So will many other Democrats this fall. They aim to match President Obama’s feat in 2012, when the incumbent used topics such as same-sex marriage and contraception as weapons to offset his vulnerability on the economy. That they would even try while facing the older, whiter, more conservative midterm electorate shows how thoroughly the politics of social issues have turned upside down.
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“Acid, amnesty and abortion” was the epithet hurled at the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate, George McGovern. Republicans seized on concerns about welfare, school busing and crime — memorably with a black convict named Willie Horton in 1988 — to cement their grip on white voters. As recently as 2004, Republicans used a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to rally tradition-minded “values voters” behind President George W. Bush’s re-election.
Now the values wedge cuts for Democrats. Demographic change keeps shrinking Nixon’s “Silent Majority.” President Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress overhauled welfare. Fear of crime has receded enough that members of both parties propose more lenient sentencing.
It’s pretty impossible to maintain a truce when the other side has no interest in one and has shown repeatedly that they will take the opportunity posed by any cessation in hostilities to advance and claim new territory. You might think that people don’t have abortion on the top of their minds (and you’d probably be right) but while all attention is elsewhere the Democrats have been aggressively trying to shift the debate from “women should have the right to a legal abortion” to “the highest goal of any woman is to not have children and all her efforts in this regard should be subsidized by others.”
I am as alarmed by the encroaching size and scope of the Federal government as the next guy, to say nothing of our current monetary and foreign policies. But we are staring down the barrel of an enemy that is determined to remake America in the image of a country none of us know or are familiar with. And they have no interest in truces except to the extent that they can treat them like surrenders.