I have been trying to articulate the points that Hoover Institution’s Michael Petrilli makes as he explains his thinking on how Republicans can expand their voting base without sacrificing core values.
What’s needed is a full-fledged effort to cultivate “Whole Foods Republicans”—independent-minded voters who embrace a progressive lifestyle but not progressive politics. These highly-educated individuals appreciate diversity and would never tell racist or homophobic jokes; they like living in walkable urban environments; they believe in environmental stewardship, community service and a spirit of inclusion. And yes, many shop at Whole Foods, which has become a symbol of progressive affluence but is also a good example of the free enterprise system at work. (Not to mention that its founder is a well-known libertarian who took to these pages to excoriate ObamaCare as inimical to market principles.)
What makes these voters potential Republicans is that, lifestyle choices aside, they view big government with great suspicion. There’s no law that someone who enjoys organic food, rides his bike to work, or wants a diverse school for his kids must also believe that the federal government should take over the health-care system or waste money on thousands of social programs with no evidence of effectiveness. Nor do highly educated people have to agree that a strong national defense is harmful to the cause of peace and international cooperation.
So how to woo these voters to the Republican column? The first step is to stop denigrating intelligence and education. President George W. Bush’s bantering about being a “C” student may have enamored “the man in the street,” but it surely discouraged more than a few “A” students from feeling like part of the team.
The same is true for Mrs. Palin’s inability to name a single newspaper she reads. If the GOP doesn’t want to be branded the “Party of Stupid,” it could stand to nominate more people who can speak eloquently on complicated policy matters.
There are those of us with right-of-center sociopolitical inclinations, but who embrace environmental conservation while rejecting hysterical environmentalism. We embrace diversity in education, but reject mindless multiculturalism for multiculturalism’s sake. We want sexual freedom for all, but don’t want government imposing special interests’ wishes on everyone by force of law. We believe in extending a helping hand where deserved and where the beneficiary greets our largesse with earnest effort to improve their lot in life. And yes, we like Whole Foods and most of the people who shop there. We do not believe the false claims of organic food Nazis.