I’m going to rudely hijack one political issue to make a point about another. I think you’ll quickly figure out what it is.
NARAL has been undermining their own relevance by failing to support pro-choice positions in a misguided attempt to court moderates—basically, as Ezra Klein points out, they’re failing to recognize their role in the political ecosphere. They’re an advocacy group for a specific range of policies, not a politician who has to balance constituencies—they are supposed to be spokespeople for one particular constituency.
…one thing groups like NARAL have a tendency to do is accept vaguely acceptable-sounding or politically popular bills in an effort to remain in the center, believing their group’s moderate credentials — see also their early endorsement of Lincoln Chafee — somehow important. The alternative strategy — practiced by the NRA, among others — would be to wage all-out war on even these minor encroachments, thus fighting to shift the center left.
This strategy of trying to join the center rather than move it is a damaging one. If NARAL were totally dogmatic and absolutist, that would make life much easier on Democrats who could occasionally show their “centrism” by voting against NARAL-opposed legislation that actually doesn’t much matter. Instead, however, to demonstrate independence on choice, Democrats end up supporting much more onerous and repulsive legislation, because just aping NARAL’s priorities line doesn’t win them any points in the media. Elected politicians, after all, often have to remain “in the center.” Independent interest groups, on the other hand, can spend their time trying to redefine what “the center” is. NARAL — and others on the left — should do more to exploit that freedom.
Digby also reiterates this very important point.
I do not think NARAL understands its function anymore. It is not a politician from a conservative district who won with only a few percentage points and needs to pander. It is not a political party that needs to gloss over differences to come to consensus. It is an advocacy organization. Its job is to hold the line and then move the debate their way.
If this is true for NARAL, how much more appropriate is it for the independent voices we look for on blogs? The job of the blogger is not to triangulate and strain to express some hypothetical view of some nebulous ‘moderate’—it’s to state his or her opinion, unmellowed by that fawning desire to appeal to a majority. Our readers are presumably sampling multiple online sources, and what we have to expect is that they will make up their own minds on the basis of those many inputs, and the real arrogance is to pretend that we can read those minds and aspire to represent a majority. We can’t and we don’t. We are nothing but the enabled and accessible voices for nations of one.
I am strongly pro-choice, so much so that my views probably make many other pro-choice people uncomfortable…and that should be OK. I am not trying to stand for a consensus, I am staking out my position.
This is also true for my views on other aspects of the political argument, on science and evolution, and on religion vs. atheism. I simply do not understand why apologists for religion, for instance, think they need to carp at me and tell me to be less radical, to moderate my stance and to quit alienating those hypothetical fence-sitters that they are trying to woo. That’s not my job. My goal is to shift the debate towards my position (without expecting that everyone will adopt my specific views), and I can’t accomplish that by letting the rope go slack and drifting towards someone else’s position.
So, loud and proud, baby. Fight for your ideas, not those that someone else tells you are examples of what the majority wants to hear. Majorities are made of individuals, and the only way we’ll ever get an honest consensus is if everyone is singing out frankly for their own beliefs.