Friday, February 11, 2005

Dealing with the Yuck Factor

The Moose points to this passage in an "eye-opening" piece by John Judis on Latino attraction to the Republican cultural message (subscription only).

"The organizers from New Mexico attribute part of Republicans' success to Latinos' belief that the military is the best career choice for their young. But the Texans point to cultural conservatism among Catholic Latinos. One priest from San Antonio says, "Abortion was a major issue for Hispanics. There was confusion in the messages from the bishops. My congregation in San Antonio was in a lot of pain over that." He says that some Catholic Latinos who did vote for Kerry went to confession afterward to seek absolution. Ernie and the IAF organizers don't suggest that Democrats should oppose abortion, but they criticize Kerry for failing to address Catholic concerns the way Clinton did when he called for making abortion "safe, legal, and rare." Ernie says Catholic prelates tell him, "We don't expect Democrats to overturn Roe v. Wade, but give us something. Something that we can cite when the right wing attacks us." [emphasis mine - Chris] He adds, "They feel that they helped build the labor movement and the Democratic Party, and now they feel jilted." 

What I find interesting in this passage is the suggestion that the Democrats can address a lot of the concerns people have on cultural issues by simply acknowledging that those concerns are legitimate. When Democrats fail to do this or, even worse, openly mock those concerns, then it leaves a natural economic constituency of the Democratic party vulnerable to the cultural appeal of the Republican party.

Unfortunately, to many Democrats still have a knee-jerk reaction to more culturally conservative opinions. Back in 2000 Al Gore came under criticism from the left for having said that abortion was "arguably" the taking of a human life. Gore's comment was a simple acknowledgment that one does not have to be a raving loony to feel uncomfortable with abortion. Yet too many Democrats read his comment as some kind of appeasement to the right-to-life movement.

Hillary Clinton is facing some of the same heat for her recent comments about the painful decision to have an abortion.

Yes, I know all about the slippery-slope argument. But we have to be willing to risk a little slipperiness if, as Judis' article suggests, a significant number of voters are shifting towards the Republicans simply because Democrats aren't willing to talk openly about these issues. If you think that even acknowledging the concerns that people have for, for lack of a better term, "yucky" issues could lead to enshrining them in law then what do you think will happen if Democrats are beaten by candidates who openly advocate doing just that?


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