No More "Enemy Turf"

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No More "Enemy Turf"

A perenially important political challenge that's been associated with the Washington Monthly for years (and that also happens to be one of my own favorite crusades) is an effort to convince progressives not to concede important segments of the U.S. population to the opposition on grounds that they represent some sort of inherent "enemy turf." Yes, certain demographic categories may be "lost" to conservatives if you insist on a winner-takes-all definition, and no, aggressively pursuing support among such voters isn't worth it if it involves abandoning key principles or essentially adopting the opposition's point of view. But reducing the margin of defeat on "hostile ground" is often achievable simply by paying attention and not wilfully repelling voters, and in the end a vote is a vote whether it comes from a segment of the electorate that progressives are "winning" or "losing."

There are growing signs that progressives in general, and the Obama campaign in particular, are "getting it."

Back in 2003, the Monthly published a much-discussed article by Amy Sullivan entitled "Do Democrats Have a Prayer?" that argued the Donkey Party was unnecessarily sacrificing moderate-to-liberal religious voters--and even some nonreligious voters impressed by the moral clarity of faith-grounded statements of principle--by refusing to engage with conservatives claiming a monopoly on the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Over this last weekend the self-same Sullivan penned an op-ed in the Washington Post noting how aggressively Barack Obama is challenging the assumptions of conservatives and secular MSM observers alike that the only religious perspective on same-sex marriage is one of horror and hostility:

Obama cited several reasons for his support for gay marriage, including conversations with U.S. troops, his family and his staff. But his assertion that his views on same-sex marriage come from — not despite — his Christian faith marks a shift in U.S. politics. Democratic politicians now unabashedly cite religion when making their case, and GOP leaders sometimes find themselves in the unusual position of justifying — rather than merely stating — their religious claims.

Sullivan cites the recent difficulties encountered by Paul Ryan in reconciling his supposedly Catholic worldview with his admiration for Ayn Rand and his disdain for any concept of "social justice." He wouldn't have had to bother squaring these circles if he was not being challenged by religiously-inspired progressives critics, who are in turn keeping pressure on the Catholic bishops to object to Ryan's more outrageous claims that you exhibit love for the poor by denying them food stamps.

After years of pretending that the culture wars were a matter of religious views lined up against secular beliefs, politicians are recognizing what average Americans knew all along. A majority of Americans now believe that there is more than one way to get to heaven, pollsters report. Our political discussions finally reflect that there’s also more than one answer to the question: “What would Jesus do?”

Pretty simple, but it's taken a good while for that two-front challenge to the conservative monopoly on religious expression to emerge.

On a different front, in 2007 the Monthly published a colloquoy in 2007 of advice from recent military veterans on how Democrats could improve their performance among "military voters"--another constituency often conceded to the GOP as "enemy turf."