February 24, 2005
Better red than dead
My friend Bill McClay (Professor of History, UT/Chattanooga) gave a talk in DC at the Ethics and Public Policy Center last night, arguing that it is odd that the Democrats have given up the color red without a peep. Odd, and stupid strategically.
Historically, beginning with the French Revolution, red has symbolized “a commitment to progressive reform. . human freedom. . .liberation.”
And, it appears purely through chance (if one believes in chance) that the color now belongs firmly to the Republicans. Red-state America is here to stay in the public consciousness of this generation.
A focus on color may seem quirky, but emblems and iconography matter. Particularly when they are deeply embedded in our shared historical experience. Red invokes a “grand commitment to high ideals and the good of humanity.”
But the real problem for the Democrats is that this redecoration of the ideological map fits. The GOP is now the party of progress, the new Progressives — and liberals are leading the opposition to change. Bill pointed out: look at tax reform, social security reform, education reform . . . on it goes.
The Democrats are the Establishment now and they are all about the status quo; are they the new conservatives?
To wind this up: Bill moved on to sketch out President Bush’s contribution to the political landscape — crafting the outlines of an evangelical conservatism. He noted that evangelicals have been the source of “profound moral radicalism” in our country, which makes for an uneasy alliance with conservatism. Bill cited the civil rights movement and the abolitionist movement.
I would add: the pro-life movement fits squarely in that tradition.