How Democrats Can Win in 2020: Win the Communitarian Vote

MSW writes:

As Bacon points out, so-called moderates like Howard Schultz (and Michael Bloomberg) criticize candidates like Warren because of her economic views, which they claim are too far to the left. Schultz and Bloomberg will try and convince us that being a liberal means fighting the culture wars while embracing neoliberal economics, and they are not alone. Gov. Andrew Cuomo clearly thinks his decision to light up the World Trade Center in pink because he signed legislation vastly expanding access to abortion will help protect his left flank while he is busy making nice with Wall Street.

Nicholas Phillips, writing at National Review, pointed to the sheer stupidity of the Schultz/Bloomberg thesis that there is a vast center of the electorate just pining to vote for someone who is fiscally conservative but socially liberal. Phillips included a graph created by political scientist Lee Drutman that plots voters based on their ideological preferences on both economic and social issues. One quadrant has those voters who are conservative on both economic and social issues, and it is almost exclusively Republicans. Opposite is a quadrant of those who self-identify as liberal on both economic and social issues. A third quadrant has those whose views are socially conservative but economically liberal, and it accounts for 28.9 percent of the 2016 electorate. The quadrant opposite, the Schultz/Bloomberg quadrant for those who are socially liberal but economically conservative, is the smallest of the four, with only 3.8 percent. Phillips calls it a “ghost town.” There is not, it turns out, a vast center of the electorate clamoring for what Schultz and Bloomberg offer. It is just their friends from the club.

Other polling confirms the fact that the only way for Democrats to win is to avoid extremism on social issues and run to the left on economic ones. A recent Business Insider poll registered 54 percent approval for Warren’s proposal, compared to only 19 percent disapproval. A Politico/Morning Consult poll asked a more generic question — should the rich pay more in taxes — and a whopping 76 percent agreed. And, even a Fox News poll asked about taxing people making more than $10 million and found that 70 percent of registered voters and 54 of Republicans gave the idea a big thumbs up.

Conversely, late-term abortions are singularly unpopular…While a majority support permitting a late-term abortion to save the life of the mother, only 20 percent indicate wholesale support for a third trimester abortion for virtually any reason….

Inclusivity has become an increasingly important moral theme in the politics of the left, especially in the face of the ugly nativism emanating from the president. Inclusivity is most often discussed in social terms, but there is an economic aspect to it as well. There are people in rural America whose occupational aspirations are thwarted by a lack of access to broadband. There are children in both rural and urban America whose dreams are clouded by poverty. Blessings on the candidate who finds creative ways to unite the social and economic inclusionary themes.

Addressing the growth of income inequality by taxing the uber-rich is a political winner. It may not occur to most of the wunderkinds who run campaigns these days, but they should memorize the numbers cited above: 28.9 percent versus 3.8 percent. If the Democrats are smart, and that is a big if, they will recognize that the way to defeat Donald Trump is to cling to the center on social issues and to the left on economic ones.

Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

2013 American Values Survey: Libertarians by Michael Sean Winters: “As you can guess, I would place myself firmly in the communalist camp. And, I am not alone. One of the happier findings of the study is that Catholics are only about 11% of libertarians, but a full 29% of communalists. Go Catholics!”

Food stamps will get cut by $5 billion this week — and more cuts could follow by Brad Plumer, Wonkblog: “The U.S. food-stamp program is set to shrink in the months ahead. The only real question is by how much.”

A Reason for Hope in Congo’s Perpetual War by NY Times: “By Saturday evening, after two straight days of pitched battle with artillery, tanks and mortars, the Congolese Army had driven the M23 rebels out of the strategic town of Kibumba.”

Kony 2013: U.S. quietly intensifies effort to help African troops capture infamous warlord by Washington Post: “U.S. troops have forged unconventional alliances, collaborating with members of the advocacy group whose viral Internet video last year made Kony one of the world’s most famous thugs and coordinating with two American philanthropists who are paying for teams of tracking dogs to accompany the African forces.”

Atheists Don’t Get God By Robert Barron: “I often tease the critics of religion who take pride in the rigor of their rationalism. I tell them that, though they are willing to ask and answer all sorts of questions about reality, they become radically uncurious, irrational even, just when the most interesting question of all is posed: why is there something rather than nothing? Why should the universe exist at all?”

A prime time for learning by Arnold Schwarzenegger: “There is a large and growing body of evidence showing that comprehensive after-school programs help inspire kids to learn and help working families. They also give children a safe place to be in the afternoon hours when school is out and parents are still at work.”

Communion(s) of Saints by Rev. Aaron Pidel, S.J.: “If we are now more aware of and articulate about social dimension of our faith, paradoxically, it may be that we are inwardly removed from community to such a degree that it now comes into focus as a conscious object of aspiration. In other words, we may thematize faith’s social dimension more precisely because it has ceased to be the very air we breathe.”

A Saint for Our Times by John Carr: “Who are the Catholic lay men and woman who sees faith as an asset, not a burden; public life as a vocation not war by other means; who stand against the tides to defend the weak, the unborn, the poor and vulnerable. They are there, but there will be more of them if we find ways to lift up the lives, faith, hope and love of people like Sargent Shriver.”

A War on the Poor By Paul Krugman: “So there is indeed a war on the poor, coinciding with and deepening the pain from a troubled economy. And that war is now the central, defining issue of American politics.”

To be in that Number: Death and the Communion of Saints by Andrew Staron: “We can find that in our love for our friends, we are freed from our fearful desire to be the exception and instead embrace the end shared by us all, not because it is inevitable, but because it is the end that comes to our friends.”

Accepting Love and Help: Lessons from the Good Samaritan

In the Prayer of Saint Francis we ask that we may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.  It’s one of my favorite prayers.  It is a prayer to be released from the chains of egotism and self-centeredness.

But the truth is that we can’t console if no one will allow themselves to be consoled; we cannot understand if no one will allow themselves to be understood; and sometimes we cannot express our love for others in concrete terms if others refuse to be loved.

In his homily on the Good Samaritan last weekend, Father Greg Schenden pointed out that we cannot follow the model of the Good Samaritan if the person we are trying to help refuses our assistance.  While we should be inspired by the model of the Good Samaritan, we should also be willing to accept help like the man the Good Samaritan aids.

And this isn’t always popular.  In our culture, being dependent on another person is viewed in a negative light.  It can be seen as a blow to one’s pride.  People stress about being a burden on others.  And we have elaborate rituals in which we feign that we don’t want assistance while expecting that the person offering assistance will re-offer, at which point accepting would become fine.

In my life, I have seen family members and close friends who have refused help when they really needed it.  I have seen them endure hellish experiences that could have been entirely avoided by making a phone call or simply accepting an offer of assistance.  I have sensed others suffering in silence when someone that loved them would have rushed to their aid at the drop of a hat if they could only build the courage to ask, to expose their need.

American individualism, which values autonomy, independence, and individual achievement, often clashes in a serious way with Catholic communitarianism and its commitment to solidarity, mutual dependence, and communal support.  For some, it may result in pride where the person is too proud to accept the help of others, sure that they can do anything worthwhile on their own.  For others, their refusal to seek or accept help may be the product of how they perceive cultural expectations and norms.  Being considerate or courteous might seem to preclude accepting the help of others.

For a faith centered around communion, these cultural currents present a major problem.  We cannot give if no one is willing to receive, and the lives of both are diminished as a result.  Those in need are denied assistance that would improve their lives and those willing to give are denied the love and joy of helping another.  Where people refuse to be vulnerable, real interpersonal connections are absent, as the person’s desire for autonomy leads to a more surface, artificial relationship.

Father Greg pointed out last Sunday one thing that is wonderful about children: they often lack these inhibitions, this reluctance to be dependent, to rely on others.  And he noted that to be childlike, as Jesus encourages us to be, we must be willing to be the object of service and love, not just the one giving each.

As a relatively new parent, this resonates deeply with me.  My three and a half months with my daughter, which include my time as the primary caretaker, have involved countless hours changing diapers, feeding her, calming her down, singing to her, kissing her, making faces, playing with her, and carrying out a variety of other tasks centered solely around her well-being.  These moments often come when I am trying to work or terribly in need of sleep.  But these months have been filled with an indescribable joy that I had not experienced before her birth and it has permeated every day of my life since the day she was born.

And a big part of that is getting to express my love for her without reserve.  She is never self-conscious about receiving that love.  She never rejects it out of the fear that I’m doing too much.  Her total willingness to receive love is the prerequisite for my ineffable joy.

Getting to love someone in this way is so wonderful and joyful.  This means that allowing yourself to be loved in this way is a profoundly loving, generous act.  The lesson for all of us is to try to shed those individualistic impulses that are ingrained in each of us by our cultural surroundings so that we might be more open to love.  A willingness to be vulnerable, to depend on others, or to simply accept a helping hand can bring more love and joy into the world.  Sometimes, it is in receiving that we give and in being loved that we love.