Here’s a stereotype so lazy it can barely get off the couch: Republicans only care about rich people. It was never true—the bulk of the Republican Party has always been middle-class, which helps explain its tenacity over the years. But to the extent that the party is conservative, it is vulnerable because the conservative case is always harder to make.
That might not seem like a problem this year because of the shape our country is in, with a new scandal (or complications involving an old scandal) every week, the Middle East falling apart, and gloomy economic news, but it’s a mistake to put too much confidence in the Democrats’ mistakes. The left knows it’s in trouble, and isn’t going down without a fight. In fact, over at The Nation, progressivesof all types, clergy and revolutionary, organizers and occupiers, are discussing how to “Stand Up and Fight for a More Perfect Union.” Robert Borosage, contributing editor, leads off with the suggestion that the main enemy of progressivism is not Ted Cruz but Hillary Clinton:
“If she doesn’t face a serious challenge in the primaries—which at this point seems unlikely—the strength of the progressive voice will be muted. In fact, the most attractive Democratic leaders—people like Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, Tammy Baldwin, Keith Ellison, Raúl Grijalva, Donna Edwards and Bill de Blasio—support a vision and an agenda far bolder and more progressive than that of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or Joe Biden.”
Borosage is convinced that America’s heart beats progressive, even if it doesn’t know it: “the right is far weaker than it appears and the left is far stronger than it asserts.” I don’t believe that’s correct: The “attractive Democratic leaders” he mentions are hard-core redistributionists with a limited appeal outside their states or districts. But however wrong they may be on policy, the left is right on how to frame its issues and get out the vote.
Grassroots organizations like the tea party are good at staging rallies, but what do their mailing lists look like? How do they recruit candidates at the local and state level? We roll our eyes at the left’s notion of “community organizers”—but who is organizing communities on the right? They’re confident of their ideas, but who is packaging them for the retail market, and what’s the distribution plan?
With the popular conception of a Democratic president steering the ship of state into the rocks, conservatives can get a little cocky. History could prove them correct, but history doesn’t vote. Americans vote, and Americans, if not progressive, are certainly confused and distracted—often harried and harassed as well. Abstract terms like liberty and opportunity won’t reach them; they’ll have to be convinced that conservative ideas can do them immediate good, just as progressive ideas will hurt them. Truth will out, as long as it’s willing to put on its walking shoes and canvas the neighborhood.