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Ask Auntie Pinko

March 31, 2005
By Auntie Pinko

Dear Auntie Pinko,

Has the GOP shot itself in the foot over the Terri Schiavo case by allowing the spotlight to be shone on its radical element? Will throwing this kind of bone to social conservatives - that is, shoving the full weight of the federal government into a private family matter - make the 2008 GOP primaries a nightmare for the Republican party?

It strikes me that the eventual nominee is either going to a) be able to hold on to the fundamentalist base by pandering to their increasingly more insane demands, thus opening them up to accusations of being far-right, out-of-the-mainstream nutjobs and driving moderate Republicans towards the Democratic party, or b) lose the fundamentalist base by backing away from the nutjobs, and thus losing the election.

Any thoughts?

Washington, DC

PS. I think the Democratic Party's biggest priority right now should be trying to get Roy Moore to run for president.

Dear Dave,

Auntie's first thought is that it is 2005 right now, and 2008 is a long time away, at least in terms of the public attention span. Plenty of time for Mr. Rove and his colleagues to organize damage control.

Tempting as it may be to rely entirely on the various elements of the Republican Party to self-destruct and make things easy for us, I think Democrats should resist urge to fight political battles in that territory. If the more extreme manifestations of the Republican Party awaken revulsion among Americans who consider themselves moderate, the best thing we can do is to highlight the Democratic Party's differences, not just in policy and outlook, but in procedure and attitude. We must use the time between now and 2008 to demonstrate the standards of behavior and the ethical principles that the electorate will be more than ready to appreciate.

And we should not forget, in our not-unnatural relish of the infighting among Republican factions, that the Democratic Party is scarcely immune from such squabbles. There are plenty of passionately-held viewpoints among differing groups of Democrats. We certainly do not hold a patent on moral and philosophical consistency. There are even - dare I say it? - hypocrites aplenty among our ranks. Tarring the Republican Party with the "nutjob factions and hypocrisy" brush can easily come back to haunt us.

Auntie is not an authority on any aspect of the matter at hand concerning Mrs. Schiavo and her family. I do not consider it appropriate for me even to express (in public) a specific opinion on this matter. I feel strongly that it is a matter for the family to deal with in private, and although that is obviously not happening, there is no reason to add yet another voice to the painful and unseemly clamor.

While this sad case does, indeed, highlight a number of important public policy issues, any attempt, now, to put those issues into a partisan political context can only be perceived as opportunistic and cynical, no matter which Party raises them, or how sincere their good intentions may be. Perhaps in the months and years ahead, after the inappropriate din has abated, the lessons learned from this excruciating incident may have a positive influence in the evolution of public policy.

I believe that when that time arises, the long history of the Democratic Party's advocacy for access to health care, the integrity of family and individual privacy, and the need for a financial and social safety net to protect the vulnerable will put weight behind our efforts. Americans concerned about their ability to obtain health care, and to have the social and financial support that will let them make crucial end-of-life decisions in privacy and dignity will look at our Party's long-term record, not just at this overheated interlude. We need to be ready to make a compelling case for our ability to deliver what the American people need in this and other critical areas that affect their lives every day.

That won't happen if we simply sit back and let the "nutjobs" stage their various circuses under the GOP Big Top. There are plenty of clown shoes and rubber noses in Democratic closets, too, and you can bet that the clever and financially well-endowed Republican manipulators of public opinion will be doing their best to throw a spotlight on them. Unless we can point to plenty of positive, substantive, hard work on behalf of the things Americans really care about, this whole tawdry mess will be just one more unpleasant footnote in the decline of American democracy.

But I'm human too, Dave, and I do have to admit that I'd happily send a donation to Mr. Moore's campaign, too. Thanks for asking Auntie Pinko!

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