Dissecting Passion

DISSECTING PASSION….Over at the Prospect, John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira write that liberal arguments over such topics as media tactics, base mobilization, “getting tough” on national security, and organizational structure are off base:

The totality of the advice simply misses the mark and obscures the underlying problem driving progressives? on-going woes nationally: a majority of Americans do not believe progressives or Democrats stand for anything….This trend, one we call the ?identity gap,? has been written about and discussed by others in years past. What is not understood is the extent to which this gap continues to drag down progressives and Democrats and depress their support in myriad ways. ?No identity? translates into no character. No personal integrity. No vision worth fighting for.

So we need a strong identity. Check. And how are we going to figure out what it should be?

We will begin with a detailed assessment of the various voter groups and geographical areas that need to be assembled into a progressive majority and how social change is likely to reshape those groups and areas over the next decade or so. That discussion will cover both those groups and areas where progressives are relatively strong and those groups and areas where progressives are relatively weak but can make gains in the future.

This piece is the first of four, and I’ll wait until all four are out before I say anything substantive. Still, I wonder if I’m the only one who’s a little taken aback by this whole approach.

Halpin and Teixeira are apparently planning to argue that liberals need to “put the common good at the center of a new progressive vision,” the same advice that Prospect editor Mike Tomasky offered a few days ago. Now, as it happens, I have some doubts about that advice (about which more later). But whether or not it’s a good idea, telling us that we need to “stand for something,” and then divining what that “something” should be via a mind numbing demographic breakdown of red and blue America sure doesn’t sound very inspiring, does it? I wouldn’t mind if they had an idea they felt passionately about and then used their numbers to demonstrate that it was sellable, but it looks as if they did just the opposite: they used the demographic breakdowns and focus group results to figure out what we’re supposed to feel passionately about in the first place. I’m a pretty analytic person, but that doesn’t work even for me.

This may be unfair. Like I said, I’ll read parts 2-4 before I say anything more. For now, this is just a shot across the bow.