Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Culturally Incompetent

I’ve been inclined to say (more than once) that Democrats would win more votes if they got tough on economic issues. How can members of the working class (provided they get the straight facts) vote Republican when that party’s economic policies so plainly favor the wealthy? At the end of the day, pocketbook issues trump morality issues, right? Right? Well, according to the results of a recent study, maybe not.

The study is based on focus groups of rural voters in Wisconsin and Arkansas and disaffected supporters of President Bush in Colorado and Kentucky. The good news for Democrats: All the groups expressed dissatisfaction with the direction of the country and with the leadership of the president and the GOP-controlled Congress.

Then came the bad news: "As powerful as the concern over these issues is, the introduction of cultural themes -- specifically gay marriage, abortion, the importance of the traditional family unit and the role of religion in public life -- quickly renders them almost irrelevant in terms of electoral politics at the national level," the study said.

Many of these voters still favor Democrats on economic issues. But they see the Democrats as weak on national security, and on cultural and moral issues, they view Democrats as both inconsistent and hostile to traditional values. "Most referred to Democrats as 'liberal' on issues of morality, but some even go so far as to label them 'immoral,' 'morally bankrupt,' or even 'anti-religious,' " according to the Democracy Corps analysis.
This troubles me. If Democrats have to jump on the "traditional values" bandwagon to win over voters who consider them "morally bankrupt," it’s not worth the effort. Becoming more like Republicans to win back working class votes kind of defeats the purpose.

Am I being too pessimistic?

Anyway, examining Democratic shortcomings seems to be a popular topic these days. Kevin Drum has a decent thread going on the subject.

--Matthew McCoy