Friday, August 01, 2003

Democrats and Interest Groups: My cursory discussion of this (point 3, here) deserves a bit more attention. Primarily, none of this is to say that the GOP isn't deeply in hock to several interests, not least of which is the NRA, which has money, a strong base, and the willingness to put its muscle to use. But for the Dems, the most important of the interest groups is the abortion rights lobby. The reasons for this are clear: women make up one of the party's only solid, identifiable bases among whites. Remember the famous gender gap? The only thing that made the 2000 election even close was that women stuck with Gore, even as his support tanked with men. Some of this may be written off as female sensitivity to the "kitchen table" issues that were Gore's focus. This may be true, or it may be just a stereotype. Even if true, I don't think it counts for many points in the gap. Most of it, I believe, has to do with the primacy of the abortion issue among politically active women.

An indirect clue to this can be seen in the "evolution" of Democrats' views on abortion as their careers progress. No pro-life Democrat can compete, for example, in Democratic primaries. Thus we see the change come to politicians like Al Gore as they step onto the national stage. In this primary season alone we have as many as three candidates with "evolved" positions. Even this kissy-face article on Kucinich mentions the fact that he went from pro-life to pro-choice in a bootlegger turn. Dick Gephardt, too, talks of his "journey" on the issue. Joe Lieberman is said to have made pro-life pledges in Connecticut, although Lieberman disputes the matter.

On the other hand, David Corn wrote a good, convincing piece for the Nation arguing that Bush is guilty of the reverse flip-flop -- pro-choice to pro-life. And McCain got in some minor trouble in the 2000 primary for dropping pro-choice hints. Both parties are guilty of the same sins of orthodoxy, perhaps. But I'll offer two guesses on the issue. First, a vice-president will have to break with the orthodoxy before a president can. Second, the GOP will do it first. After all, they flirted with it by short-listing pro-choice Tom Ridge for the VP slot in 2000. The pro-life crowd has an influence in Republican politics, but it's not nearly the clout that the groups like NARAL and EMILY's List have on the other side.

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