February 28, 2005

Go Communitarian

I don't have much of a nose for political strategy, much less for What The Democrats Should Do To Win Lots and Lots of Elections, but Ed Kilgore's explanation of "values voters" in the south seemed interesting:
My own (and generally, the DLC's) definition of "values voters" is quite different. They are people who: (a) don't [much] trust politicians, and want to know they care about something larger than themselves, their party, and the interest groups that support them; (b) don't much trust government, and instinctively gravitate towards candidates who seem to care about the role that civic and religious institutions can play in public life; (c) don't much trust elites, whom they suspect do not and cannot commit themselves to any particular set of moral absolutes; (d) don't much like the general direction of contemporary culture (even if they are attracted to it as consumers), and want to know public officials treat that concern with respect and a limited agenda to do something about it; (e) are exquisitely sensitive about respect for particular values like patriotism, parenting and work; and (f) have a communitarian bent when it comes to cultural issues, and dislike those who view them strictly through the prism of the irresistable march towards absolute and universal individual rights without regard to social implications.
This certainly doesn't jibe with my experience of "values voters"—most of whom I would say are fairly out of reach of the Democratic Party—but having met only a small subset of the population of the entire United States of America, I guess I could be wrong. More interestingly, though, you know what this sounds like? A call for the Democrats to start adopting communitarian stances on things. Down to the letter. As it happens, I have a never-been-opened copy of Amitai Etizioni's The Communitarian Reader on my bookshelf, so let's crack it open and see what they have to say about all this.

Ah... A quick glance at the TOC reveals a nifty essay on how New Urbanism strengthens communities, a piece on "Boston's Ten Point Coalition: A Faith-Based Approach to Fighting Crime in the Inner City", and uh, hmm… a call for "Peer Marriage." Well, apart from the last (tentatively), much of this seems like stuff the Democrats shouldn't have to reach very far to promote—New Urbanism is undeniably cool, after all. As an added bonus, many of the leading liberal movements nowadays (even the online ones) seem built around a semi-communitarian ethic anyway, so if Kilgore's right, there's not a huge gap in sensibility here. It just hasn't quite been articulated yet. Still, guess I'll check out this communitarianism stuff a bit more; it sort of gives me the creeps at times, but maybe it's the wave of the future.
-- Brad Plumer 1:21 AM || ||