It is always a joy to see a new article by James Nuechterlein, former editor of First Things and a senior fellow of the Institute on Religion and Public Life. In a long book review in the current issue of the magazine, Neuchterlein has provided an excellent analysis of why the Democrats have been in decline. A few excerpts give a flavor of Neuchterlein’s arguments and clear writing:
“it is not too much to say that the Democrats’ current electoral dilemma boils down to this: their old economic issues no longer work, and on cultural issues they lose.”
“The degree to which moral and cultural differences determined last November’s results is hotly debated, but everyone agrees that to the extent that they did matter, they overwhelmingly helped the Republicans. Liberals find it necessary to deny recurring suspicions that they are antinomians, moral relativists, and secularists set on removing religious values from the public square. Their discomfort with cultural issues is reflected in their protests that matters such as partial-birth abortion, school prayer, or same-sex marriage are not proper items for political debate; they are rather “wedge issues” that conservatives illegitimately bring into the public arena in order to divide the nation (read: in order to cost Democrats votes). A party whose response to a whole category of issues is to say, in effect, “we’d rather not talk about it,” is a party that has allowed the opposition to frame the terms of discussion.”
“To sum up in a phrase: the Democrats are a center-left party in a center-right nation. They stumble over their message because if they clearly say what they most deeply believe it gets them in political trouble. Consider the contrast with their opponents. Republicans are conservatives who are proud to say so and who do not fear that saying so will hurt them. Democrats are liberals who, in a correct analysis of their political situation, assiduously avoid using the word that most commonly describes them. Their label discomfits them and their positions give them an edgy relation with the majority of voters.”
Neuchterlein’s argument is strong, fair, and definitely on target. Highly recommended.