Let’s Stay On Offense.
Exploiting the growing cleavage between rural libertariansim and today’s Republican extremism is more than a matter of political opportunity. It points to something fundamental to OUR identity as Democrats: we are the party which respects the individual. We respect your access to and agency in the voting franchise, we respect your right to make end-of-life decisions, and we stay out of your bedroom.
Americans everywhere are coming to the realization that freedom from government intervention–long a staple of American conservatism–is now at growing risk from the big-government Republicans in Washington… States’ rights and individual rights flow from the same place: a federal government that knows its place.
To call the basic liberties which underlie our American jurisprudence and national identity an “issue” is admittedly strange, but the concept is a nexus of many separate issues which highlight a major fissure in the Republican coalition. This is especially true in the rural West, where many Republican states and municipalities are–for instance–rejecting the PATRIOT Act whole-hog.
1. The Fundamentalists Have Gone Too Far…
An overwhelming majority of Americans opposed Congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, and voters’ offense at this right-wing overreach is proving damaging to even once-popular incumbents. It is quite clear that in voters’ minds, freedom from the federal government is not a partisan issue–but the DeLay/Musgrave/Santorum Republicans are determined to make it one. It appears they may be succeeding.
2. …and so has the PATRIOT Act.
“We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States.” –Barack Obama
He’s right. The state of Montana has rejected the PATRIOT, as have numerous other states and cities in the West and nationwide. The Republican leaders in Washington definitely want the government out of their lives–but they want them in yours. And real conservatives don’t welcome government interference. That’s why Democrats should make it clear that, across the issue spectrum, we don’t want to interfere with voters’ lives.
3. Democrats Stand for the Constitution.
Americans have the right to be secure and private in their homes, persons, and relationships. We’re a nation founded by a document which was then unique for limiting the power of government, and in turn respect for the individual has long been a hallmark of American governance. For today’s GOP to overstep those long-established boundaries demonstrates just how radical and fundamentally out-of-touch their leadership is.
The Republican coalition is treading water, but we can’t “throw them an anchor” on any single issue. Terri Schiavo, the PATRIOT Act, censorship, propaganda, intrusion against popular state laws (like Oregon’s ‘Death with Dignity’ and Medial Marijuana laws), the attack on the filibuster: these are not separate issues. They all spring from the GOP-controlled federal government’s basic disrespect for American values and the rule of law.
Why should we be afraid to tell voters just that?