Mike at Ishbaddidle has a 10-point plan to take back the country. I especially like point #4 “Get Beyond Red and Blue” which I will copy here, since it jibes with some points in my recent “interests” post and some of the various maps I’ve been posting.
- Get Beyond Red and Blue.
In a marketing class at Harvard Business School (yes I have the same degrees as W), we were discussing the cola wars — Coke vs. Pepsi. “Why only Coke and Pepsi?” demanded our professor. “Because this is America,” I replied. “We live in a two-party system!” Big laugh line, although I don’t think the prof appreciated it. But there’s some truth there. We like things black and white. (In the case of race & ethnicity, we like them black and white quite literally.) There’s a Manichean worldview, good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, paper vs. plastic, Coke vs. Pepsi, that I think goes quite deeply into our national psyche.
The oversimplification of “Red America” and “Blue America” has become a cottage industry for pundits like David Brooks, Wayne’s Worst Export. If you haven’t read Thomas Frank’s article “Lie Down for America” in the April 2004 Harper’s, debunking this myth, then by all means read his book “What’s The Matter With Kansas?” See here for more: What’s the matter with Kansas?
The “Red and Blue” America myth isn’t just about making sure that all Democrats aren’t parodied as latte-drinking Coastal Elites. It’s important for us to understand that all Republicans aren’t trailer-park dwelling Bible-thumpers.
I’m serious about this. In conversations, on blogs, etc. I’ve heard this again and again: “how can people be so stupid / misguided / misled / selfish / immoral as to vote for George Bush?” In so many words.
Well, it ain’t so.
First, saying stuff like this confirms the worst stereotypes of Democrats: that we think we’re smarter than other people, that we’re out of touch with the great masses, that we condescend. Don’t let them tag you with that one.
Secondly, as long as we go down that road, we’ll never understand *why* 51% of the electorate went for Bush. You can talk “false consciousness” until you’re blue (or red) in the face, but it won’t help you in the next election.
Thirdly, our strategy has to get more “Red Staters” — and more Republicans on our side. Bush picked off 11% of Democrats; Kerry took 6% of Republicans. (Gore got 8% of the GOP vote in 2000). 5.5% of the electorate thinks the U.S. is going in the wrong direction, but voted for Bush anyway.
This is the best resource I’ve seen on a better way to look at the country. They divide the nation up into 10 regions, based on voting habits, that cut *across* state boundaries: Beyond Red and Blue
Fascinating stuff, and I hope every Democratic strategist reads it.
(Factoid: In 9% of the counties in the US, the margin in the 2004 election was 5% or less. Meaning that in one of every 11 counties is solidly purple.)
One last thing — remember how our rhetoric plays in the mainstream. Our policies don’t have to move to the center, but our rhetoric should. Demeaning the president’s intelligence, or those who vote for him, ain’t gonna play in Paducah. Neither does running naked in the streets, chanting “No Blood For Oil!”, etc. Marching is good for the spirit, it’s a good show of strength, and it energizes the base — but let’s try to be sensible. Because you know that it’s the one guy who kicks a cop that will get all the news, while 100,000 protestors are ignored in their Free Speech Zone.
We’re liberals, we’re good at tolerance; let’s show some to the other side as we engage in conversation on their blogs, their porches, over beer. Let’s listen to what they are saying, and strive for civility. We might not convince anyone to switch, but we’ll show them that our policies and our beliefs aren’t based in hate, they’re based in hope. And we could certainly use more civility all around.
Also see Mike’s post on electronic voting.