Friday, August 29, 2003

How Dean Can Win

I highly recommend this post by Jusiper, the first of a promised four part series "How Dean Can Win: A Response to Naysayers". If the other three parts are as good as this one then this promises to be a barnstormer of a series. Jusiper apparently is breaking down his(?) series according to four points that Ruy Teixeira iterated as examples of why Dean would likely lose. The first of these is on the matter of social issues, gay rights in particular. Jusiper re-iterates and expands on a point I have made before: the idea that ANY Democratic nominee can avoid a battle on this issue is naive at best. John Kerry, John Edwards, Wesley Clark, they will ALL have to answer for the general support for improved homosexual rights in the Democratic party. They will all be smeared as being in favor of the most radical of radical gay rights agendas. The fact that they aren't is irrelevant because the GOP has gotten very good at painting their opposition as being the opposite of what they actually are (Gore was a boy scout, but by the time they got through with him many in America thought he was a congenital liar). To deal with this issue in 2004 we need a candidate who will not avoid it but will, instead, turn the issue into one that is a positive for the Democratic party. Namely, we need a candidate who can persuade the electorate that, despite their personal misgivings about homosexuality, it is still a good idea to allow homosexuals to have certain rights that heterosexuals take for granted (e.g. hospital visitation rights, right to make medical decisions for loved ones, right to share in financial benefits as well as burdens, etc.) Here is Jusiper's take on it:
The impact that civil unions will have on the election depends on the Democratic nominee's ability to frame them as an issue of equal rights rather than social decay. At a campaign appearance in Iowa, Dean demonstrated how he's going to do it. A woman concerned about the issue brought it up with him after his speech. Dean told her about an 80-year old veteran he had met who had fought in World War II: the man had thanked Dean for the civil unions bill, and said he was gay. If America could deny someone like that the same rights as other people, Dean said, then it wasn't the kind of country he thought it was. If anyone can frame gay rights the right way, it's him.
While gay rights will hurt the Democratic nominee in certain constituencies, he does not need to win over the most extreme opposition in order to win the country. He simply needs to persuade that 20% in the middle of the spectrum that their sense of fair play should override their squeamishness about homosexuality. And a candidate who isn't afraid to confront this issue head one will win kudos for bravery, something that Democrats have not gotten for a while. "Democratic bravery" has become something of an oxymoron in political dialog and, as long as that impression remains, no Democratic candidate will win.


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