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The LiberalOasis Blog
HOLIDAY SCHEDULE: LO will post sporadically, as events warrant, from 12/24/04 to 1/2/05.
December 28, 2004 PERMALINK
A political asessment by Adam Nagourney in the NY Times is not always something to be taken at face value.
So there’s no immediate need to go completely insane over last week’s piece, “Democrats Weigh De-emphasizing Abortion As An Issue”, which said:
Democratic leaders say their party needs to de-emphasize the issue of abortion rights, concerned that Republicans have hurt the Democratic Party by portraying it as an uncompromising champion of abortion.
In interviews and public appearances since Election Day, Democratic officials have said that the party should open its doors to abortion opponents and that candidates should make abortion a less central focus of future campaigns.
Party leaders said they were not abandoning their fundamental support for abortion rights, but said Democrats should consider accepting some restrictions that enjoy popular support - like parental notification when teenagers receive abortions.
An example of Nagourney’s sloppy reporting: he lumps in Howard Dean with accomodationist crowd:
Howard Dean, campaigning two weeks ago [for DNC Chair], drew nods of approval from Democratic state party leaders when he urged the party to embrace Democrats who oppose abortion.
"We ought not turn our back on pro-life people, even though the vast majority of people in this party are pro-choice," Dr. Dean said. "I don't have any objection to someone who is pro-life, if they really dedicated to the welfare of children."
But also two weeks ago, Dean said this on NBC’s Meet The Press:
We can change our vocabulary, but I don't think we ought to change our principles...
...We're not the party of abortion. We're the party of allowing people to make up their own minds about medical treatment.
It's just a different way of phrasing it. We have to start framing these issues, not letting them frame the issues.
You may not like his choice of frame (LiberalOasis is underwhelmed), but it’s sure not calling for de-emphasis of the issue, nor is it calling for “accepting some restrictions”.
Still, Nagourney didn’t make up the piece out of whole cloth. Clearly, some Beltway Dems are discussing how to capitulate on abortion.
It’s just the degree of the discussion that is left unclear by Nagourney’s untrustworthy reporting.
This discussion is typical of the accommodationist wing of the party, where any political setback can be solved by giving up on a key issue.
In 1992, it was welfare.
And in 1994, the GOP forced upon Clinton a harsher welfare reform than he bargained for, which he signed.
That proved to be politically smart for Clinton (it would have been perceived as breaking a campaign promise to veto it), but the policy hasn’t exactly stopped the rise in poverty in the last few years.
In 2000, gun control was blamed for Gore’s defeat in certain states, and so Dems largely shut up about it for the next four years.
And in 2004, we lost the ban on assault weapons, while Kerry was unable to pick up any Red states.
Now, for some Dems, it’s practically a competition to see how many issues we can surrender: gay rights, multilateralism, etc.
But why the gravitation to abortion as the capitulation du jour?
The party needs to “de-emphasize” the issue? What emphasis was there to speak of?
Did Kerry give one speech on the subject since the March For Women’s Lives back in April? Did the campaign run a single TV ad about abortion?
In 2004, what data is there that shows major weakening of support for abortion rights?
And the Bush-Kerry breakdown of “legal” voters and “illegal” voters was little changed from Bush-Gore (Bush does a little better with pro-choicers than the Dem does with pro-lifers).
That does show that the pro-choice majority is a bit softer than the pro-life minority.
And that’s been a tricky thing to fix, because with abortion being legal for so long, some pro-choicers are complacent. Debate fatigue is probably a factor too.
But if you believe that abortion should be legal, if you believe that abortion isn’t murder, if you believe that having the ability to choose if and when you have kids greatly improves the lives of women and children, then you’ll find a way to fight through that dynamic.
Because if you get cute, and think you’ll score political points by swearing you don’t like abortion either, you’ll further tilt the dynamic of the debate, and you’ll end up giving away more than you ever bargained for.
And there are a lot of Dems who will never forgive you for it.
The Blog Wire
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