Wednesday, July 27, 2005

With Roberts Nomination the "Single Issue Voter" Discussion is Back

I did a little poll on my DailyKos diary last night and had interesting results. You may have noticed that once O'Connor resigned, I've been a bit obsessed with the Supreme Court, and I've been particularly upset about the Democrats who suggest that the best strategy for the party as a whole is to stop making abortion such a focus in Dem. Party politics.
This argument, made most recently by the assinine Eric Alterman, who first came to my attention about 7 years ago when he mocked Robin DG Kelley and the Black Radical Congress in The Nation, and Hilary "I wouldn't embrace a political principle if it kissed my face" Clinton, really is one that gives up the exactly wrong ground, but it continues to persuade SOME people. While almost 80% of the people I polled on "Dailykos" said they supported choice absolutely and that they believed that was the correct position for the Democrats, about 10% said that the Democratic party should prioritize other issues in order to make a "big tent" in the party.
As usual, the people who were in the ideological minority were the ones who posted comments, and their arguments were that the Dems. are losing because their "extreme left" stance on abortion is alienating to people. Given the polls I've seen, I think there are probably more "single issue voters" voting FOR democrats on choice than there are single-issue-voters who'd be won over to the Democrats if they abandoned it, or downplayed it. I really think that there is nothing that the Dems. could do, short of becoming fundamentalist christians that would win the organized pro-life vote.
An interesting aspect of this debate is the way that it follows the increasingly popular economistic arguments of Tom Frank, who's been arguing, since his days at "The Baffler" that the way to appeal to (white, middle-American) working class and lower-middle class voters is the answer for the Democratic party. To do this, he splits "cultural" and economic issues, as if abortion rights and economic issues were mutually exclusive.
The issue obscured by Frank's analysis is race. The assumption is that (white) working-class, also known as "Reagan democrats" that we are not winning is voting for the Republicans because of religion and abortion, instead of voting for the Republicans because of their belief that the Democrats want to give their tax money to Black people, which is after all, how Nixon and then Reagan campaigned. When Clinton stood up for the race-baiting politics of "welfare reform" in 1996, he probably did more damage to the Democratic party than either one of those presidents. Fetishizing working class whites as if they're the entirety of the working class is not only morally problematic, but I think it has been a losing strategy for the Dems since the 1960s. No matter, white midde class talking heads are so obsessed with winning back the white working class that they keep wheeling out this Edsall argument again and again.
Dave Roediger, who's just got a new book out, "Working Toward Whiteness" will tell it like it is on this issue on Bob McChesney's radio show this week, and has a great essay about dem party strategy on this issue in the book "The House that Race Built"
Meanwhile, the only possible hope that I've seen for the democrats was articulated by Bill Fletcher and Danny Glover in the form of a "neo-rainbow" at the last left forum debate in NY in April, but at the moment I'm not feeling very hopeful.

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