THE VALUES VOTE….Matt Yglesias makes a point today that I think is half right, so I want to riff on it for a bit and see if there’s something concrete there that liberals can make use of. First, talking about the “moral values” voters, he says this:

The point is not that “values voters” of modest means inexplicably support a party that fails to represent their economic interests. I know plenty of liberals who do the same. It’s called voting on principle, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

I agree. There’s more to life than money, and there’s nothing either wrong or mysterious about voting for something you think is more important than money. Rich liberals do this every time they vote in favor of higher taxes.

But then Matt goes on to suggest that all those conservative “values voters” are chumps anyway. After all, what have Republicans done for them? Abortion is up under Bush, gay rights have expanded steadily for decades, the internet makes porn more widespread than ever, and the feminist movement reigns supreme.

There’s a germ of an idea here, but it needs to be teased out. The abortion point is a good one, for example. Liberals are in favor of choice, not in favor of abortion per se, so why shouldn’t we talk more often about policies that reduce the need for abortions while continuing to defend the right of choice itself? This won’t impress the hardcore evangelicals, of course, but it might appeal to some of their more moderate neighbors. Ditto for porn.

Gay rights and feminisim are another thing entirely. Liberals are just fundamentally in favor of this stuff, and we shouldn’t even think about trying to talk our way around it. If we lose votes for it, we lose votes for it.

Basically, then, I think Matt has a point worth thinking about, but we have to figure out which issues it applies to. Abortion and porn are good examples, and that’s why master politician Bill Clinton talked about making abortion “safe, legal, and rare” and supported anti-porn measures like the V-chip. Neither of these things infringed on any liberal principles, but they did address some of the real-world concerns of those ordinary heartland voters we hear so much about.

Are there other issues like this, in which liberal principles can coexist easily with practical efforts to address real world jitters? It might be something worth talking about.