Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Which Side Are You On, Again?

Ok, ok, so I used this title once already. And yes I know I’m not being very original. Does deep depression over the Supremes matter?

But I’m angry too.

I’m not angry with Democrats who crossed party lines to vote to confirm Alito though. If a Democratic senator is from a conservative state, represents a large constituency of pro-life voters, and won by presenting himself as a fellow conservative right to lifer, I don’t have a quarrel with that senator voting in favor of Alito. He voted his conscience and, indeed, represented the will of the people of his state, exactly as he was supposed to do. That senator put principle before party. And probably put country and constituents before partisan politics too. And that’s also what he is supposed to do.

But what about the so-called moderate Republicans who always run as pro-choice centrists because that is what their constituents are?

Why do liberals always go off on a tear at conservative Democrats in the South and Midwest but give a bye to the moderate Republicans in the Northeast? At least the conservative Southerners are being consistent and honest.

On the other hand, why is the national Democratic Party so eager to recruit more religiously conservative Democrats in areas like Alabama and Kansas instead of targeting moderate and liberal Republicans in Pennsylvania and Maine? Have we learned nothing from our humiliating experience of betrayal by Zell Miller? Do we need to encourage more Millers and invite even worse national embarrassment and treachery?

Listen up folks. I know that we need conservative Democrats if we are ever going to recapture the leadership in the House and Senate. And I’ve always counseled that local politicians need to be able to run their local races in ways that are winnable. And yes the Democratic Party needs diversity of opinion. But that doesn’t mean that we need to have a strategy, at the national level, to give those social conservatives prominence over liberals in the national party. If they need to run away from the national ticket to win locally, let them. But the national party should maintain its core Democratic principles. And yes it should stop trampling over the feelings of its base. Those are the ones who walk through fire for a candidate, and go knocking door-to-door for him in sub-zero weather in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The RNC doesn’t really love Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and even Arlen Spector and a host of other Northeastern moderates. But they know they need them because a Tom DeLay wouldn’t win in New York, New Jersey, Maine or Vermont. In the same way, Barney Frank, Ted Kennedy, or even Lincoln Chafee (yeah, he’s the one Republican with balls and a conscience to boot) couldn’t win in Texas or Mississippi or Alabama.

However, instead of focusing all our resources on the ridiculous ambition to take back the South or the rural Midwest, how about conceding that those are not, in fact, our natural constituents? Instead, why not try to pick up seats by challenging the Republicans who are posing as moderates in the Northeast or California? Those are places where we could be far more competitive than in the South without twisting our principles into a pretzel.

Right now if I were a woman in Maine or New Hampshire and I had voted for either Snowe or Collins, I’d be feeling mighty betrayed. I might even be looking for a new candidate in the next election. Somebody I could trust to put their principles, their constituents and their country above partisan loyalty. That’s what a true patriot does.

Oh, and I’d even be asking, if I were that Northeastern moderate and pro-choice Republican voter, whatever happened to that big tent that was so prominently displayed during election time? Looks like when the going gets tough, the moderate Republicans in the Senate just fold it up and cave in.

Big thank you to Lincoln Chafee. You deserve to get re-elected. Democrats, cross party lines for that man. And Northeastern Republicans, defeat those who failed to represent you well.

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