One of the great problems Senator Barack Obama has with white working class voters -- Catholic and Protestant both -- is the culture wars issue that these United States has been fighting in quiet desperation for the last 40 years. Karl Rove himself hinted at the likely Republican strategy in the general election, namely, from ABCNews:
"'Even if you never met him, you know this guy,' Rove said, per Christianne Klein. 'He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.'"
That liberal, arugula-munching effete archetype of the Ivy-law school attending Democrat. How original! But effective, we cannot fail to note, very, very effective. How can one compete against such a vicious mischaracterization?
This blog would argue that Senator Obama should tack to the center on the cultural wars issue. This, of course, does not mean the Senator should veer to the loony, Helmsian Right, otherwise he might turn off the intelligent Jann Wenner-Kurt Anderson elites, a group to which Obama culturally belongs. Rather, Obama should project a stern moderate counterbalance against pop-cultural excesses. This blog, and many others, attest, through our studious mockings, to the clearly evident excesses in American pop-culture.
Already Obama has begun to project such a Centrist image, in his brilliant Father's Day speech on African-American fatherhood, and his mild but powerful critique of video games on American youth ("We’re going to have to parent better, and turn off the television set, and put the video games away, and instill a sense of excellence in our children, and that’s going to take some time"). In fact, a little backlash from the snarky pop-cultural elites would help Obama boatloads in Pennsyltucky and Ohio and Michigan and in the hills of West Virginia. And the Senator from Illinois' response to the recent Supreme Court rulings clearly signal that the great move to the center is upon us.
In a conversation with Harper's, in the July 2008 issue there is an interesting conversation between Kevin Baker, Scott McConnell, Kevin Phillips, Thomas Schaller and Luke Mitchell on how the Republican Party has to die to be reborn again (a la Goldwater), and how the Democrats can win:
"McCONNELL: Yes, and reversing that order of priority might drive a wedge into the G.O.P. The Republicans have come so close to failure that Democrats could achieve a sort of counter-alignment simply by becoming more diverse on cultural issues. They still march in lockstep over abortion, for instance, and if the party were more welcoming to working-class voters who are pro-life or culturally conservative, such voters might be more inclined to vote their economic interests, which are almost certainly Democratic.
"SCHALLER: But in general the country is pro-choice and becoming more so with each passing generation. Even in the South, people who identify themselves as "pro-life" are in the minority. If the Republicans really thought they had hay to make on abortion politics, they would have proposed a constitutional amendment banning abortion instead of the one that banned same-sex marriage. Bush has had almost eight years to do so, and so far there's no sign of movement on that score.
"BAKER: For better or worse, abortion is a waning issue. The anti-abortion policy of intimidation, including actual assassinations, has made it virtually impossible to obtain an abortion in some parts of the country, while elsewhere there is little objection to the procedure. The Republicans would risk a lot by upsetting this standoff. If abortion were outlawed and federal marshals started arresting doctors and pregnant teenagers in those strong pro-choice regions, the whole issue would swing against them.
"McCONNELL: We have to keep in mind, though, that the abortion issue is a signifier for a host of other cultural issues related to family and sex. A number of politicians have managed to somewhat fudge the abortion issue -- Daniel Moynihan, for instance, was able to vote against partial-birth abortion, speak out eloquently against it, note that there is something called "infanticide" and that it is related to abortion, and yet still be, on balance, pro-choice. They can do this by being generally on the conservative side of the culture war. That could be a reasonable model for Democrats.
"BAKER: I think Democrats could reconnect with a lot of voters if they just acknowledged how ugly our popular culture has become. They could disagree on abortion rights or gay marriage, as long as they were saying, 'Hey, we understand. We're worried about our culture, too.' A good liberal candidate would make it all of a piece: 'We care about our culture, our kids, our natural environment, our working people. It's time we stopped shipping your jobs overseas, stopped filling your good with crap and your air with carbon, stopped filling your kids' minds with garbage.'"