RED STATE RESENTMENT….Tom Wolfe is one of the sharpest observers of American culture we have. Here’s what he told the Guardian a few days ago about the Democrats’ much discussed problems connecting with red state voters:
I think support for Bush is about not wanting to be led by East-coast pretensions. It is about not wanting to be led by people who are forever trying to force their twisted sense of morality onto us, which is a non-morality. That is constantly done, and there is real resentment. Support for Bush is about resentment in the so-called ‘red states’ ? a confusing term to Guardian readers, I agree ? which here means, literally, middle America.
I think there’s an awful lot to be said for this. Hell, I’m a coastal blue-state liberal, and even I occasionally get tired of liberal hectoring. I half suspect that my entire Northern California readership would disown me if I ever fessed up publicly to the brand of car I drive. Who needs that kind of grief?
Now, needless to say, I don’t agree with Wolfe that our sense of morality is “twisted,” but I do agree that we probably lose a lot of support we don’t need to lose because of a very real ? and often dripping ? condescension toward anyone we consider less enlightened than us.
Here’s the thing: we’re never going to win over the hard core evangelicals, the ones who want to ban abortion, teach creationism in biology classes, and recriminalize gay sex. What’s more, we shouldn’t try. Religious extremism conflicts with the core values of liberalism, and the only thing we can do is continue fighting these folks tooth and nail. No amount of “reaching out” is going to touch them.
But the fact is that we don’t need to reach them anyway. We didn’t lose the election by much, and there are plenty of red staters who aren’t extremists. They’re the ones who are uncomfortable with homosexuality, but understand that a steadily increasing acceptance of gay rights is probably inevitable. They don’t want to ban abortion, but feel like it’s common sense to require parental notification. And they’re ready to agree that we need to do something about global warming, but that doesn’t mean they take kindly to thinly veiled accusations that they’re personally responsible for it just because they drive an SUV or eat a Big Mac.
In other words, they disagree with us, but not so much that they can’t be brought around or persuaded to vote for us based on other issues. Too often, though, a visceral loathing of being lectured at by city folks wins out and they end up marking their ballots for people like George Bush.
So maybe we should knock it off. I know it’s fun, but most of the time it’s pointless and misguided ? and it costs us elections and prevents even modest progress on issues we care about. That’s a high price to pay for a bit of fun.
And the best part is that it doesn’t infringe on our core values at all. We don’t all have to start quoting scripture, we just have to dial down the mockery a notch. Why give the Republicans bulletin board material, after all?
There’s something else we could do that I think would infringe only modestly on our core values, and that’s a renewed commitment to federalism. More about that in another post.