Alan Grayson and Liberal Moralism

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Alan Grayson is at the center of a media concern-trolling storm because he said that the GOP health plan is that people should 1) not get sick and 2) if they do get sick, die quickly. Matt Yglesias says Grayson broke the rules:

I think the real issue—and the real import—of Grayson’s statement is that it involved breaking one of the unspoken rules of modern American politics. The rule is that conservatives talk about their causes in stark, moralistic terms and progressives don’t. Instead, progressives talk about our causes in bloodless technocratic terms….

 There’s a semi-legitimate practical reason for this, namely the fact that substantially more people identify as conservatives than identify as liberals. Consequently, progressive politicians are at pains to describe their proposals as essentially pragmatic and non-ideological which doesn’t lend itself to moralism.

This is right. But people respond to rhetoric about morality. As Yglesias acknowleges, it’s “very hard to do big things without a certain amount of moralism.” I’d go farther: it’s hard to recruit people to your cause if you don’t couch your rhetoric in moral terms. Most people relate to issues by thinking about what’s right and what’s wrong. But liberals too often speak in the language of the lawyer or the bureaucrat instead of the language of the pastor or the parent. Much of the perception of liberals as “weak” stems from this disconnect. Couldn’t liberal politicians’ unwillingness to talk about morality be part of the reason so many more people identify as conservatives?

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate