Ronald Brownstein of the LA Times states the obvious – “If the Democrats can’t loosen the GOP grip on enough culturally conservative voters to win races in this current political climate, it’s not clear when they will.”
What “political climate” is be referred to here? Rural areas of red states where even the die-hard Bush supporters are experiencing buyers remorse. Democrat Claire McCaskill is running against incumbent Republican Jim Talent for the US Senate in Missouri and is barnstorming through Bush country seeking disallusioned and disgruntled Republican votes. Her morning coffee at a restaurant in Caruthersville was recently interrupted by Dizer Capps who said he would be voting for her. Capps voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004, and supported Talent in 2002. But he’s lost faith in the president, largely because of the Iraq war.
“I voted for Bush because I thought he was a good man, but he ain’t worth a damn,” Capps told McCaskill. “I’m 76 years old and I’ve seen a lot of presidents, and this is the worst I’ve ever seen. He’s worse than Jimmy Carter.”
McCaskill has the flip side to deal with, as well. During her tour of rural Missouri she’s met voters said they did not need to know her opinions beyond abortion and gay rights to conclude they could not vote for her.
“I mostly vote Republican because of the Christian values side of it,” said Jim Holt, a foreman at a trailer manufacturing company, as he leaned against his pickup truck.
Holt said economic issues — what he called “the money side of it” — took a backseat to his other concerns. “I worry more about abortion and gay marriage and all that crazy stuff.”
Joe Hester, an accountant, said he would vote for Talent because the incumbent “supports family values and I think McCaskill is too liberal for our state…. I’m a strong Christian, and I believe if you take care of the values, God will take care of the rest.”
So what do Democrats do to win over voters in red areas who vote against their economic interests in favor of social issues? Run centrist candidates, of course. Candidates who may or may not agree with Republican voters on these social issues but will certainly offer to compromise with them. Take abortion, for example. A sensible person would certainly be open to the Clintonian “safe, rare, and legal” approach on the issue – using scientific and values-based education to dramatically reduce the demand for the procedure.
Democrats For Life have a detailed plan using that approach called the 95-10 Initiative, a comprehensive package of federal legislation and policy proposals that will reduce the number of abortions by 95% in the next 10 years – not by legal means but through education and real alternatives. Details here.
This is just an example of how centrist Democrats are injecting real solutions into the polarized left/right debate.