In a really, really important article up at Democracy, Jonathan Haidt argues that the left already has won the social issues culture war. But there is a new culture war looming, and this one is up for grabs.

The new culture war is being fought over economic issues. Haidt argues that the side that “sells its idea of fairness will have the upper hand.”

President Obama understand this; he has made “fairness” his watchword.

The Republican National Committee, on the other hand, doesn’t have an inkling—or at least, that is my takeaway from the RNC’s latest foray into Stockholm Syndrome.  

I refer, of course, to the RNC’s “Growth and Opportunity Project,” a report on Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss. It made a few good suggestions (shortening the currently ruinous primary season). It was mostly about image, though—how can Republicans look younger and attract more so-called minorities?

Instead of advising politicians to be better prepared to go on with hosts such as Colbert or Jon Stewart, a recommendation of the GOP report (I kid you not!), the RNC would have done better to probe how to combat the smear that the Republicans are unfair.

Women, whose votes gave President Obama a second term, in particular value fairness above other attributes when it comes to policy, according to surveys. So the GOP had better learn to talk about fairness, too. Otherwise, they will lose two culture wars in a row. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is beyond the realm of possibility.

Haidt writes:

Both sides are now likely to shift several divisions and carrier task forces over to the Economic Theater of the culture war, where the single most important battle of 2012 was fought—the battle over marginal tax rates for the rich. The left won that battle on January 1, when the House of Representatives voted to raise tax rates for the rich, but victory in the overall war is far less certain. Economic issues such as taxation are moral issues—no less so than social issues like gay marriage—and neither side has full control of the key moral foundations that underlie economic morality: fairness and liberty. Both sides are vulnerable to being outflanked and outgunned. Both sides could use a detailed map of the moral ground on which economic battles are waged….

Our sister organization, Independent’s Women’s Voice (IWV), commissioned Evolving Strategies to do a study on the effectiveness of various messages about the Paycheck Fairness Act and the so-called “War on Women.” We worked with Haidt’s researchers on the project.

We learned that when women heard both sides of the argument support for  Paycheck Fairness plummeted. Message: conservatives must learn to sell the fairness of their policies.

So far, I’m betting (ruefully) on President Fairness to carry the day, even even though his concept of fairness is anything but fair.

Rod Dreher blogged on the Haidt article. Rod has a clear and brief explanation of Haidt’s famous theory of moral foundations.