Posted by Brian at 4:48 PM
Sorry Matt, but you're wrong on this one
I like Matt Yglesias--usually he's spot on in his assessments, and he's probably a hell of a lot smarter than I am, but in yesterday's Tapped, he makes a suggestion that scares the hell out of me. He says
Most commentators who've been urging Democrats to move right on cultural issues seem to assume that abortion is the best place to start. All the evidence, however, indicates that it would be the worst place to start and that, in fact, liberal views on the separation of church and state are much more unpopular. Fortunately, these issues are also less consequential in the real world, and if you're looking to compromise, basically symbolic issues are the best place to do it.
Now that may be correct as far as it goes, but it's still a crappy strategy, not to mention insulting to a number of segments of the voting populace. The issues involving the separation of church and state may be less consequential to Matt, but they aren't to the people who actually have to live in places where the American Taliban would bring back stoning if they could. He's got to understand that if that wall comes down, it won't be the Unitarians melding with government--it'll be the Robertson/Dobson wing of the First Church of the Sacred Wingnut calling the shots, and they won't be satisfied with a couple of courts hanging copies of the Ten Commandments or some statues in the rotundas of government buildings. It'll be all Jesus, all the time, and it won't be the hippie, let's love everyone Jesus. It'll be the Old Testament, smiting the pagans with fire and sulphur version.
And the pagans this time will be liberals, Jews, atheists, Muslims, and anyone else that dares disagree with the Great and Powerful Dobson.
Besides, compromise on that issue is just wrong. People accuse Democrats of never standing for anything--well this is the kind of issue that we ought to take a stand on, because if we really are the big tent, then damn it, our tent needs to be big, and we ought not to be tossing atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. overboard in search of a few votes.
We ought to make the case to Christians that we'll defend them as strongly as we defend any other religious or areligious group, and remind them that the only way that breaking down the wall between church and state benefits them is if their church is the one that wins the takeover battle. Point out that if their church doesn't win, then they'll be at the mercy of whoever does, and how willing are they going to be to entrust their rights to whatever church leader is ruthless enough to actually get that sort of power?
Update: I think this story makes my point more effectively than I ever could.