Remarks such as this one, from National Review Online's Jim Geraghty, invariably cause me to swoon with envy at what an easy marketing job conservatism has had for decades:
If you believe that conservative ideas work, you hopefully believe that the formula — a decent education, hard work, prudence, thrift, and a dollop of ambition — can and will work for anyone and everyone.
Somewhere along the line, contemporary conservatism, having already pocketed the flag and God as its "values," acquired as a wholly puppeteered subsidiary the collective concept of education, work and ambition. That these had been American values for centuries--indeed, global values since the Renaissance, Max Weber's 'Ethic,' the Industrial Revolution and Adam Smith--seemed not to trouble the electorally motivated conservative mind; it liked the sound of mass-appealing words such as education, work and ambition, so it simply appropriated them as uniquely "conservative." (Do you know any liberals or progressives or socialists or fascists who are opposed to, say, ambition? I thought not.)
OK, so all that is well known. What hasn't been well tried, however, is the liberal heresy I've huckstered since, I think it was, 2008: Democrats should campaign as conservatives in entrenched conservative districts and states. And by that I mean call themselves conservatives; presumptuously steal the other guys' labeled thunder; blather relentlessly about education, work and ambition as both conservative and Democratic values; note that Republicans just don't get it--they just don't understand what makes America America, i.e., values such as education, work and ambition.
This was Barack Obama's key insight into winning and rewinning the White House. He subtly wove the "conservative" message into his orthodox liberalism to a textured point in which the red and the blue strands became indistinguishably purple; he openly praised Ronald Reagan; he joked about whispering Republicans taking his side; he thundered about American values of education, work and ambition while understating and downplaying government's indispensable role in promoting them all. Hence to many of the 40 percent of American voters who self-identify as "conservative"--again, because conservative pols have appropriated the language of their American values--Obama made perfect sense.
He never overtly declared himself the "conservative" candidate--he didn't have to; nor would many among his liberal-progressive base have been understanding and accepting. But to those potential Democratic House candidates in 2014--those running in essentially conservative but competitive districts--I'd advise that you begin the practice of selling yourself through the c word. Because some self-identifications never change, and that's as American as God and country, as well as education, work and ambition.