Conservatism and tolerance by mattsteinglass
November 4, 2008, 11:48 am
Filed under: United States

Among the many questions that trouble Ross Douthat when he thinks about the future of conservatism is this one:

How do you sell socially-conservative ideas to a moderate middle that often perceives social conservatism as intolerant?

I would think you do it the way Barack Obama does it. “I think any legislator who is spending his time passing a law about the way people dress is wasting his time. That said, brothers need to pull up their pants.” You do it the way Andrew Sullivan does it, by promoting gay marriage — as socially conservative an idea as I can think of.

But part of what you have to do in order to be able to speak with authority on these issues is to bring people into your party who are perceived as genuine and credible when they speak to diverse communities. Obama can say that second sentence, can use the word “brothers”, because of street cred. There is no one in the Republican Party who can say the word “brothers”. Not since Charles Barkley got driven out.

Building that credibility means not picking out a right-wing lawyer who happens to be black and propping him up on stage in order to prove you’re not racist. It means not picking out a right-wing evangelical Christian ex-beauty queen and propping her up on stage to prove you’re not sexist. It means not picking out a Jewish guy with an intermittently convincing Southern accent and propping him up on stage to prove your religious diversity. It means making a commitment at the level of the party to actually run candidates who can win at the local level in diverse communities, who are willing to put in the years, as Barack Obama put in the years, to gain credibility when speaking to and for those communities. The mainstream Democratic Party is socially conservative on most issues. But Democrats currently have the authority to speak about issues like this, because they aren’t viewed as narrowminded, provincial, or bigoted.


2 Comments so far
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Uhh, who was the “Jewish guy with an intermittently convincing Southern accent”? I’m a rural southerner, and really, really hate fake southern accents (“True Blood” is often really annoying)…Not sure who you all are talkin’ about.

I know the Democrats are rather less than perfect. You run with the political system you have, however. All the Republican ads in my cable (out of Chattanooga TN and Atlanta) are full of fear and hated. But today, Racism and Bigotry, though strong, are about to have a bad day…

Comment by MR Bill

It seems to me Eric Cantor’s accent goes in and out. I don’t know if it’s fake, exactly, but it seems to drop into flat mid-Atlantic when he’s surrounded by other cosmopolitans.

Comment by mattsteinglass

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