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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Monday, May 12, 2003


Culture War 2004

posted by Ezra at Monday, May 12, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Quite a bit has been said recently over the impending culture war of 2004 (Here, Here and Here). Most of it, as far as I can tell, has been said by Matt. But, whether or not he started it, the Note has picked it up, and it seems clear that the convergence of Human Rights Watch, the Log-Cabin Republicans, Rick Santorum, the Christian Right, and Dean's support for Civil Unions (which ensures that everyone else has to take a position on them) is going to force this issue to a head in 2004. Much like a zit.

Matt and others have said quite a bit on this issue, but I want to use it to make a larger point. Extremists are very dangerous to major political parties, because they often comprise a good portion of the base. So the Parties straddle the line and attempt to keep both the fringe placated and the moderates happy. Bush and Rove have been uncannily good at this over the years, and it accounts, in large part, for Bush's success (for more on this, I highly recommend you all read Molly Ivin's Shrub). But the fringe is dangerous for Bush in a way that it isn't for Democrats. Our extremists are, to an extent, flexible. They do move and change and update themselves with the times...we might feel they are too far left and want too much, but they can be dealt with, persuaded, cajoled. The Christian Right cannot. They are bound by the Bible, they have a document they must follow and as such, the decisions of their political leaders must match a pre-defined doctrine, they cannot change due to electoral whim. Some policies can be fudged as relates to the Bible. Some run afoul of very unclear or obscure commandments. Homosexuality is not one of these.

If Civil Unions do in fact become one of the issues in 2004, Bush is highly, highly screwed. He will either have to rip down his big tent and ensure that the Republican party is viewed as the party of backward bigots for years to come or watch as the Christian Right abandons the Republicans and dooms his reelection effort to failure, much as his Father's raising of taxes alienated Conservatives and doomed his own reelection effort.

We, as a party, need to realize that the most dangerous part of the Bush Administration is their two-faced governance, their ability to project one image (that of the moderate) while governing from the far-right. To end their ability to do that, we are actually going to have to rip Bush right at that line, we are going to have to separate the compassionate from the conservative and see what Bush chooses. He cannot choose both, the very nature of the Christian Right renders them completely unable to compromise on this issue and so his defense of "Christian Values" is going to have to echo from the mountain tops. Of course, that same defense will disgust moderates who, by and large, do not want to vote for intolerance and policies that one can see being overturned and viewed with revulsion ten years down the road. Civil Unions look to me to be exactly that wedge issue which can do it.

So that's the game plan. Ready? BREAK!

P.S - Is anybody else starting to find these guys mildly pathetic? It's like a puppy who keeps getting beat but invariably returns to his master...I'm starting to feel bad for them.

P.P.S - Full Disclosure: Also posted on my blog.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.