Value City

I’m still taking a bit of a break from blogging. I’ve underestimated the amount of time that it would take me to recover from this defeat.

Nevertheless, I’m really getting bothered by all the denigration of voters voting against their self-interest–their economic self-interest. My in-laws fall in that category, and I can see why they voted for Bush: because they’re afraid of change, in all its forms, and they’re tired of getting mocked for values that they hold very deeply. They voted for a man whom they felt would restore some sort of moral equilibrium to their lives, and even though I don’t believe that will happen, the key thing is that, at least, he talks the talk, and doesn’t believe that they’re dragging their knuckles.

ZZ Packer talks about the same thing in Salon, and nails it better than most people I’ve seen.

I’ve talked about this time and again, about how we tend to be so arrogant and supercilious, and dismissive of anyone who doesn’t hew to our line. And before you shoot me emails and comments vehemently disagreeing with me, read what I’m saying–we are. Let me count the ways.

When it comes to gun control, I’ve had so many arguments with fellow liberals that I’m serious danger of pulling out what hair I’ve got left. The vast majority of us aren’t against hunting, but the fact of the matter is, the gun argument isn’t about hunting–it’s about security. And for years, the NRA and its allies have been beating us over the head with it. Think of all the pro-gun arguments you’ve heard ever–how many of them concern some variation of a thug coming after you or your loved ones?

And yet, we’re incapable of grasping that–every time I bring that up to my friends, they look at me as if I’m speaking Etruscan. They can’t conceive that someone–in many cases, someone just like them–might want to have a gun (or many guns) in order to protect themselves. We may disagree with that–but we need to respect and recognize that basic need for security, and come up with ways to address it.

When it comes to abortion, I’ve argued time and again with my women friends about the desirability for some restrictions–stuff like parental notification. I’m not a dad, but if my 16-year-old daughter wanted to have an abortion, I sure as hell would like to know about it. And I would really resent being compared to some monster who chose to impregnate his own child.

But that’s the standard response I get to parental notification laws–I always hear about the horror stories. Fine–I get it. But can we pass a law which allows for parental notification, and allows the clinic (or another party) the discretion of notifying the parents based on the merits of the case? I won’t hold my breath, because my pro-choice friends believe any restriction is but the first step on a slippery slope leading to back alleys and coat hangers, and my pro-life friends are so convinced of their righteousness that they view any compromise as an affront to the Almighty–and both forget that being pro-life means you work both to end abortions and to take care of all children deserving of our help.

And I could go on and on, about any number of issues–gay marriage, sex & violence on TV, you name it.

We need to recognize that on these, and many other issues, voters have valid qualms, and we need to respect those qualms by appealing to their better angels, and speaking not to their minds, but their hearts. Grab their hearts, and the minds will surely follow.

How do I know this? Because my in-laws said so.


5 responses to “Value City

  1. You might appreciate this commentary on exactly the same issue:

    Basically: nobody votes their economic self-interest, and it’s ridiculous to argue that they should.

  2. Chris Willrich

    Arkhangel, thank you for your comments. They’ve inspired me to have more generosity, and hope.

  3. Your comments drive our assumptions and prejudices. We need to get our assumptions on the table, and then approach people in a way we can hear and understand what we share in common.

    I believe it can be done… and pardon my self-serving plug… I co-write a little booklet about “Defiing WE” in political and advocacy communications. While it was written about environmentalism, it contains ideas for talking about issues in ways that include more people from far wider perspectives. Environmentalism is simply the example we used. If interested it’s at:

  4. AS YOU WERE… your assumptions drive TO our assumptions…


  5. I agree with some of your points. I agree about parental notification when a minor asks to have an abortion, and I agree that the issue of gay marriage is better settled in the legislature than in the courts. And I think liberals can be arrogant and insensitive.

    But I still don’t get it. I honestly don’t understand how so many people could have voted for this man. I’m not calling anyone stupid, I just don’t understand. The amount of damage this administration is doing to this country and to the world is frightening. The amount of shame we must now bear as Americans is deeply troubling. There are people out there with conservative values who wouldn’t bankrupt the country, or lie us into a senseless war, or be utterly beholden to the very rich.

    And even though some liberals may be extreme as you described, I didn’t think Kerry was one of them. He didn’t endorse gay marriage, for example. He had “nuanced” positions. I didn’t think he was insulting anyone. He talked seriously about national security (moreso than Bush, I thought, albeit starting later in the campaign than he should have). He seemed like a relatively honest man who wanted to work to undo some of the mess this administration has gotten us into.

    I’m not calling anyone stupid, but I really just don’t understand.

    –Rick Taylor