Monday :: Jan 3, 2005

Forest, Trees, and All That

by rayman

In the past few days, we've been graced with the year-end "wither the Democrats" articles from the likes of Adam Nagourney and Ron Brownstein. These articles unsurprisingly feature quotes from Democratic politicians and strategists, arguing that Democrats should "soften" their image on abortion and gay marriage (if this is even possible). Reading these articles, I experienced my Howard Dean "Yeaargh!" moment. These people simply don't understand the nature of what they're dealing with, nor how it has developed.

Ever since Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign, Republicans have embarked, with very few gaps along the way, on an astonishingly successful kulturkampf against the Democratic Party, and their perceived liberal persecutors. Spiro Agnew and Pat Buchanan christened this "positive polarization". As Buchanan noted in a memo to President Nixon, Republicans should ""Cut...the country in half; my view is that we would have far the larger half." Indeed, we have a clear pattern over the last forty years of this type of strategy:

-in 1968, it was "law and order" (i.e. those crazy colored folk rioting in the cities)
-in 1972, it was "acid, amnesty, and abortion"
-in 1980, it was "welfare queens driving Cadillacs"
-in 1988, it was Willie Horton, the Pledge of Allegience, and a "card-carrying member of the ACLU"
-in 2000, it was "restoring honor and dignity to the White House (i.e. Monica).

Gay marriage is just the latest manifestation of this strategy, and it worked, albeit barely. But this is precisely what infuriates me about Democrats arguing for retreat on abortion and gay marriage--it won't matter. The issues are interchangeable, with the exception of abortion; the key factor is the permanent kulturkampf, which is ingeniously retooled every few years. Thus, even if Democrats cave on the hot-button issues of the moment, new issues will pop up to take their place in 2008. Indeed, this has been happening for forty years.

My point is that Democrats must stop thinking on the "micro" level by obsessing over these single issues; they must instead think on the "macro" level--specifically, how to put a stake in the heart of the Republican kulturkampf. I'll have some thoughts about how to accomplish this in the not-too-distant future.

rayman :: 1:49 PM :: Comments (28) :: Digg It!