Wednesday, July 20, 2005

What We Get for Having Issue-less Campaigns

I won't go over all the details about John Roberts, which other bloggers are doing, except to say that all the concerns that are now being raised about him, and which would have been raised about any other nominee from my fellow liberal travelers, would have been better raised during the campaign. Republicans will argue, probably with some high degree of success, that since they have won the last several election cycles, the Democrats and their arguments don't warrant much of a hearing now.

Membership in the Federalist Society, abortion rights, the right to privacy, and the rights of individuals, consumers, french-fry eating metro riders, and military members versus the rights of corporations, law enforcement authorities, and the executive branch are all important issues and conflicts that it is the duty of opposing parties and especially their leading candidates during election time to raise.

The failure of the party system--particulary the Democratic Party since it is obstensibly committed to representing the less privileged--to raise issues of importance during campaigns is partly, if not considerably, the result of mass media influence, which decides which matters best serve their ratings, the accessibility needs and professional biases of their members, and, with Faux, their partisan interests.

Partly, however, the Democratic Party and its candidates must bear some responsiblity for this situation. How helpful is talk about "moving to the center", and the need to connect with "values voters" now? Running away from the word "liberal", trying to speak in bland, non-partisan, third-way verbage, and continually being in a position of always having to respond to one supposed outrage or another doesn't help a party be successful when it is trying to defend important rights.

While televised committee room hearings have their place for informing the public and shaping opinions and outcomes, television and radio advertising, televised and high profile speeches at conventions, and surrogate "talking points" during a campaign can and should be used to let the public know what the party's stands and concerns are. To the extent that campaigns focus primarily on the candidate and his or her character (or war record), the less able will the party of the "have-nots" be able to promote and defend an ideology and agenda committed to protecting rights and creating opportunity.

Hopefully this nomination and any future ones will help awaken the party leadership to its obligation.

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