psychology | December 11, 2019

Should Progressives Invoke Conservative Values? Sociologist Robb Willer Weighs In for The New York Times

In a recent op-ed for The New York Times, Standford’s Robb Willer and Jan Voelkel explore their thought-provoking research on how reaching across party lines can lead to considerable conservative support for progressive parties—without losing ground among their base.

Where should a Democratic nominee focus their energy to beat Trump in 2020? Should they mobilize the left— like progressive candidate Bernie Sanders—or would they be better off running a more centered campaign, as in the case of former Republican Michael Bloomberg? The answer might not be what you expect. According to Rob Willer, Co-director of the Philanthropy and Civil Society Center at Stanford, both theories neglect the fuller picture of the candidate. “We found that the most effective Democratic candidate would speak in terms of conservative values while proposing progressive economic policies — with some of our evidence suggesting that endorsing highly progressive policies would be best.”


Willer, who was recently appointed Director of Stanford’s landmark Polarization and Social Change Lab, acknowleges that progressive candidates may bristle at the idea of emplying conservative rhetoric like patriotism, family, or the American Dream. However, it makes for a great strategy. “For one thing, Democrats typically tack to the center after winning the nomination, often compromising or abandoning their most progressive policies. Wouldn’t it be preferable to stick to those popular progressive policies, making the case for them using language that would appeal to more Americans?”


Read the full article here.


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