Sunday, October 26, 2008

Obama's socon problem, part 2

Following up on my last post about the conundrum Democrats may face in the next session of Congress over the issue of gay rights, comes this story in the NYT today about the fact that to increase their majority the DNC is running a number of pro-life Democrats to peel away seats from the GOP who have traditionally claimed a monopoly on the issue of abortion. Twelve pro-life Dems in fact have put their names forward (in districts where there were primaries) or have been recruited (where the Dems usually never even bothered before, allowing the GOP candidate to be acclaimed).

This isn't the first time they've tried this. Part of the reason for the Dems' huge success in 2006 was their willingness to break with traditional ideology and recruit pro-lifers. Six out of eight won in the House; and an even bigger victory came when Robert Casey Jr won an upset over Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania. They all schlepped their way to wins because of a very unpopular war in Iraq and the botched response to Katrina -- and really didn't need party funds to get their victories. This time, the paper says, the party is spending huge sums of money in districts once thought untouchable, just to be sure.

And according to polls, they have a strong chance of winning this round as well; they may even run the board. Democrats for Life, which has put forward the 95-10 agenda (a 95% reduction in abortions over 10 years, through simple but common-sense policies such as making the adoption tax credit permanent and eliminating pregnancy as a pre-existing health condition in insurance policies), is ebullient. They feel the national party HQ is finally respecting them. I don't think it's that so much. Rather I think Howard Dean, in pursuing his 50-state strategy, has been backed into a corner by the party's right wing and forced to run an election from the centre (not the far -left as the GOP claims about their opponents).

The strategy: Focus less on social issues, and force the Republicans to fight at the kitchen table, particularly the economy. It's somewhat of a stealth approach thought and it makes me a bit uneasy, even if I am pro-life. Even with a Democratic majority in the Senate, the fact is a majority of Senators can now be classified as "pro-life" which puts another wrench in Barack Obama's options (if he wins)-- this time for Supreme Court and appellate court appointments. Pretty much certainly, most if not all of Obama's choices would get the stamp of approval and be confirmed (ensuring Roe v Wade stays the law for some time to come)

On the other hand, if John McCain pulls off an upset nine days hence, he'll have the excuse he needs to cave into the socons on most social issues since may of them, as on gay marriage, are Democrats. And the next thing we'll know it won't be 95-10 -- with the kinds of social policies needed to ensure no children are unwanted -- but rather 100-0 and an even more crowded foster care system.

As I said yesterday, you can't win elections in the US unless you get at least some social conservatives onside.

But you may have to sacrifice some of your principles to do that -- and the Obama that we see right now and may very well take the oath of office on January 20 will be a completely different guy on the 21st; given the realities in Congress and its composition. He has a good record of reaching out to pro-lifers in Illinois (a law providing for compulsory universal health care for minors in the state, which I believe he cosponsored or at least assented to, is a good example) but the mid-West and the South are two completely different places; in fact they're two completely different countries within a Nation.

The Senator from Illinois, in the last days of the election, owes it to both the pro-life and pro-choice camps in America how he plans to balance opposing interests to achieve what is the desired goal by both -- a drastic reduction in the number of voluntarily terminated pregnancies. With all due respect to him, all we hear right now is fuzzy logic.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I actually do appreciate your post, but I have a couple of problems with it.

First, are you really advocating that in the final week of campaigning, Obama should deviate from his closing message to make a special focus on socon issues? You're not serious, right. Let's bring up the most divisive hard-core issues of our time, one with the potential to piss folks off on both sides of the equation and just perturbs most independents instead of focusing on the right steps to heal a very sick economy.

Secondly, most liberals in the US would be very pleased with simply taking a few items off the "must-have" socon agenda. Canada didn't experience the entire parliament gathering under an emergency session just to discuss a family's heart-wrenching decision and disagreement on whether to take a comatose woman off life-support.

Canada hasn't had a President who uses precious political capital during the middle of two wars to give national addresses advocating constitutional changes to ensure homosexuals are spelled out in founding documents as second-class citizens.

Perhaps, just perhaps, Americans would have appreciated having a President and Congress who just addressed basic economic issues and concentrated on good governance and are a bit weary of overt so-con or even progressive social messages on the part of either party.

With that background, and Obama's oft-stated desire to find common ground, I think there is a healthy part of the electorate who could respond to efforts to increase the recognition of gay couples in law and statute (inheritance, etc) or efforts and programs to reduce unwanted pregnancies, thereby reducing the number of abortions.

In that case, there isn't so much a so-con problem as there is a moderate opportunity, driven in part by the so-con ass-kissing Bush did for the past 8 years.

My main point is to look at social issues from where the US is compared to other western / European nations are, not wearing Canadian eye-glasses. The view-point is dramatically different. I know. I lived there.