Howard Dean Talks to the 700 Club
by Matt Stoller, Wed May 10, 2006 at 10:58:41 AM EDT
I asked a few weeks ago what our strategy is on gay rights. Apparently, the strategy is to sell out our core constituency groups for no particular reason.
A CBN News segment on the 700 Club from Wednesday, May 10, 2006 looked at how Democrats are reaching out to evangelicals. The Segment took the form of interview with DNC chairman Howard Dean. Mr. Dean stated: "The truth is we have an enormous amount in common with the Christian community and particularly with the evangelical Christian community, and one of the biggest things that Democrats worry about is the materialism of our culture, what's on television that our kids our seeing, and the lack of spirituality and that's something we have in common." Mr. Dean continued by saying that Democrats share the concern of evangelicals over issues such as abortion, He stated: "We ought to have far fewer abortions. We need to make sure that we have not just abstinence but family planning is used to get rid of abortion and that's something that we share. Now the difference is that we don't think that making criminals out of doctors and women is a good idea." Mr. Dean also added that the Democratic Party platform defines marriage as between a man and woman but states that equal rights under the law are important. Mr. Dean concluded by saying Democrats need to court evangelicals and values voters because no party should govern if they ignore a segment of the population.
Rev. Robertson did not subscribe to what Mr. Dean stated Democrats are trying to accomplish and said of Democrats that "they want to leave the Supreme Court on a more or less liberal bent to take prayer out of the public schools, abortion on demand etcetera and gay marriage is a constitutional right. Homosexuality is a constitutional right I should say, and if they took that stand they're going to have a hard time winning those values voters." Despite this criticism Rev. Robertson did praise Democrats for reaching out to evangelicals."
I'm going to enjoy the spin here that this is smart and principled. At best, this is selling out human rights for no particular reason. I mean, given a choice between a radical ideologue Republican and a Democrat who feels a bit queasy about equal rights, is the radical ideologue voter really going to vote for a Democrat?
I'm sure that there will be lots of people out there willing to tolerate this level of stupid pandering because they assume that this is both politically wise (it isn't) and that Howard Dean has his fingers crossed. I'm sorry but I don't play that game. I expect leaders to be strong and principled, not craven. Evangelicals may vote for Democrats this year, or they may stay home. But it will have nothing to do with outreach like this. They are simply embarrassed at what they voted for in George Bush. No one likes being on team failure, and that includes the Christian right. You beat failure by projecting strength, not by pandering.
I'm anticipating a lot of whining about this post from both Dean supporters and Democrats uncomfortable with gay rights. Listen, if you really want Democrats to be 'on message', or to 'stand for something', or to promote our 'real values', or any other cliche out there about what ails the party this is the moment when you call bullshit. It's easy to stand for lower gas prices. It's easy to stand against selling national security assets to Dubai. But that's not when your brand is created. Strong leadership happens when you do something hard, when you make choices, and when your values matter sufficiently that you are willing to stand up for them.
I guarantee you that Dean's appearance on the 700 Club isn't going to help Democrats in, say, North Carolina. No one believes his message that the Democrats think that marriage is between a man and a woman. It's just not credible coming from him. I don't believe it. And neither do viewers of the 700 Club. They just think it's weak. Because it is. And that's the message Dean got across to the 700 Club audience.