Sunday, April 24, 2005

 

We're all value voters

Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. When the Dispatch editors put designated Republican Mark Niquette and designated-Democrat Joe Hallett together on stories that are basically news pieces, the wealth of sources they have on either side tends to created a pretty good reading.

On the other hand, when the two are put together for analysis, the results seem strained and hampered by lowest-common denominator writing. Their piece today, one that offers analysis of the Blackwell's lovefest with the theocrats in Ohio and whether it can backfire, is one of those weaker pieces. We invite people to read it, but it didn't strike us as breaking any new ground.

What did bother us, however, was that Niquette's and Hallett's story is riddled with explicit and implicit references that say Value Voters = Evangelical Voters.

This strikes us as a classic case where the right has framed an issue this way and the media (and the Democrats, too) have bought into this. A fundamental point that George Lakoff makes is that everyone is a value voter: the problem is that the conservatives and theocrats are much, much better at "activating" a particular paternalistic/Dobsonian moral system within voters (instead of a "nuturing parent" moral system. The right bothers to spend little time on facts and a great deal of time working to associate certain issues and candidates with a broad and interconnected set of values. Democrats and progressives spend all their time on facts and no time of connecting to voters' moral systems.

Although the particular set of issues as espoused by Dobson, Parsley, Russell Smith, Russell Moore, etc. may generate a backlash for pols like Blackwell, conservatives are still going to have a leg up on the Democrats as long as they fail to develop an explicit and alternative value-driven vision and campaigns. We will be left with a less-of-evils choice among Betty Montgomery, Jim Petro and Blackwell instead of a real alternative.

If Niquette/Hallett want to see someone squirm, they should spend some time asking Denny White and Co. what they are doing to build support among value voters. Better yet, they should ask White, exactly what are the Democrats' values. If he can't answer in ten words*, he should quit.

* Lakoff's suggestions, which still seem as powerful as any: Stronger America, Broad Prosperity, Better Future, Effective Government, Mutual Responsibility, or, even, Opportunity, Societal Investments, Freedom, Community, Open Communications.

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