Liberals must take Conservatives#039; lead

by Beacon Staff • October 31, 2007

This will continue until progressives learn how to play the game-and make democracy work for them-the same way religious conservatives have.

The Oct. 19 Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C. presented an opportunity for the leading Republican presidential candidates to court the frustrated voters of the religious right.,American liberalism is faltering.

This will continue until progressives learn how to play the game-and make democracy work for them-the same way religious conservatives have.

The Oct. 19 Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C. presented an opportunity for the leading Republican presidential candidates to court the frustrated voters of the religious right.

With some estimates finding that evangelical Christians make up roughly one-fourth of the US electorate, these consistently conservative voters are arguably the most powerful bloc in the Republican Party.

Liberals loathe social conservatives' backwards beliefs and take pleasure in the much-publicized reports of this demographic's displeasure with the GOP field.

What the left should be doing, however, is taking notes.

The religious right's rise to power began in 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which ruled that laws preventing abortion violated privacy rights.

Protecting the unborn became the unifying cause for conservative Christians, a previously fragmented and politically marginal group. The Rev. Jerry Falwell formed the Moral Majority soon after, and a groundswell of anti-abortion conservatives lifted Ronald Reagan to the presidency.

The Moral Majority and like-minded organizations have influenced the national discourse not only on the abortion issue, but on the topics of school prayer, same-sex marriage, stem cell research, evolution and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well.

There is little interest in mass appeal come election time-they want candidates who fall in line-and their positions are uncompromising. The conservative dissatisfaction with current candidates, particularly Giuliani, has led many leaders, such as James Dobson of the socially conservative organization Focus on the Family, to recommend supporting a third party in 2008 even if that leads to a Democratic president.

The left's gleeful watching of Christian groups threatening to split from the GOP is an incredibly foolish and short-sighted attitude to take.

After 25 years of Republican ascendancy, Democrats and liberal interest groups are acting more concerned with winning than principle.

There was never a serious split from the centrist, welfare-slashing Bill Clinton. Democrats chose the underwhelming John Kerry because of his military record, so he would not look anti-war.

That strategy failed, but more importantly, it sacrificed liberalism's soul in the hopes of winning an election. At least the Falwell conservatives are putting up a fight.

Liberalism in its current state is too fragmented to exhibit any real national influence. Everyone knows what the well-organized rightist Christian movement embodies, but the left is more vague-a messy coalition of antiwar activists, unions, environmentalists, women's groups and more.

And while the current Democratic crop gives lip service to all these factions, no subset is individually powerful enough to derail or elect a candidate within the party.

Until there is unity among the myriad blocs, liberal citizens are forced to vote with the electoral map in mind, rather than with their hearts. This is why Hillary Clinton can be the overwhelming favorite for Democrats nationally despite her vote for the Iraq War. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, likewise, can shun the anti-war left while still counting on their votes.

What Democrats must realize is that by refusing to compromise their principles and vote based on electability, the religious right wins, no matter who ends up as the next president.

If Republicans ignore this constituency by nominating a pro-choice candidate who ends up losing, it will be a mistake the party makes only once.Liberals can sit back and enjoy the show if they like, but the religious right knows how to organize and be heard while the left does not. And if progressives continue to pick a candidate based solely on who they think will win, they won't be happy with what they get over the next four years.

And it won't be them who are laughing.