Saturday, January 22, 2005

Have the Democrats been taken hostage?

Recent events in the race for DNC chairperson have led me to ask this question: Have the Democrats been taken hostage by abortion rights activists? I think the answer is no, but only because the Dems have seemingly tied their own hands, so to speak.

While the fight for reproductive rights is noble, I think it is limiting the party's national appeal. There's no need to give up your position, but the Democrats need a new focus if they are going to pitch their tent wide enough to win a presidential election.

True, Kerry's platform did not revolve around abortion rights per se (but then again, did anybody know what Kerry's platform was?) It seems that the Democrats would fare much better if they focused on education (especially funding the numerous federal mandates that have come down in recent years) as well as fiscal responsibility (one of Howard Dean's issues that initially earned him a lot of popularity).

As it is, a renewed focus on the Democratic position regarding abortion rights (in the DNC chairperson race that is) will only hurt the party in the long run (in my opinion).

Any thoughts?


At 1/22/2005 03:00:00 AM,

Doug, good thing to talk about. It weighs on me these days. In the words of Ronan a few months ago, "I hope my party will just pull its head out of its a**" [we don't have a content/language policy, so I will edit myself].

I think the WORST thing we could do is elect Dean

1. He acts like a loose cannon (vide "I have a scream")

2. He lost every primary he was in--not even the democrats in those first states in the primaries liked him enough to give him a win.

3. I don't like him (I say that with about the same authority I think most people have when they vote: Is he likeable? Is he both strong and worthy of my trust? Do I think he will do very much for "the little guy"?

Basically, Dean has got no credibility and his election would alienate more Americans that have already asserted their dislike for him.

Challenge me, readers. I beg you to. 

Posted by Jason Kn

At 1/25/2005 12:09:00 AM,

"It seems that the Democrats would fare much better if they focused on education (especially funding the numerous federal mandates that have come down in recent years) as well as fiscal responsibility (one of Howard Dean's issues that initially earned him a lot of popularity)."

Disagree. Fiscal responsibility as a concept doesn't sell to the mainstream. It isn't tangible or fun, and it forces us to either give up some of our federal "toys" or have more of our paychecks confiscated in the form of taxes. Look at the spending habits in this country: the savings rate is below 2% (some report it as essentially zero), which is the lowest in the industrialized world. The average individual has 11 credit cards and over $8000 in credit card debt. Et cetera. Overall, America decidedly has a culture of instant gratification. There are always prudent heads out there, but they don't make anything close to a majority.

I don't think education would fly as the Democrats' central issue, either, because Republicans seem to have stolen much of that thunder (for now) with No Child Left Behind. The Democrats are also beholden to the teachers' unions, which as far as I can see are only interested in regressing and removing accountability.

I would go so far as to argue that the Democrats are going to be out of fashion for some time to come, because their implicit mantra since the 70s has been "Let's respect the rights of others and not step on any toes (unless we really, really have to)." Further, they haven't had a single inspirational, charismatic, and yet credible leader since Bill Clinton, whereas the Republicans easily have a dozen such people in various offices or working behind the scenes. (I'm not sure why that is, and I would be interested in hearing possible explanations).

The Republicans' trademark is that they never fail to offer up plans for quick, severe, decisive action for any situation. There's not usually a need for their plans to actually be practical or effective; their exceeding bravado all by itself is enough to win over a large portion of the electorate.

And in this sense George W. Bush is his party's logical leader. For all the flak that he takes for supposedly being a dim bulb, he knows how to charm the electorate like no other currently-active politician. First, he doesn't compromise; he relies on brute force. I believe that he didn't veto a single bill in his first term, and he certainly hasn't backed down to the UN or any foreign power. Second, he never admits a weakness. I recall that when he was asked during the debates to name three mistakes of his first term, he spoke for most of his allotted time but didn't admit a single one. Third, he keeps the instant-gratification demographic (i.e., practically everyone) happy via form of tax cuts for individuals and pork for the corporations. Fourth, he pays plenty of lip service to patriotism (albeit extremely vaguely defined) and moral values (ditto). In the end, his efficacy as President is of secondary importance because he's managed to convince half of America that he's John Wayne.

In fact, seeing that the instant-gratification demographic rarely is informed enough or critical enough to determine the efficacy of politicians, image becomes more important than reality. Because after all, the news is boring, and "The Bachelorette" is about to come on.

In conclusion, until the Democrats find a couple of John Waynes to rally the troops, they're going to keep falling on their faces. 

Posted by Chris Potter

At 1/25/2005 01:40:00 AM,

Chris, I skimmed over part of your post, but I agree with what you say about Clinton. What is wrong with us that our charmers don't move up in the ranks? The closest thing the democratic primary had to a charmer this year was the Public Presence nightmare of Dean--who may or may not have had a nervous breakdown during his "I have a scream" speech.

I want another white-haired white male to look into my eyes though the TV, and tell me clearly he feels my pain, tell me he is sorry he cheated on his wife and I, and sorry that this mistake took time from his office--I want the paternal president that will coddle my insecurities instead of our current outward-looking, enormously violent alternative. 

Posted by Jason Kn

At 1/25/2005 05:14:00 PM,

This seems like a timley issue Doug. Check out this from the NY times yesterday, it is exactly what you are saying. Maybe democrats are getting wary of their relationship with abortion rights activists.

"In a speech to about 1,000 abortion rights supporters near the New York State Capitol, Mrs. Clinton firmly restated her support for the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. But then she quickly shifted gears, offering warm words to opponents of legalized abortion and praising the influence of "religious and moral values" on delaying teenage girls from becoming sexually active.

"There is an opportunity for people of good faith to find common ground in this debate - we should be able to agree that we want every child born in this country to be wanted, cherished and loved," Mrs. Clinton said."


Posted by Chris Patton

At 1/31/2005 10:01:00 AM,

C. Patton - Hillary has heen doing quite a bit of outreach to religious communities lately. Not long ago, she told an audience at Tufts University that "no one can read the New Testament of our Bible without recognizing that Jesus had a lot more to say about how we treat the poor than most of the issues that were talked about in this election." I think she has the right idea.

Chris Potter - your points are well taken. However, I'm less concerned with what issues the Democrats take as their primary concern(s) so long as they are able to make abortion rights AN issue, instead of THE issue. In response to your assessment, however, I have 2 counter-arguments:

1) No Child Left Behind hardly seems like a Republican success. More than half of the states have passed resolutions stating, basically, that it's a bad law and they will not enforce it. In addition, the recent scandals about the administration's propaganda campaign in promoting NCLB have further tainted the policy.

2) I don't agree that "cowboy diplomacy" or John Wayne is the right course of action to increase popularity. This attitude is exactly what is consistently keeping Bush low in the polls.

Jason - I agree with you on Dean's credibility. I also agree with most that he would have been crushed in a general election. However, maybe the Dems need something that devastating to "pull their heads out of their asses" (thanks Ronan).

Posted by Doug Spencer




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