keep it real and ensure that it is well understood that the religious voters who voted Democratic are not people who expect the party to abandon gay rights or choice because they "delivered" the election. Those people voted in huge numbers, as they always do, for the Republicans.

The data shows that religious voters moved to the Democrats in the same numbers that every other demographic did, (except young voters and hispanics who voted Dem in significantly larger numbers than 2004.) We can draw no lessons on social policy at all from the rather small percentage change among these very religious voters except that they wised up, like a whole bunch of other people. Good for them. Welcome to the circus.

Exactly. This is not the start of a beautiful relationship, this is not the sudden poaching of self-satisfied values voters over to the Democratic big tent. Having a big tent is nice, but the Dem leaders should take note of some of the clowns who populated the one on the other side all these years.

There is simply no point in wasting effort trying to peel off incremental demographic slices of people like this:

So the the top issues for evangelicals were Iraq (who knows whether they viewed it negatively or positively,) gay-marriage and abortion. A stampede it surely ain't.

But if you really want to see where everything becomes clear, check this out:

Over 52 percent still felt Bush was a better Christian than former Democratic President Bill Clinton, while 13 percent felt the reverse was true. About a third rated them evenly.

I know I should be thrilled that 30% believe that Clinton and Bush are equal, but really, that is very thin gruel. George W. Bush started an immoral war that has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, endorsed torture and indefinite imprisonment, presided over the most corrupt government in American history, never goes to church and has never once admitted error or sought forgiveness --- and yet 87 percent of these people believe that Clinton's eight unauthorized hummers make Bush the better Christian or at least no worse. I think we all know what Jesus would have to say about that.

And bravo to the 13% of evangelicals who know that unjust war and torture are more heinous in the godly scheme of things than infidelity. I assume these are the folks who are voting for Democrats because they share their values of of social justice and the common good. Too bad there aren't more of them.

Amen. I think you just have to step up and put your best foot forward as a party, and declare your principles as proactively and concisely as possible. Keep the statistics and empirical data handy to buttress the more elaborate arguments, but lead with the simple logline.

Not only is there no point to wasting energy making cynical overtures to megachurch mossbacks, there's no need. From an academic niche marketing standpoint, the goal of trying to co-opt the evangelicals is that they're already motivated; you're just trying to change the direction of motivation. But in the process, you end up bringing your own principles over to them, in a futile attempt to meet them halfway.

There is no meeting them halfway; they have already declared their warped priorities quite clearly and vociferously. There is no mistaking where they stand, nor their resolve to stay there. It's a waste of time, money, and valuable energy trying to convert these people who have deluded themselves that gay marriage and abortion are the biggest threats to American society. I'm sorry, but it just is.

They've made their decision to be dangerously unserious, but paradoxically, they are very serious about their stance, even in the face of scandals like Ted Haggard. They may eventually come to their senses, but again, it is not the job of a political party to play sob sister/psychotherapist to nosy authoritarian bullies. Frankly, they should be written off by both parties; their gnashing bluster over pretty much every issue makes their energy more trouble than it's worth to harness. It's like trying to turn a wolf into a pack animal.

It makes much more sense to devote at least most of those prospective niche marketing dollars to motivating the vast pool of non-voters out there. Some of them are lazy and ignorant, sure, but it's a safe bet that many of them have simply been turned off by either the dynamics of the political gamesmanship, or the rank cynicism.

So give them something to believe in, something they can get behind, something with passion and purpose. And do it with discipline and focus. One thing about the operative aspects of the Republicans is that they knew how to stay on message. Right now, they are frantically trying to convince themselves and each other that their problem is the messengers and not the message, but of course it was both. They had corrupt, venal messengers delivering a hopelessly corrupted, inept message. But they were able to maintain the charade for this long because of a well-oiled, disciplined machine. Imagine such a machine being put to good use (though it must be acknowledged that by definition, such a situation may not be viable; still, it doesn't hurt to try).

Conversely, the problem on the "left" is twofold. One is that the "center" has moved so far right over the past generation, it's hard for left or center-left -- or even actual centrists -- to stake solid ground. They spend valuable time spinning their wheels, noses in their Berlitz Dog-Whistle language books, valiantly aping their more practiced counterparts on the right, and getting nowhere in the process. The solution to this problem is to simply stake your ground, tailor the message where you can, and motivate your base.

The other problem derives from the first, and revolves around that lack of focus I mention. It could be epitomized by the dipshits with their "Meat Is Murder" and "Free Mumia" signs showing up to anti-war rallies or globalization protests. It is this sort of cheap dilettantism that lends credence to the common misperception that the entire blue half of America is unserious, willing to don a Che shirt and hit the rally just to look for some strange. The solution to this problem is maintaining discipline and focus, and just not even giving these goofballs the time of day. You want to free Mumia, then start a "Free Mumia" rally. Otherwise, fuck off.

So. Let's not overcomplicate this with ham-fisted Jesus Camp outreach strategies, and what outreach there is should emphasize New Testament values, because you're never going to pull the OT fire-and-brimstone lot -- and even if you did, you'd lose your base, and your soul, in the process.

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