May 30, 2005

Pardon me while I don't talk electoral strategy

Amp, of Alas, a blog, sums things up pretty well, but I bet I can do it even more briefly: Dems in RI put up Langevin, an anti-abortion fellow, as a potential to run against pro-choice moderate incumbent Repub Licoln Chafee. NARAL says they're going to support Langevin's pro-choice opponents in the Dem primary, Langevin drops out. Kos and Ezra and others make a lot of noise about how NARAL should fall in line behind Langevin, to make a Dem majority in Congress a primary goal, and preserving reproductive autonomy a secondary one. As Kos puts it, "Didn't we know ... that choice was a core principle of the Democratic Party? To which I have a simple answer: The hell it is."

Amp has a good response, which is basically that NARAL is not a front for the Democratic party, nor should it be: it's a pro-choice advocacy group, and NARAL endorsing an anti-choice candidate of any party would be as hypocritical as Kos endorsing a Republican of any ideological bent. And this response (at least, my reading of it) helped me get a good understanding of the reason I've never been as comfortable at Kos as I am at the smaller feminist blogs I tool around in. Go read Amp, then come back.

Pretty much everyone with some political sensibilities has one or two pet issues, topics they get really worked up over. My friend Annie cares a lot about global poverty and living conditions; my friend Mal about the environment; while my friend Manda gets really upset over racism and homophobia. I, like a lot of the bloggers I read, care about sexism. And the pet issue of a lot of the people at dKos is the Democratic Party itself. This certainly isn't a bad thing, because it means people like Kos can coordinate the rest of us, get us to work together behind some common goals. But this is how the party bigwigs lose touch with the grassroots in the first place and start taking the support of groups like NARAL for granted. People like Kos need to realize that, for a lot of us, the things the Democratic party nominally stands for, that tangled web of 'special interests', is why we support the party at all. I voted for Nader in 2000 because I didn't think Gore really represented my political point of view; and I only support the Democratic party when I can do so and be consistent with my politics.

There was an excellent illustration of this in France over the weekend, when the people overwhelmingly rejected ratification of the EU Constitution. Both the left and the extreme right disapproved, and according to the BBC, a lot of the leftists voted against ratification as a vote against Jacques Chirac, the conservative President of France. In the last Presidential election, Chirac ran against Dominique de Villpin (sp), a far-right xenophobe, and the left was forced to vote for a conservative incumbent who took their support for granted. As he refused to reward their support by moving to the middle, the left responded in kind this weekend.

The latest generation of leaders of the Democratic party -- people like Dean and Kos, focussed on bringing the grassroots together -- can do a lot of good work, getting us lefty/liberal types to work together on common goals. But insisting that we put party loyalty above our political commitments gets things entirely backwards: we need to recognize the overlap in our political commitments, and use that common ground as a reason to work together. I write quite a bit here about the ethical grounds for my political positions. I want to say that, while people like Kos can unify lefties and liberals, they cannot provide these ethical grounds. The single-interest groups can provide the requisite ethical grounds, but not unify without some higher level of coordination. So we need to work together, yet still realize that sometimes the single-interest groups are going to be led away from the Democratic party. If the party leadership can recognize that, then the small groups will come back.

1 comment:

Charles Johnson (Rad Geek) said...

I think that pretty much everything you say here is right-on. Quick point of information, though:

"In the last Presidential election, Chirac ran against Dominique de Villpin (sp), a far-right xenophobe, and the left was forced to vote for a conservative incumbent who took their support for granted."

Dominique de Villepin is a political ally of Chirac's, just recently elevated to the position of Prime Minister. The fascist revivalist that Chirac faced in the most recent Presidential election was Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the "Front National". (France has multiparty presidential races with a single run-off round; what happened was that the Left vote was split between several unpopular candidates, so by a fluke Le Pen came in #2 in the first round and went to the one-on-one run-off with Chirac, where he was crushed by an alliance between Chirac and the Left voters, by a margin of 82%-18%.)

Hope this helps.