What We're Up Against
For the last month-and-a-half (and even before then), many of us have been wracking our brains trying to think of strategies to "break through" to working/middle class Republican voters. But after reading this Kos diary, I'm more skeptical than ever that we can formulate a successful strategy:
I had made a comment on the club site that I had lost respect for those who voted for Bush. She took offense, and we started talking about the reasons WHY she voted for Bush. She's a baptist--and, as a suspected, one of the "moral values" crowd.
I told her that a Johns Hopkins study estimated that we had killed 100,000 civilians in Iraq. She was SHOCKED at that number. She didn't believe me--I had to find the report online and direct her to it. Then she said that she felt horrible about that, but we had no choice--Iraq had weapons off mass destruction and we had to get them before they got us. I told her that there were no WMD's in Iraq. She actually laughed. Told me I was crazy. I directed her to MSM stories regarding the Duelfer report. She told me that she would investigate more later, but she was pretty sure that I was wrong.
Once we started talking about the "moral values" issue, it became clear pretty fast that she was actually under the impression that the PRESIDENT gets to decide if abortion is illegal or whether gays can marry. She voted for Bush fully expecting him to outlaw gay marriage and abortion. Case closed.
I asked her about the gutting of the Clean Air and Water Acts, about the leadership at the EPA who lied to people living around Ground Zero about the air quality, about drilling in ANWAR, about Global Warming. She said that those were issues that the President couldn't control--that the Congress was in charge of the EPA.
Let me just clarify that Melinda is not an uneducated person. She's an elementary school teacher and her husband is a former Marine. She's not someone who dropped out of school at 16. She's an exhausted working mom who is too tired and frazzled to read the paper or watch the news when she gets home, so she relies mainly on her pastor to give her "the big picture" on Sunday mornings.
It's easy for us, in our post-election bewilderment, to sit back and smugly think to ourselves, "haw, haw, wutta dumb redneck." But it's more complex than that. The problem is that most of these Republican voters are incredibly ignorant about the state of the world. This does not mean that they are stupid. Ignorance and stupidity, I believe, are two different things.
Indeed, many of the people I go to school with who have the same mentality as this "Melinda" are intelligent and articulate overall. They simply have no idea about these elementary facts, whether it's the economy or the situation in Iraq. We can blame this on Fox, or having to work an excruciating number of hours, or on classic "heartland" parochialism. Whatever the reason, it's there.
Now, the Kos diarist's anecdote ends on a somewhat happy note, as her friend went on MoveOn's website and "agreed with their positions much more than she thought she would." And that's terrific. However, I simply don't believe we can replicate this kind of "outreach" on a mass level, given the aforementioned obstacles in place. But I'm extremely amenable to suggestions that I'm wrong about this, so fire away.