Monday, March 07, 2005

Progressive Traditionalists

The Moose urges the donkey to take the "multi" in multiculturalism seriously.

Peter Beinart made a profound point in a Washington Post piece yesterday arguing for Democratic outreach to the military community,

"Genuine multiculturalism is not just about race, ethnicity and gender. It's about embracing people whose culture differs from yours, in hopes of finding core principles that you share. Over the past four years, Republicans have done that. Now Democrats must too."

Beinart points out that Republicans are making serious efforts to reach beyond their traditional base,

"To understand why military voters matter to the Democratic Party's fate, consider what African American and Hispanic voters mean to the Republican Party. For four years -- through faith-based initiatives, conservative cultural appeals, Spanish-language infomercials and Cinco de Mayo celebrations -- Karl Rove has labored to bring ethnic minorities into the GOP. His calculation has been twofold. First, African American and Hispanic votes are valuable in and of themselves. Second, African American and Hispanic support helps Republicans overcome their image as exclusionary and hard-hearted -- and that wins over some moderate white voters as well."

Sunday's New York Times also reported on the Republican outreach efforts to African American churches,

"But the White House has been reaching out to sympathetic black clergy members - through its stand on social issues, its effort to give religious groups more of a role in providing federally financed social services and ideas like Mr. Bush's proposed initiative to counter gang violence, a concern of some black ministers who support him, like the Rev. Eugene F. Rivers of Dorchester, Mass."

The Moose understands that the GOP has made significant inroads into the orthodox Jewish community, as well. In contrast to these Republican outreach efforts, the Democratic Party, fairly or unfairly, appears to be doing the opposite - mired in and comforted by its self-satisfied, insular hatred for everything Bush. Can one imagine a Democratic outreach effort to the Pentecostal Community? Most Democrats would not be able to distinguish between a Pentecostal and a pretzel!

The truth is that neither party makes it comfortable for what the Moose refers to as "progressive traditionalists" - those who are to the left on economics, but are socially conservative and hawkish on defense. Before 1968, those folks formed the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Since the tumult of the anti-war movement and the counter-culture, they are up for grabs. The Republican ascendancy has been built on wooing these voters. And should the GOP be successful in making inroads among "progressive traditionalists", Democrats will only be visiting the Oval Office as tourists for the foreseeable future.

It is not simply a matter that these progressive traditionalists are deluded by false consciousness a la "What's the matter with Kansas." Cultural concerns are every bit as significant with these voters as economic ones. For them, the guard rails of tradition have been removed.

The greatest predictor of voting behavior is the frequency of church attendance. The Democratic Party is perceived as a secularist party. This phenomena is extremely costly to the party in one of the most religious countries outside the Muslim world. That is why the Moose urges the donkey to reconsider its hostility to faith in the public square. That doesn't mean merely mouthing Biblical passages in support of the minimum wage. Sometimes it appears that the only religion Democrats accept is a theological belief in church-state separation.

One of the most significant motivating factors for evangelical Christians to become politically involved is the feeling that they are the only group in America that is fair game to stereotype and vilify. There is some truth in that view. In their commendable commitment to multiculturalism, Democrats should also find a way to forcefully and visibly be seen on the side of religious folks.

Take a stand against the militant secularists as well as the religious right. Republicans shouldn't be the only defenders of the displays of the Decalogue or the Christmas creche.

Put the "multi" back in multiculturalism!
-- Posted at 6:05 AM | Link to this post | Email this post