Saturday, March 05, 2005

The DLC on "Values."

Hmmph, this is part of the substance of my last post and something I've been looking for. Ed Kilgore, the Democratic Leadership Council's blogger at helpfully explains:

"My own (and generally, the DLC's) definition of "values voters" is quite different. They are people who: (a) don't must trust politicians, and want to know they care about something larger than themselves, their party, and the interest groups that support them; (b) don't much trust government, and instinctively gravitate towards candidates who seem to care about the role that civic and religious institutions can play in public life; (c) don't much trust elites, whom they suspect do not and cannot commit themselves to any particular set of moral absolutes; (d) don't much like the general direction of contemporary culture (even if they are attracted to it as consumers), and want to know public officials treat that concern with respect and a limited agenda to do something about it; (e) are exquisitely sensitive about respect for particular values like patriotism, parenting and work; and (f) have a communitarian bent when it comes to cultural issues, and dislike those who view them strictly through the prism of the irresistable march towards absolute and universal individual rights without regard to social implications."

Here's my commentary on his points:

Point A is useless. It describes every voter in America, on the right and left. Go out and take an informal poll. Who will claim to "love politicians"? Even politicians claim not to like politicians.

Point B: Here he gives the New Dem mantra -- government isn't the solution, civic and religious groups are! Nothing against religious and civic institutions... but shouldn't people running for government posts be reminding folks that government can and should be part of the solution to the problems we face?

Point C: They don't trust elites because they won't commit to moral absolutes? See, I don't trust elites, like the Neocon foreign policy establishment, because they lie to me. But that's probably not who Kilgore means. He's probably talking about Hollywood actors and college professors. Now, when Hollywood actors refuse to commit to moral absolutes, it might engrage the People Magazine readers in the red states, but... that's kind of the function of Hollywood stars. Every society needs some people to live conspicuously outside the mainstream. The rest of us, who can't afford fancy lawyers and have to live by most of the rules get out some vicarious lawbreaking through the Hollywood types. That's why, though people complain about them, they also send hundreds of billions of dollars to the left coast. Now, if he means college professors. Well, I don't know. Noahm Chomsky certainly believes in moral absolutes. It's just that no politician from either side can live up to them. As for the true relativists, the post-modern theorists and the philosophers who don't believe in the concept of truth... Hey, smart people keep asking questions. You can't criticize them for where their inquiries take them. So, lay off the "elites."

D) "Values" voters don't like the direction of contemporary culture. See, this is where we get Joe Lieberman and Tippper Gore making asses out of themselves and alienating young and urban voters who like the culture just fine. This is what leads to multimillion dollar fines because, oh my god, somebody saw a breast for 2 seconds during the Super Bowl! You know what the problem with the culture is, Ed? Prudes.

E) He says they're sensitive about 3 values: Patriotism, parenting and work. All right, I guess it's kind of stupid to run for office and not be something of a patriot. But patriotism can never mean "my country right or wrong." Democrats should be careful about letting patriotism cross over into arrogant nationalism (for an example of arrogant nationalism, see our current foreign policy). Parenting. Sure. But be practical about it. Use the government to make sure all children have healthcare and parents have access to day care and can take leave from work without fear of losing their jobs. But don't use this as an excuse to micromanage the culture's values as a way to "protect the children" because I am so sick of that. Finally, work. Hey, work's important. But the truth is, American workers are, on the whole, working longer and getting less for their efforts than they have in the past. "Work" shouldn't be the value. "Workers" should be the value.

F) Kilgore describes people as having a "Communitarian bent" on social issues and of being skeptical about an absolute march towards absolute and universal individual rights. Ed, Democrats absolutely have to support individual rights. For one thing, it sells. Bush got re-elected with his "Ownership society" ruse specifically because it speaks to individual freedom (without actually providing it, but I digress...) Democrats should be careful not to be on the wrong side of history. Homosexual marriage is a right. It's just not recognized yet. It must be supported. Reproductive choice is a right, upheld only by a tenuous Supreme Court decision, but a right nonetheless. Access to healthcare, food, housing and some sort of guaranteed retirement income for workers are all rights. And on social issues, especially victimless or consensual crimes like drug use, gambling, prostitution -- consenting adults should have the right to do whatver they want. Nobody in either party supports that. But it's about time to consider this -- our culture can be far more permissive than it is, and it should be.


At 9:37 PM , Blogger tifanie said...

Damn straight.


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