Richard Blow continues to explore why liberals have a difficult time sustaining topical radio and TV talk programs. The upshot in this article:
Perhaps it’s finally time for liberals to stop focusing on what they’re against, or what divides them, and start focusing on what they believe in. Liberals have to start talking about what they’re willing to fight for. But first, they have to figure it out.
Although a few paragraphs before this conclusion, Blow says:
How might one define liberalism? Well, it’s pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, pro-environment and pro-social spending. On foreign policy, there is no consistent worldview, no credible critique of the Bush foreign policy other than war is bad, bad, bad — and we should avoid it at all costs.
So which is it? Well, I think the reality may be a bit more complicated, and interesting, than Blow’s article suggests. I’ve written about the book Moral Politics recently. I think reading it is well worth your time. George Lakoff demonstrates how the moral systems of liberals and conservatives (as understood through metaphors of the family) differ and what those differences mean in how each side articulates its positions.
One of the effects of the liberal moral system is that liberals, and liberal groups, place a wider range of issues in the top spots of their moral hierarchy than do conservatives. So liberals, as an ideological group, often appear splintered. What this observation ignores is the moral-political consistency at the root of the liberal system. Conservatives also enjoy a moral-political consistency, but it is different from the liberal experience (not better or worse).
It is the structure of the conservatives’ moral-political system that allows them to articulate a wide range of positions under a limited set of categories, i.e. smaller government, lower taxes, strong military, etc. It is the structure of the liberals’ moral-political system that allows them to gather themselves into a wide range of issue-oriented groups that may, and often do, clash with other liberal issues, opinions, and groups.
According to Lakoff, liberals remain consistent to the focus of their moral order: nurturance of the individual. Conservatives remain consistent to the focus of their moral order: defense of their moral system.