PUT DOWN THE FEMALE CANDIDATE AND NOBODY GETS HURT

Andrew Sullivan approvingly cites a reader’s nasty argument against Hillary Clinton:

If everyone is admitting that a Hillary Clinton’s potential nomination to the Democrat Presidential ticket is only fuel for the religious right, then what do you think Senator Clinton’s view is on that? Why is it that this either doesn’t concern her, or she thinks she can overcome it? If I were in the same position, I would realize that winning the nomination, only to further create a dichotomy between the American politic, would be disastrous for the country.

Now it’s one thing to say that Hillary Clinton shouldn’t run because she’s too unpopular to win the general election (though the polls won’t be much help to you there). It’s another thing to say that running for president even though a lot of people hate you shows “fathomless narcissism” (Sullivan’s phrase). In other words, if you love America, and there are a bunch of people in America who hate you, you shouldn’t run for election in America because it will divide America and that’s too great a price to pay.

There are good reasons not to like Hillary Clinton. Those are not the ones that make her unpopular with the religious right. Hillary Clinton, for all her caution with the personal and the political, is a lightning rod for anti-feminist forces in American politics who don’t believe women should exercise power traditionally reserved for men. Andrew Sullivan knows that.

It’s silly, though all too common, to suggest that the main problem facing this country is a lack of consensus about where it should go or what kind of person should lead it. And it’s outrageous, though by no means unusual, to argue that the enlightened response to the troubling views of a certain number of Americans is to accommodate them rather than to engage and challenge them.

Some people in this country think Hillary Clinton is a bitch because she wields power and wants more of it. It’s a shame to see pundits who should know better suggesting she’s a bitch for not acceding to those people’s wish that she would disappear.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: NOT A JEW (AFTER ABRAMOFF, WHAT’D WE DO?)

Andrew Sullivan probably expected to turn heads with the first paragraph of this TNR piece on the Foley fallout. But perhaps the weirdest sentence is in the second one:

Gay men, of course, went into a defensive crouch. Like Jews watching the Abramoff scandal, we winced at what we knew would be a collective blame-game.

Say what?

I’m all for a good simile. But actual Jews did watch the actual Abramoff scandal, and not only wasn’t there a “collective blame-game” targeting Jews, “we” didn’t brace ourselves for one either. Did we?

Look, I’ll be the first to acknowledge I’ve spent most of my life in parts of the US with disproportionately little antisemitism (maybe excepting the time Sean Hannity’s niece told me Yale “is basically all Jews at this point, right?”). But the idea that Jews as a community saw Jack Abramoff in the news and started worrying about an antisemitic surge is just spurious.

Sure, Abramoff embodies certain hateful stereotypes about Jews, and Foley embodies certain hateful stereotypes about gay men. But the difference is that blatant antisemitism marginalizes you in American public life. Blatant homophobia doesn’t.

I’m sure you could have heard one Jew crouching somewhere over Abramoff in the news. After Jim McGreevey came out and resigned, I remember a few folks I knew worrying that a story about a governor having a same-sex affair with an Israeli would enflame antisemitism across the country. Those were the same ones who got ganza shpilkes whenever a new article came out about the New Jersey Rabbi charged with homicide. But everyone else – Jews included – saw it as a story about closeted married men, corrupt New Jersey politicos, or both.

Consider the press releases put out by major organs of the conservative movement blaming homosexuality for the Foley fracas. Now try to picture such groups putting out a press release blaming Judaism for the Abramoff scandal.

The leaders in the conservative coalition who feel that way do a better job hiding their antisemitism.

STATING THE OBVIOUS

In a banner ad over at Instapundit, right-wing blog outfit Pajamas Media shares the breathless prose of Tammy Bruce:

The core of the American people has manifested itself most purely in blogs because elites for so long controlled all avenues of communication. Those days are over now.

The blogosphere oozes with this kind of petty triumphalism – from Andrew Sullivan’s “The Revolution Will Be Blogged” tagline to Ed Driscoll’s “Year of Blogging Dangerously.” Bruce’s claim is just a shining example because it counterposes “elites” with the “core of the American people.” She’s right that American journalists are a fairly elite group (the shift in journalists’ conception of their job from a trade to a profession is related to this). That’s why coverage of unions, contrary to the claims of most bloggers, tends to be so right-wing and hostile. But if Bruce thinks that blogs – overwhelmingly written and read by the wealthiest sliver of the population – represent the “core of the American people,” that suggests that she has a rather elite conception of the American people herself.

Over at The New Republic, Hillary Clinton is winning accolades from Michelle Cottle and Andrew Sullivan for her new rhetoric on abortion last week. Like Clinton herself, they’re each partially right.

Cottle takes on Jim Wallis of Sojourners and others for trying to win the “moral values” debate for Democrats by shifting it onto economic turf. She’s right to argue that responding to the heartfelt opposition of all too many working class Republicans to the Democrats’ stances on abortion and other so-called “social issues” with a sleight-of-hand is both insulting and ineffective. The Democrats do indeed need to win the values debate on the “social turf.” But, contra Cottle, a winning strategy for the Democrats will also depend on broadening the popular conception of moral politics to include the economic exploitation and persistent poverty of millions of Americans. Cottle should know better than to take on face value the idea that so-called “values voters” simply could care less about children without healthcare. She completely overlooks the extent to which, in the absence of a real discussion by Democrats of America’s savage inequalities. Republicans have been able to successfully repackage “social issues” as class grievances against liberal elites and activist judges. It’s not surprising that those who want Democrats to change the topic and trounce the GOP on economic moral issues and those who want them to change the message and trounce the GOP on social moral issues each see the other standing in the way of progress. But a winning strategy will have to do both.

Sullivan, like Cottle, writes with the stated intention of helping Democrats win on abortion. And parts of the approach for which he credits Clinton are indeed good moves. Certainly, Democratic politicians and activists should recognize the difficulty and sadness with which many women approach the choice to have an abortion (Sullivan, like most pundits, drastically exaggerates the extent to which this is not already the case). And absolutely, Democratic politicians and activists should frame access to all forms of contraception in all situations as “the surest way to prevent” abortions (nothing so new here either). As for demonstrating respect for one’s opponents, I don’t think many are arguing that the Democrats should demonstrate intentional disrespect for those who disagree on abortion.

But what those on both sides of this debate want, more than respect, is to win. And while Sullivan insists (in a strange turn of phrase) that “Democrats can still be and almost certainly should be for the right to legal abortion,” readers can be excused for coming away with a mixed message. Sullivan follows a long line of pundits and reporters in conflating changes in discourse on abortion with changes in policy. Seemingly intentional ambiguity radiates from Sullivan’s insistence that

One reason that John Kerry had such a hard time reaching people who have moral qualms about abortion was his record: an almost relentless defense of abortion rights – even for third trimester unborn children – with no emphasis on the moral costs to all of us of such a callous disregard of human dignity. You cannot have such a record and then hope to convince others that you care about the sanctity of life.

One could read such a graph to mean that Kerry could have won the abortion debate if only he were on record mourning the “moral costs.” But it’s not clear why one would. A more intuitive reading would be: To win over “pro-life” voters, Democrats should cast more “pro-life” votes. Otherwise, how are we to understand Sullivan’s criticism of Kerry for being “almost relentless” in supporting the right to choose. Sullivan isn’t so much offering ideas on how to win the debate over abortion as urging a partial surrender.

More specifically, Sullivan lauds Clinton’s support for abstinence-only education as good politics, despite the preponderance of evidence that diverting dollars from sex ed to abstinence ed will lead to more unprotected sex and therefore more abortions. And Sullivan urges Democrats to back candidates like Bob Casey in Democratic primaries specifically because they oppose the party’s position on abortion rights. He pushes this plan – that Democrats essentially should sell their position by working against candidates who support it – as a corrective to a mythical “fatwa” against such politicians in the Democratic party. Those who believe such a fatwa exists may still be under the mistaken impression that Casey’s father was denied the chance the speak at the convention nominating Bill Clinton because he opposed abortion and not because Casey had announced he would be voting against Bill Clinton. Either that, or they’re willing to suggest with a straight face, as Sullivan does, that for the GOP to have a pro-choice second-in-command at the RNC while the Democratic party has an anti-choice Senate Minority Leader demonstrates that “the Republicans are more obviously tolerant of dissent than Democrats.”

Finally, Sullivan wants Democrats to tone down the rhetoric about women’s rights and instead frame abortion as killing and abortion rights as a way to avert more gruesome killing. Instead of “reproductive rights,” Sullivan argues, Democrats should talk about a decision through which “one soul is destroyed and another wounded.” But while talking about abortion as a “sad, even tragic choice” for the mother may help make the case, arguing that it’s a tragedy for “unborn children” won’t. Either a woman is a constitutionally-protected person with a fetus inside of her, or a fetus is a constitutionally-protected person with a womb attached. If Democrats frame abortion as killing, as Sullivan does, they will only increase support for banning abortion (and for the dissolution of the Democratic party). This too, is not a new idea. Neither is it a good one.

Last week on Andrew Sullivan’s website, which conservative author and activist Christina Hoff Summers described as the best for college conservative activists out there, he expressly unendorsed President Bush:

My only dilemma now is whether to support Kerry or sit this one out. It still is.

This was, as he notes, only a restatement of a decision he had expressed in this article in the May issue of The Advocate:

…But raising the issue to the level of a constitutional amendment is not something anyone can or should live with. It’s writing gay people out of their own country. It’s the political equivalent of domestic violence. Once that happens you’re a fool to stay in the relationship. You’re asking for more abuse. You’re enabling a movement that seeks to destroy you.

…My principles haven’t changed. Nor will they anytime soon. But when a president allies himself with forces that really do want to keep gay people in jail, therapy, or the closet, it’s time to break off. The deal is broken. And no amount of rationalization can make it whole again.

Andrew Sullivan is gloating over this column, perhaps because it exemplifies one of the most pernicious and persistent stereotypes of the left. Or at least, that’s why I’m groaning over it.

I do have some modest suggestions that might provide a start for discussion: an intelligence test to earn the right to vote; a three-significantly-stupid-behaviors-and-you’re-out law; fines for politicians who pander to the lowest common denominator and deportation of media representatives who perpetuate such actions.

…We can stop this sapping of our national integrity but we must do it soon, lest the morons become the norm and those of us who use our brains for more than memorizing advertising jingles are ourselves ostracized from society.

Such arguments play into the hands of the right. They belong in a Charles Murray rant, not under the flag of anything identifying itself as the left.

Andrew Sullivan, rightly blasting Bill Bennett’s attack on gay rights, concludes with a telling indictment:

It’s not an argument. It’s the rhetorical embellishment of a privilege. Conservatism has always been prone to such a trap.

Perhaps Sullivan, one of the strongest proponents of driving a wedge between civil rights and economic justice as ideologies and as movements, should take his own words to heart.