How Are They on Choice?

Pam notes that all three major Democratic Presidential contenders are waffling on gay marriage. This raises the related question, how are they on choice? Officially, they’re all for Roe, and would like to nominate judges who share that view. But it seems like a very low priority for Obama and Edwards. Clinton* is slightly more complicated: on the one hand, she’s a textbook opportunist, but on the other, she voted against Roberts and against cloture on Alito.

As PZ notes, in a race involving Obama, religion will become a factor, encouraging both candidates to appeal to religious voters. Left-wing Dominionists are not the only swing constituency in the US, but they’re the one that’s getting the most attention lately. In such a climate, I don’t put a pledge to appoint “constructionist judges” below people like Obama, Edwards, or Giuliani.

Additionally, the “Barack Hussein Obama” problem will likely dragoon Obama to highlight his Christian credentials even more. Were he a Muslim, the path of least resistance would involve a Kennedy-style promise to uphold separation of church and state. But given that he’s a Christian, the easiest way for him to defuse the issue is to display the zeal of the convert.

The issues involving Edwards are entirely different. His rhetoric consists of generic demagogy without specific religious references. On the other hand, he’ll likely have to invent a religious persona in order to compete better in the South, where he already enjoys a natural advantage. Changing the subject to labor issues could work to some extent, but it’s not a coincidence that historically, Southern populists and progressives of both races have extensively employed religious rhetoric.

Of course, rhetoric isn’t action. But if Edwards’ behavior on Iraq is any indication, on non-economic issues he’s a Clintonesque opportunist. Americans are becoming increasingly anti-choice, and Harry Reid is himself anti-choice. He’s fighting Bush on abortion because he’s a partisan Democrat first, but it’s not clear what he’ll do if the Democrats take back the White House.

Finally, Clinton. While I’m fairly certain Obama and Edwards will govern as anti-choice if elected, I have no idea about Clinton. On the one hand, her opportunism might cause her to waffle like I expect Edwards to; she’s not the sort of person who ordinarily supports issues that poll under 65%.

On the other, she’s a woman, and supported the Alito filibuster even when Roe polled at 52-47. It’s possible that abortion to her is like labor to Edwards**. Or it’s possible that like everyone who was paying attention, she knew the filibuster was a political stunt that had no hope of succeeding. Dean crafted a careful anti-war persona in late 2002 and early ’03 to attract the liberal niche; it’s possible Clinton’s doing the same with abortion.

* From this point onward, any reference to Clinton without a first name is to Hillary, not to Bill. I will make exceptions only when it’s clear from the context, e.g. a comparison of past Presidents.

** Insert your own joke about abortion’s being a woman’s right not to go into labor.

3 Responses to How Are They on Choice?

  1. The Democrats lost two presidential elections to weak contenders in large part because of a demoralized liberal base. The Democrats won many congressional districts out of their normal reach by pushing traditional labor populist candidates who could culturally connect with their constituents. While such a strategy may look good for winning or maintaining a congressional majority, it’s at best highly counterproductive for a presidential race. You have to court swing voters, but if the Democrats toss their traditional liberal base under the bus they’re committing political suicide.

    Plus, one has to remember that image matters. A lot of the problem southerners have with liberals isn’t necessarily rooted in religion but a cultural stigma that exists toward the image of the coastal northeast dwelling, New Yorker reading, latte sipping elitist. The Republicans success over the last six years can be attributed to their flagrant exploitation of that stereotype.

  2. Clarification, when I say “The Republicans success over the last six years can be attributed to their flagrant exploitation of that stereotype.” above, I only mean that much of it can be attributed so such, certainly not all of it.

  3. SLC says:

    It should be pointed out that Hilary hardly comes from a liberal background. Her father was a conservative Rethuglican and she was a Goldwater girl at the 1964 Rethuglican convention. She only became a Democrat after her marriage to Bill Clinton and then, like her husband a rather conservative one. The notion, propagated by a**holes like Bill O’Reilly that she is some kind of a Socialist is utter crap.

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