Friday, September 23, 2005

You can’t win elections if your attitude is condescension...

You can’t win elections if your attitude is condescension
I don’t care how swell your ideology is; if you directly express, merely allude to, or simply feel condescension towards the majority of regular Americans, you’re going to lose a great many of your elections. This goes way beyond ideology. If Republicans act like this they’ll get the boot just like Democrats.

BY Michael Lind

[T]he Democrats are no longer the party of the working class so much as the party of the urban professional elite and the working poor. Thanks to reforms backed by Democrats, the working poor have been removed from the income tax rolls and their wages are boosted by the earned income tax credit. Most working-class Americans, however, make too much money to benefit from either reform. The Democrats have also fought unsuccessfully for universal healthcare schemes. But most working-class Americans already have health insurance provided by their employers; rising out-of-pocket health costs, not coverage, is their chief concern. And there is no consensus among Democrats about what to do to prevent the growth of healthcare costs from continuing to outstrip productivity growth. The Republicans do have an idea, but it is a bad one - personal health savings accounts, which would deter many Americans from consuming necessary as well as unnecessary healthcare.

Why have liberal Democrats in recent decades done so much for the largely urban working poor and relatively little for the suburban working class? A cynic might suggest that the combination of liberal anti-sprawl policies and liberal support for mass unskilled immigration, legal and illegal, creates a seller’s market in houses and a buyer’s market in servants in New York, Boston, and San Francisco.

In any event, the quasi-Marxist assumption that voters merely seek to maximise their economic interests ignores the perennial importance of the politics of identity. There never was a time when working-class Americans voted for liberals whose values they rejected but whose economic programmes enticed them. Before the federal judiciary nationalised issues like abortion, gay rights and censorship, beginning in the 1960s, these controversies were part of state and local politics, not national politics. Conservative Catholics in the midwest or southern populists could vote for social conservatism in state and local elections, while voting for New Deal economic policies at the federal level. Thanks to federalism, New Deal liberals like Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson took positions on the economy and foreign policy; they did not have to take stands on abortion or gay rights. The very success of liberals in nationalising these issues has worked against them in a country in which self-described liberals are a minority, outnumbered by self-described moderates and conservatives.

Even the most appealing economic programme cannot save American liberalism if it is associated with values that most Americans reject.


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I hope someone will take a stand and work to improve health care for the rest of us. Our health care system has many issues which arise and I hope they can solve these problems.

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