« Dems Need to Re-Think Consultant Policies | Main | Once Again on the Party ID Question »

Job One: Identifying Democratic Principles

In "First Principles: What Constitutes Necessary Rethinking, and What Constitutes Selling Out?," American Prospect editor Michael Tomasky has an important discussion regarding the need to identify the Party's core principles, as well as areas of possible compromise in order to build a solid majority in the electorate. As Tomasky notes:

...Self-examination does not mean inevitably moving to the middle. Adopting a centrist pose can be every bit as knee-jerk and shallow as insisting that nothingís changed since 1974, and it can be even more debilitating politically than going (or staying) left...But having such a conversation -- a conversation that really tries to figure out the difference between liberalismís first principles, on which there can be no compromise, and its secondary assertions, which may need a rethink -- is of vital importance.

..These are hard conversations to have. Keeping abortion a legal and, therefore, safe option for women is, for me, is a first principle, because the option gives women moral autonomy over an extremely personal decision that the state should not make in their behalf. But the rhetoric used to support that option is not a first principle. Itís a tactic, and itís right to talk about that...Gay marriage is a first principle, and someday the country will accept it. But itís reasonable to have a conversation about how to deal with the question politically until that someday arrives.

These conversations are necessary to strengthen liberalism. If abortion-rights activists find a better way to defend abortion rhetorically, thus appealing to more Americans and speaking to feelings of conflict some people may have about the practice, isnít that a good thing? Doesnít that do more to protect abortion in the long run? No oneís talking about reaching out to the religious right. Theyíre completely unreachable. There are, however, millions of Americans who arenít religious extremists who have mixed feelings about abortion. A political movement that doesnít try to persuade the conflicted isnít much of a movement.

Hard questions, indeed, but vitally necessary ones and Tomasky's article is a good place to start.