Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I feel so justified

Ever since my somewhat histrionic de-veiling, I've wondered whether I'd mistaken the moment, whether NARAL's endorsement of the pro-choice Republican Chafee might not represent some sell-out on my part, whether I had taken all considerations in light. Well, one commenter on a follow-up at Yglesias's site really makes my dilemma easier. I cite Dan Kervick:

If NARAL wants to accomplish something, wouldn't backing a pro-choice Democrat be a better option? What has Chaffee actually accomplished? It's all well and good for NARAL to stand on principle but if they keep backing Repubs they'll be going down with the ship.

It's not just principle. An advocacy group like NARAL can't be effective if it continually compromises the integrity of its endorsements for the sake of high-risk partisan strategems, and too-clever-by-half political foxiness. Langevin had a 10% rating from NARAL. How could they possibly endorse him?

Suppose NARAL had endorsed Langevin. Consider some strongly pro-choice, northern Republican woman, in some state other than Rhode Island, who actually looks to NARAL for guidance on who has the best position on choice, and sometimes allows that guidance to move her to cross over and vote for the other party. She calls NARAL headquarters in 2010, and the following conversation ensues:

"Whom do you endorse in the upcoming Senatorial race?"

"We are endorsing Senator Laran"

"Well, Senator Laran is a Democrat ... and I usually don't vote for Democrats"

"We understand, but if you are interested in voting for the candidate with the best record on abortion rights, it is Senator Laran"

"How do I know that is true?"

"Because we say so ... because that's what we do here at NARAL. We do a lot of homework on the candidates, and endorse the one who has the best record on abortion rights and closely related issues."

"Yes, but what about that time you endorsed that guy Langevin from Rhode Island. I heard he had a 10% rating from NARAL - yet you endorsed him anyway."

"Well that was different. In that case, we decided it was most important to endorse the candidate from the party that was most likely to protect abortion rights."

"Which was ... ?"

"The Democrats."

"Well then how do I know that's not what you're doing now? - endorsing Laran because he is a Democrat, even though the other candidate has a better record on choice?"

"Ummm ... because we're not. Because we wouldn't do that. We wouldn't deceive you like that"

"Uh-huh ... just like with Langevin and Chaffee, right?"

"That was different ... That was special. It was really, really crucial that we get a Democratic majority in the Senate that year."

"And this election isn't special? It's not crucial that a Democratic candidate win this race?"

"No, it's not ... The party imbalance is such that it really doesn't matter this time. There is no chance that the Sentate will tip in a different direction. That's why we're just endorsing the candidates with the best records on abortion rights this time."

"So then what you're saying is that I might as well vote for a Republican, since I agree with the Republicans on all the other issues, and abortion rights don't hang in the balance ... and no matter which candidate wins this race, the overall national direction on abortion won't change."

"Um ... no ... It's not that non-special and non-crucial. Abortion rights always hang in the balance ... sort of."

"Uh huh ... so that's why you want me to vote for Laran ... because he's a Democrat and you basically always support Democrats."

"Well I guess we do always support Democrats."


"Because they are the party of choice."

"Like Langevin and Casey and Reid, right? - and some of those other pro-life Democrats you've supported in the last few years."

"Well they are mostly the party of choice - most of the time."

"Yeah well it looks to me like the Democrats will soon be the 'party of choice' the way the Republicans are the 'party of Lincoln' - even when they are running guys like Jesse Helms and Trent Lott."


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