Monday, May 23, 2005

The curse of the single issue groups

The curse of the single issue groups
by kos
Daily Kos
Mon May 23rd, 2005 at 00:37:01 PDT
Armando has rightly taken NARAL to task for their endorsement of Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee. NARAL was one of the groups that fully opposed anti-abortion Democrat Jim Langevin's short bid for the Senate seat.

Nevermind that Langevin would've crushed Chafee and gotten us one seat closer to a Democratic-led Senate. And a Democratic-led Senate wouldn't ever let any abortion legislation see the light of day. But NARAL, myopic fools that they are, think Chafee is a better bet, despite his vote for Trent Lott, Bill Frist, and their allegiance to the James Dobson, American Taliban agenda.

NARAL, and many people here, whined and cried about Langevin, the way they whined and cried about Harry Reid, because of those Democrats' personal opposition to abortion. Didn't we know, they demanded, that choice was a core principle of the Democratic Party?

To which I have a simple answer: The hell it is.

One of the key problems with the Democratic Party is that single issue groups have hijacked it for their pet causes. So suddenly, Democrats are the party of abortion, of gun control, of spottend owls, of labor, of trial lawyers, etc, etc., et-frickin'-cetera. We don't stand for any ideals, we stand for specific causes. We don't have a core philosophy, we have a list with boxes to check off.

So while Republicans focus on building an ideological foundation for their cause, we focus on checking off those boxes on the list. Check enough boxes, and you're a Democrat in good standing.

Problem is, abortion and choice aren't core principles of the Democratic Party. Rather, things like a Right to Privacy are. And from a Right to Privacy certain things flow -- abortion rights, access to contraceptives, opposition to the Patriot Act, and freedom to worship the gods of our own choosing, or none at all.

Another example of a core Democratic principle -- equality under the law. And from that principle stem civil rights, gender equity, and gay rights. It's not that those individual issues aren't important, of course they are. It's just that they are just that -- individual issues. A party has to stand for something bigger than the sum of its parts.

We have confused groups that are natural allies of the Democratic Party for the party itself. And the party has ceded way too much power, way too much control, to those single issue groups.

NARAL's endorsement of Chafee may be supremely idiotic and counterproductive to their own cause, but it illustrates my point beautifully. NARAL's interests may coincide with the Democratic Party's more often than not, but they are not one and the same.

So if nothing else, this should add urgency to party efforts to find that elusive core philosophy that will help brand our party independent of those single-issue causes. A brand isn't built on the basis of a checklist. And we, as a party, need to stop thinking that way.

(p.s. I nominate this post for "most misunderstood Kos post of all time" before I even submit it. But this isn't a hit and run issue, and we'll have plenty of time to break out and further discuss my assumptions, my sweeping generalizations, and the vagueries inevitable in a blog post of limited size.)