Alan Grayson and Liberal Moralism


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?

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