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Monday, January 02, 2006

Self-Determined Anchor

I remember when it happened. I turned to my wife and said, "He just lost." To John Kerry's credit, he kept it close. But his insistence that he personally thought abortion was wrong, but that he would defend its legality struck almost everyone as disingenuous. It contributed to his image as a waffler, adrift with no anchor or rudder. After all, if you can say you believe something is murder - which is what Kerry was saying when he aligned his personal beliefs with the Catholic Church - then how can you come back and say it's all right? You can't.

To put such blatant contradictions side-by-side and ask people to swallow them is the height of arrogance. It's telling someone they are too stupid to recognize the inherent disagreement in your statements.

This is not to say that Kerry was either stupid, arrogant, or disingenuous. Yet that is the way at least half of America will always remember him (which is why I shiver when I hear him talk about 2008).

It's an inherent problem with triangulation - trying to pin down the most favorable political spot by constant in-depth polling. Half of America wants to ban abortion and the other half doesn't. Half of America wants to hear about your personal values and the other half doesn't care. The only thing to do is to find some touchey-feeley place half-way between extremes that will at least provide some cover to people who want to support you politically. It's rubbish - dangerous rubbish.

Kerry isn't alone with this problem. When was the last time you heard a Democrat hinge their position on any solid personal convinction? The only one that does so consistently, as far as I can tell, is Joe Lieberman - who I usually disagree with. At least I can respect him for having the courage to actually say what he believes. Apparently, this is not good enough for some Democrats - they'd rather have a leaf fluttering in their breeze than someone who stands like a rock upon their values and defends them against all comers.

THAT is why we are a minority party.

What Democrats are trying to do now is to cobble together a winning platform - without making sure that the foundation to hold it up is in place. Any half-baked carpenter will tell you that's a recipe for disaster.

We have lost our sense of connectedness. We have not only lost our rudder, but also the steering wheel, all the oars, and we have no will to paddle with our hands - after all, that's manual labor, and that's for the people we are protecting - not us.

Democrats have to plant our flag and defend it - not on a case by case, issue by issue basis, but on a grand scale.

I propose self-determination as that basis. What is the heart of the pro-choice movement? What is the basic necessity of providing food stamps and welfare? What is the platform for universal health coverage? What is the theme of a foreign policy that will face down the evil of repressive regimes and offer generous assistence to emerging democracies struggling to find their way? What will allow us to support the opening and liberalizing of fascist regimes and still hold ourselves and our allies accountable for ensuring full domestic representation? Self-determination, every time.

It was self-determination that led faithful colonials to become revolutionaries. It was self-determination that led the best and brightest minds of their age to forge the compromise that is the United States Constitution. It was self-determination that built the American dream, brick by brick.

It was ignoring self-determination or setting it aside that led to the darkest times of our history - the enslavement of blacks, exterminated Native Americans, deprived women and racial minorities of the right to vote, own property, or even testify in their own defense.

What would have changed if John Kerry had said, "The head of my Church says that abortion is morally wrong - but I have determined that they are incorrect in their assessment. I've prayed about it; I've thought about it; I've wrestled with every facet of the issue. I can't find it in myself to fully embrace on-demand abortion without regard to the consequences - but I do believe that every woman in America has the moral compass to make the choice that is morally and ethically the right decision for her body and her soul. I cannot, under any circumstances, take that decision away from her - and it is simply un-American to imply otherwise." ?

It's a much different statement than, "It's wrong, but..." It's more honest, more open for debate, and more powerful. Again and again, that framework provides a haven for liberal and progressive politics.

As a democrat (with a small "d"), self-determination is the ultimate goal of society. As a Christian, it is worth dying for to determine for myself to follow my God unimpeded by social controls.

If Democrats are going to be in the same boat, then they are going to have to find an anchor. If you'll pardon the play on words - we'll have to determine for our selves what that anchor will be.

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