Since Philadelphia is the democratic blogging capital of the world, we have the most interesting Drinking Liberally meet-ups. For those of you that don’t know, Drinking Liberally is a national organization that convenes every Tuesday in over three dozen cities. Their purpose? Getting liberals together to have a few brewskis and to discuss politics.
Last night I had a long conversation with Duncan Black about voting reform, and talked with Chris Bowers about Act Blue, Lois Murphy, and the fact that google lists Booman Tribune number one when you type in muff shots. No kidding.
But I also had a long conversation with an activist from Brooklyn, who is trying to organize and promote a growing contingent of Democratic veterans of the Iraq War and former members of our intelligence services. He started out with the Draft Zinni movement, and has just kept going.
We talked for a long time over a couple of beers. And we had quite a lengthy conversation over the subject of abortion. I don’t know whether I was able to persuade him to my position or not, but the conversation was a microcosm of the discussion that has been going on on this site, and throughout the blogosphere.
He opined that the average swing voter does not want to talk about abortion and is totally turned off by the issue. He suggested that the best advice for a candidate, when questioned about abortion, was to change the subject to Iraq and national security. Something like: “This is not the most pressing issue right now, what is important is that we have over 100,000 troops bogged down in Iraq…”.
I countered that only 20% of Americans support overturning Roe and that any issue where we enjoy 80% support should be an advantage, not a disadvantage. I gave Clinton’s 1996 Mediscare campaign as an example where we enjoyed a similar 80% advantage, and where highlighting, even demagoguing, such an issue worked to our advantage.
My argument was basically as follows: the Supreme Court is on the verge of overturning Roe v. Wade even though only 20% of the American public supports such a move. This is only possible because the Democratic Party has failed to raise awareness of the stakes involved in Presidential elections. The most underrepresented group of Democrats (those with the lowest turnout) are single women of childbearing age. And we haven’t made it clear why they should turn out to vote, and to vote for us.
As a counterpoint, I looked at the issue of gay marriage. Opposition to gay marriage is one of the few issues where the GOP actually holds a real advantage with the public. Even though swing voters do not particularly enjoy, or want to discuss, gay marriage, the Republicans are unapologetically against it. They even went so far as to put the issue on numerous state ballots, and the issue boosted their turnout.
So, I suggested, it is better for us to raise the volume of our pro-choice stance than it is to soft-pedal it. Soft-pedalling our support for Roe does not inspire anyone, and it still makes swing voters uncomfortable. Soft-pedalling our support for choice has led us to a point where the federal protection of choice may be lost. It has been a failing strategy, and it is high time that we learned the lesson and began making it crystal clear to the populace where we stand.
He understood my argument but still believed that the issue was a loser. Wherever you stand on the issues and on strategy, it is always fun to drink liberally.