Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Now then, where were we?

Clinton Seeking Shared Ground Over Abortions

"Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Monday that the opposing sides in the divisive debate over abortion should find 'common ground' to prevent unwanted pregnancies and ultimately reduce abortions, which she called a 'sad, even tragic choice to many, many women.'

In a speech to about 1,000 abortion rights supporters near the New York State Capitol, Mrs. Clinton firmly restated her support for the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. But then she quickly shifted gears, offering warm words to opponents of legalized abortion and praising the influence of 'religious and moral values' on delaying teenage girls from becoming sexually active.

'There is an opportunity for people of good faith to find common ground in this debate - we should be able to agree that we want every child born in this country to be wanted, cherished and loved,' Mrs. Clinton said.

Mrs. Clinton, widely seen as a possible candidate for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2008, appeared to be reaching out beyond traditional core Democrats who support abortion rights. She did so not by changing her political stands, but by underscoring her views in preventing unplanned pregnancies, promoting adoption, recognizing the influence of religion in abstinence and championing what she has long called 'teenage celibacy.'

She called on abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion campaigners to form a broad alliance to support sexual education - including abstinence counseling - family planning, and morning-after emergency contraception for victims of sexual assault as ways to reduce unintended pregnancies.

'We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women," Mrs. Clinton told the annual conference of the Family Planning Advocates of New York State. "The fact is that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place.'"

I'm in agreement with many who think that the Dems need to reframe and find a new language for the abortion issue by the time the next election cycle rolls around--logic and law clearly don't count for much among American voters these days. HRC apparently thinks so as well; this speech is taken straight from the Big Dog's playbook. As you'll recall, he found a tenable position on the abortion issue by emphasizing that it should be "safe, legal and rare."

On another level, however, Hillary's comments reminded me of Chuck Todd's piece "Clintonism, R.I.P." in the Jan/Feb issue of the Atlantic (subscription only). In it, he argues that the success of Bill Clinton's "third way" strategy was essentially attributable to the political context of his presidency (a Congress populated at the outset of his first term by paleo-liberals and conservative revolutionaries) and Clinton's superb salesmanship. Everyone who's tried to adopt the same approach to campaigning since then--most recently, John Kerry--has come across as unprincipled, crassly political or morally ambivalent. Todd says that one way that the Democratic party can get out of the hole they're in is to campaign on bold new ideas that attempt to bring about fundamental changes in government and capture the imaginations of American voters.

Curiously enough, Todd says that a second way for the party to be rescued from Clinton nostalgia would be for HRC to revive Clintonism as a tactic and philosophy should she run in '08 (by the way: she's running). In this respect, I think he's plainly wrong. Fair or not, accurately or not (and I would argue inaccurately), Hillary is so deeply identified with Blue blood, far-left values that any efforts on her part to articulate a Middle Way on any given issue during a campaign will be trumpeted by the right wing and the allegedly-mainstream pundits as crass politics and shallow campaign strategy. As the article cited above noted in a passage not presented here, for example, right-wingers skipped right over the part of her speech where she firmly restated her commitment to legal abortion, and jumped all over her for talking out of both sides of her mouth and playing politics with the issue. More to the point for Democrats that don't have the initials DLC bar-coded into their foreheads, what would the Middle Way in an HRC presidency look like now that the Democratic party has already moved so far to the right over the past decade? What exactly does the path of compromise and splitting differences lead to if you've got Tom DeLay on one side of the table and Evan Bayh on the other?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome back.

9:25 PM  

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