The Democrats have decided to embrace right-wing values in a cynical effort to pander for votes.
Brad Ellsworth likes to hunt, opposes abortion and says he'll put his "family values up against anybody." He may be the Democrats' new dream candidate.
The 47-year-old Ellsworth, a county sheriff in Indiana, is one of a number of Democrats running for the U.S. Congress next year whose positions on social issues deviate from the national party's. His candidacy follows a presidential election the Democrats lost in part because they failed to win over "values voters," according to polls and party strategists.
The recruitment of Ellsworth and candidates with similar views is "the party making a decision to be more inclusive," said Elaine Kamarck, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton and to Vice President Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign. "It is the lesson of 2004."
Translation: pro-reproductive rights candidates need not apply. Sorry, women, your Constitutional rights are too politically inconvenient.
"There are some in the national Democratic leadership who think perhaps choice has become too much of a litmus test in the party, and it hurts them," [congressional analyst Jennifer] Duffy said.
So what's the answer? A new litmus test: rather than appeal to the Democratic base, you pander to the acidic views of the radical right. In other words: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
Other Democratic recruits for Congress who sound more like traditional Republicans on social issues include former Minnesota Transportation Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg, who is anti-abortion, and former college and professional football player Heath Shuler, an avid hunter from North Carolina who opposes abortion and gun controls.
In Pennsylvania, U.S. Senate candidate and state Treasurer Bob Casey, who opposes abortion rights, led abortion foe Senator Rick Santorum, a Republican, by 12 percentage points in a Quinnipiac poll of 1,447 voters last month.
One can only hope that primaries defeat these faux-Democrats.
"This is a much larger field than it's been in the past." Bill Burton, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said of the anti-abortion and pro-gun candidates. "We have folks in that group who aren't necessarily with the national party on every single issue but do reflect the makeup of the congressional district."
Apparently women's constitutional rights aren't important to the Democratic Party any more.
Recruiting anti-abortion and pro-gun candidates is part of a broader Democratic effort to recast the party's image on social issues. Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, said she used to have a hard time getting the Democratic National Committee to return phone calls.
Then in April, the group was allowed to use the committee's headquarters to unveil a plan to reduce the U.S. abortion rate. "It's a big step," Day said.
The only problem with this is that people against women's reproductive rights are ill-equipped to actually reduce the number of aborted pregnancies. Criminalizing it just drives it underground.
But don't confuse them with facts -- their minds are made up. We need to put doctors and women in prison. Now there's some enlightened social policy!
Perhaps the most bizarre example of tortured logic comes from the DCCC itself:
"It's Democrats being more on the offensive rather than the defensive when it comes to values issues," said Marshall Wittmann, a senior fellow at the Democratic Leadership Council.
This isn't Democrats being "on the offensive" -- it's Democrats forfeiting the battle entirely.
Former President Clinton held that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare," an appeal to voters uncomfortable with abortion that didn't compromise his support for Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established a woman's right to abortion.
Democrats have strayed from that formula and it has hurt them, Wittmann said. In the 2004 presidential election, more voters -- 22 percent -- said "moral values" were the most important issue than said the economy and terrorism, according to CNN exit polls.
Traditional Democratic values are moral values. The people who voted for Kerry were voting about morality.
This just shows how little conviction of any values at all is held by the Democratic Party. Selling out women to the government as breeder property of the State is not morality, it's not "on the offensive" -- it's pandering.
The problem was further documented in an August memo by Democracy Corps, a Democratic research organization. Focus groups found that most voters considered Democrats to be "liberal" on issues of morality, according to the memo. Some voters even used the words "immoral" or "morally bankrupt" to describe Democrats.
Those are the words I use to describe the radical right and the so-called "pro-life" movement. Apparently they have louder voices, though, so now they've succeeded in defining morality, and the Democratic Party thinks it can simply pander to unprogressive views and score wins.
Particularly among non-college voters, "cultural issues not only superseded other priorities" such as Iraq and the economy, "they served as a proxy for many voters" on those issues, the memo said.
"It's almost as if Democrats forgot how to be successful on these issues and are trying to relearn some of the approaches Bill Clinton took in 1992 that were so successful," Wittmann said.
No, what they're trying to do is be more Republican, rather than work to define their own values.
No wonder the Democratic Party has not come up with its own Contract With America. Maybe they're afraid it will look too much like the Republicans' and people will notice.
What this proves is that the Democrats either take their traditional constituents for granted, or would rather have right-wing constituents and to hell with progressives. The Democratic Party is no longer the party that defends women's rights, but rather defends a vision of Handmaid America.
I find that cynical, foolish and immoral.