The Importance of Culture in Democracy

(CommunityMatters) It’s been a long time since I was here, on this site, but I’ve certainly been Maslow red white blueimmersed in community matters. We’ve since elected Donald Trump as America’s president – in part because Ds offered a candidate who would have made a good president but ran the worst campaign in decades, and because the Russians (likely in collaboration with the GOP presidential campaign) microtargeted voters in key states. Among these voters the Russians increased the intensity & vote for Donald Trump and disillusioned many Ds, resulting in lower turnout. In this post, I’m not going into what this means, or the spiral we witness.

An editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal captures my attention – The Democrats’ Biggest Problem is Cultural – written by a supposed 40-year Democratic operative (he’s more a 20-yr flunky turned bitter pundit). Ted Van Dyk claims Great Society overreach – that cultural issues and political correctness have overtaken the party’s commitment to jobs, economic growth, the cost of living, education, public safety and a healthcare safety net.

Sometimes even vinegary rumblings prompt worthy thoughts.  What’s the term for equality of opportunity (not promises of equal results) . . . for equal treatment, equal respect regardless of race, faith, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation? If the term was American equality, I guess we wouldn’t be in today’s dilemma. We need a term so that our message can again be distinct – that we stand for Americans who value jobs, economic security, education, public safety, healthcare and equality (is that it, or does it connote promises of equal outcomes rather than opportunity?).

Why the red, white & blue Maslow’s Hierarchy? Because I’m convinced our answers lie there. In case you can’t read my writing, I define basic needs as inclusive of physiological and mental, the next category as the need to belong and for connectedness, and finally the need for self actualization.

I haven’t had time to synthesize these comments, opinions and theory. But, it’s what I’m working on. I’m to spend time on an airplane today writing bout culture and leadership. I’ll be reviewing the insights submitted by 8 of my favorite entrepreneurs as well as articles by several academics. This will contribute to my political thoughts.

And, I’ve been reflecting on the stories and lessons in Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land, J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Ellegy, and Katherine Cramer’s The Politics of Resentment. I haven’t yet red Christopher Achen’s & Larry Bartel’s “Democracy for Realists” but have listened to an audio summary. It doesn’t spur hope for thoughtful politics but reinforces the importance of symbolism and tribalism, the efficacy of dog whistles.

We must do more than speak effectively of serving America’s working class and middle income families, more than just promoting the symbols of this unity. We must deliver the infrastructure that generates jobs and opportunities and ensures equality of opportunity for everyone in America . . . and, these words & symbols matter.


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