Ezra Klein's guest poster Jedmunds
on Kos's insistence that single-issue groups subordinate their will to the Party:
Kos recently said:
“Fact is, those groups were created for a governing system where progressives had some measure of power, and those constituency groups could lobby for their causes in the halls of government. If I hated choice and gays and the environment and every other progressive constituency group I would applaud the status quo, because it is surely and inexorably leading to their demise.Now, I’m as partisan a Democrat as anyone. I feel as urgently as anyone the need to get Democrats elected and to remove the Republicans from power. But Kos is rather aggressively wrong about this. The only demise that is inexorable if the Democrats keep losing is that of the Democrats themselves. Despite failure after failure at the ballot for Democrats, these issues have managed to actually gain traction or at least hold steady. The Democrats keep losing, while the issues they nominally support continually gain support with the public. This is especially true with respect to gay rights ... Even with abortion, the Republicans don’t have the power to appoint a Supreme Court nominee openly opposed to it ... It’s actually, really amazing when you think about it; some of these issues are incredibly popular, the Republican Party is pretty horrible on them and yet the Democrats still can’t find a way to win. But why this is so, I’ll leave others to speculate on. But the point is, it’s up to Democrats to win elections. And those who advocate for issues are going to be obliged to work with the winners, not, you know, comfort the losers.
That formula doesn't work in today's political environment. And we won't have a governing majority until the energy expended in pursuing pet interests gets redirected toward getting Republicans out of power and getting Democrats -- even some of the imperfect ones -- elected to replace them.”
Take for example NARAL’s infamous endorsement of John Chafee in Rhode Island, a subject which I wrote on a while back. Conventional wisdom dictates that a group like NARAL should endorse incumbents who are reasonably good on their issues, which Chafee is. But apparently in this environment, NARAL is supposed to sacrifice whatever leverage they have on Chafee, for the sake of the speculative possibility of a future Democratic Congress.
...If you demand that every interest subsumes itself and becomes a subsidiary of the Democratic Party, then the Democratic Party is going to need to get a lot better on delivering on these issues. I mean, how can I blame NARAL for not choosing obeisance to the Democratic Party, when the Democratic Party is busy doing things like clearing the primary for a guy like Bob Casey Jr. for the 2006 Senate nomination in Pennsylvania? Or the list of Democrat after Democrat who votes to undermine reproductive freedom? If NARAL were to subsume their interests before the Democratic Party, then the Democratic Party is going to need to show they take the resulting “fiduciary” duty more seriously than they do. After all, what exactly is attractive about the proposition of yielding to the authority of a group that is both as spineless and ineffectual as the Democratic Party has been lately? Either start winning or start showing some spine, ya know? Either one would go a long way toward making a more convincing argument for yielding to the Democrats.
I hope I can be forgiven for posting such a substantial excerpt, but this just expresses so perfectly why Kos and Armando are so misguided about this. If I'm NARAL, I'm trying to figure out how to work with a GOP-controlled government - because despite the delusions of Kos and others, a Democratic House and Senate might never come about.
Kos tells NARAL that it's their interest for the Democrats to control the federal government. Well, yeah. And it's in my interest to win the lottery tomorrow - but just in case I don't
, I'd be well advised to start figuring out another way to make some money.
As Jedmunds so capably points out, NARAL's issue - abortion rights - is popular
, unlike some political parties I won't mention. Kos needs to get it through his head that the Democrats need NARAL much more than NARAL needs the Democrats. NARAL and other pro-choice groups have the public's support behind them, and this is a powerful weapon to yield when it comes to getting Republicans to keep their hands off women's reproductive choices.
Yeah, we could all sit around waiting for our Fairy Godmother to grant us a Democratic congress, which will then solve all these problems (remember how progressives got everything we wanted, right up until 1994?) ... or we could depart from fantasy land and start figuring out how to protect the few remaining rights that people have left, with or without the help of the Democrats.
Would I like to see a Democratic congress in '06? Hell yeah - I'd love
it. But it's such a remote possibility at this point that it's silly to base our strategy on it.
This is like the Nader 2000 thing all over again ... somehow, somewhere, Democrats got it in their heads that they deserved
our votes, that they were entitled
to them - and they get awfully indignant when somebody says otherwise. (I'm not saying that people should vote for Nader, but it never occurred to the Dems that they might try to earn
the votes of progressives, rather than attacking them for even considering casting a ballot for a third party.)
They promise that when they finally win, we'll get everything we want - which of course is a lie, but that's almost beside the point, because they never win
- and it's not our fault. In many ways, the US becomes a more progressive/liberal country every day - and the inept powers that be in the Democratic Party still
can't manage to use that fact to their advantage. And NARAL is supposed to entrust reproductive freedom to these stooges?
But hey, maybe I'm wrong; maybe the Dems are on the verge of turning it all around, and we'll have the House and Senate in '06 and the White House in '08. After all, Paul Hackett did
manage to lose by only four points!
In the meantime, though, you'll have to excuse us for having a Plan B.