Posted by Bob Lord

Want to spot a Dem who won't stand up for progressive principles when it counts? This may sound counterintuitive, but watch for strong, loud, attention-grabbing progressive declarations on marriage equality and abortion rights. They're dead giveaways.


Those who read my posts or know me personally know that I'm solidly in favor of marriage equality and solidly pro-choice. But if the Progressive Democrats of Phoenix ever invited me to speak to them and my goal was to win not just their support, but their enthusiastic support, I wouldn't for a second consider spending time on either of those subjects. It's frankly boring stuff at this point. The issues have been thrashed out fully, and the polling results increasingly favor the progressive viewpoint, especially on marriage equality.

Instead, I'd focus on economic justice, American imperialism, and perhaps climate change. Those are issues where progressives feel the real battle is taking place. Those are issues on which our collective well being will turn. And those are issues where Dem politicians routinely disappoint their base. So, if my message is unmistakably progressive on those issues, I'm likely to fire my base up.   

So what does it mean when a Dem candidate is all over marriage equality as a campaign issue? It's just another aspect of the old bright shiny object phenomenon. In all likelihood, that candidate is hoping that if she goes overboard in support of marriage equality or a woman's right to choose, the base will connecgt emotionally and not focus on such things as fixing a tax code rigged in favor of the wealthy (including the candidate's campaign contributors) or questioning the 1000+ military bases we have strewn around the globe.

At the outset of a campaign, any well-advised "centrist" candidate will develop a strategy to placate the base, and the process will start with "where can I take a strong progressive position." The idea is not to take that position meekly, but to pound on it. If you're going to pound on an issue, you want it to be one that won't cost you any votes. For a long time, abortion rights fit that bill. Very recently, the polls have moved to where marriage equality fits it even better. Yes, there are plenthy of homophobes remaining, but the homophobes that remain opposed to marriage equality are the ones who never, ever will vote D. In The Political Brain, Drew Westen explains that if 30% or so of the voters don't detest a candidate, the candidate is doing something wrong. If you're a Dem these days, the voters who remain opposed to marriage equality are the voters Westen is referring to. There's just no downside anymore for a Dem to support same sex marriage. 

And that's why so many Democratic politicians are now so loudly and so unabashedly in favor of marriage equality. They're not all having the same epiphany at the same time. Rather, they're all reading the same poll results. And those polls say that vocal support of marriage equality has become the safest way to shore up their base. Would they like to speak to tougher issues? Perhaps, but they either don't feel comfortable doing so or are not willing to take the political risk. 

So if you're a progressive, it should be a sign to you of the issues they may prefer not to discuss prior to the election.