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Democrats and "Bridge Values"

A really good article from American Prospect on research from a company Environics, that supports that US voters are looking for "bridge values," rather than politcal policy... If you remember Kerry's oft quoted "I have a plan..." for various issues (including many where clearly Bush had no plan), this would show one reason why that was less effected than expected. We need, according to Environics, less stressing on "policy statements" and more on "belief statements."
I'd suggest reading the whole thing, but here are some excerpts below:


Rather than focusing on reframing the Democratic message, as Berkeley linguistics and cognitive science professor George Lakoff has recommended, or on redoubling Democratic efforts to persuade Americans to become economic populists, as another school of thought suggests, the American Environics team argued that the way to move voters on progressive issues is to sometimes set aside policies in favor of values. By focusing on “bridge values,” they say, progressives can reach out to constituents of opportunity who share certain fundamental beliefs, even if the targeted parties don’t necessarily share progressives’ every last goal...

Democrats have had a tremendous amount of difficulty in recent years recognizing the central role of cultural factors in the life of the polity and in their own demise. This is finally starting to change. In the year since election-night exit polls put the fear of God -- or the fear of people who fear God -- into Democrats, there has been a slow but marked shift within the party, and within progressive circles more broadly, in terms of approaching values questions.

Even those who have been most focused on populist economics have started coming around to this new view. Shortly after the 2004 election, the Center for American Progress launched a series of meetings with liberal religious leaders that ultimately gave rise to a new project on religion and values, which will work closely with Shellenberger and Nordhaus.

Post-election, the Democratic National Committee’s pollster, Cornell Belcher, preached the wisdom of situating traditional Democratic appeals in the language of values, while DNC Chair Howard Dean traveled the country teaching the new talk. Progressive actions on the ground reinforced the utility of the new approach, and in 2005 Tim Kaine took the statehouse in Virginia, where nearly half of state residents attend church at least once a week, by running a campaign that presented him to voters as a person of faith...

In the spring of 2005 Kaine’s pollster, Peter Brodnitz, of the polling firm Benenson Strategy Group, decided that the campaign needed to develop a strategy to handle such charges. It convened a focus group of white, conservative, religious voters, and explored different ways Kaine could reach out to them. The result was startling. Brodnitz found that once Kaine started talking about his religious background and explaining that his opposition to the death penalty grew out of his Catholic faith, not only did charges that he was weak on crime fail to stick, but he became inoculated against a host of related charges that typically plague and undermine the campaigns of Democratic candidates.

“Once people understood the values system that the position grew out of, they understood that’s he’s not a liberal,” says Brodnitz. “We couldn’t even convince them he was a liberal once we’d done that.”

Strategists who had been predicting Democratic success with a more values-based approach considered themselves vindicated. Virginia elected its second Democratic governor in a row, and its first one to survive opposition to the death penalty in an electoral fight.

"People appreciate that I have a moral yardstick, and, even if they don’t have the same one, they appreciate that I have one and it’s not all about what a speechwriter puts in front of me or what a pollster tells me,” the governor-elect told the Prospect. That moral yardstick may be just the tool Democrats need.
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