Since others will bring this up, let me state my bias right up front: I am a pro-life Democrat. I do not think there is any way to find a coalition for meaningful change -- any kind of real compromise at all -- on abortion policies in this country without the involvement of pro-life liberals, old-school conservative Democrats, mainstream Catholics, Hispanics, African-American clergy and many others who do not feel at home in the Republican Party. Now that I have that out of the way, I want to vent a bit about the whole angle the mainstream press is taking right now about the collapse of the Republicans in some parts of the Bible Belt and the Heartland in general. I refer, of course, to the trio of defeats on the latest special elections to the U.S. House of Representatives. Yes, I have written about this before.
The question of the day is this: What are the Republicans doing wrong?
Take, for example, the Washington Post A1 report by Jonathan Weisman and Paul Kane that ran with the headline, "After String of Losses, Republicans Face Crisis."
House Republicans turned on themselves yesterday after a third straight loss of a GOP-held House seat in special elections this year left both parties contemplating widespread Democratic gains in November.
In huddles, closed-door meetings and hastily arranged conference calls, some Republicans demanded the head of their political chief, while others decried their leadership as out of touch with the political catastrophe they face.
GOP leaders sought yesterday to "re-brand" the party with a new slogan and renewed pledges of fiscal rectitude and limited government. But the slogan -- "The Change You Deserve" -- came under mocking fire, because it parallels Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama's "Change We Can Believe In" motto and it mirrors the advertising slogan for the antidepressant Effexor.
Wonderful. The Onion couldn't do a better job of covering this situation.
If you keep reading, you'll learn all kinds of things about what the Republicans are saying about each other and the tactics they are attempting to stop the slide. It's a real inside-baseball, inside-the-Beltway horse race report.
There are more wails from the GOP:
Even Republican strategists were downcast about their prospects for the fall.
"These races were not in New Jersey or New England, where Republican erosion has taken place over the last decade. They were in the heart of the Bible Belt, the social conservative core of our coalition," Rep. Tom Davis (Va.) fretted in a 20-page memorandum given to House Republican leaders yesterday and provided to The Washington Post.
"Members and pundits, waiting for Democrats to fumble the ball so that soft Republicans and Independents will snap back to the GOP, fail to understand the deep seeded antipathy toward the President, the war, gas prices, the economy, foreclosures and, in some areas, the underlying cultural differences that continue to brand our party."
But there is something really interesting about this horse race -- it seems that there is only one horse.
Very few people are asking: What are the Democrats -- at least in these recent races -- doing right?
However, the New York Times report at least mentions the winning candidate and devotes one or two words -- a flicker of a hint -- as to what went on down there in Mississippi.
The Republican defeat in a special Congressional contest in Mississippi sent waves of apprehension across an already troubled party Wednesday, with some senior Republicans urging Congressional candidates to distance themselves from President Bush to head off what could be heavy losses in the fall.
The victory by Travis Childers, a conservative Democrat elected in a once-steadfast Republican district on Tuesday, was the third defeat of a Republican in a special Congressional race this year. In addition to foreshadowing more losses for the party in November, the outcome appeared to call into question the belief that Senator Barack Obama of Illinois could be a heavy liability for his party's down-ticket candidates in conservative regions.
And what, pray tell, is a "conservative Democrat" these days? What if these victories for the Democrats are, in some way, linked to the actual merits of the Democratic Party's candidates in these races, their actual stands on key moral, political and cultural issues?
In other words, can Democrats continue to win races in these zip codes if they continue to run candidates whose beliefs -- religion is going to figure into this -- echo those of the voters in those regions? In other words, what happens if the Democrats run populists who are progressive on many issues and conservative on moral issues? What happens if the party platform, for example, at least suggested that compromise was possible on the moral and cultural issues? What if the "conscience clause" was restored on abortion?
Back in 2000, the platform said that Democrats stand "behind the right of every woman to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade." However, it also said the "Democratic Party is a party of inclusion. We respect the individual conscience of each American on this difficult issue, and we welcome all our members to participate at every level of our party."
But things changed. In the 2004 platform, the conscience clause was replaced with a statement that Democrats "stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine" abortion rights.
Tell that to the Democrats who are winning these special elections.
We need information, please. Tell us more about the content of these races. Give us some facts.