Archive for December, 2011
Among the products of 2011’s Great Reapportionment Debacle has been a claim by State Representative Amy Stephens that Democrats on the Reapportionment Commission have been particularly aggressive in targeting Republican women legislators, combining their districts with others represented by sitting Republicans.
Her comments have produced a fair amount of tut-tutting and cluck-clucking, not from the Left, when too much protest doth be expected, but from fellow Republicans, concerned that such claims are unbecoming a party priding itself on a meritocratic approach to politics, as opposed to one driven by race and gender demographics.
Indeed, properly done, such a complaint is not merely smart politics, it’s all the smarter for having the added virtue of being true.
Politics being what it is, meaning that life and people being what they are, hypocrisy is among the easiest charges to level against any opponent claiming to have standards. It’s one rhetorical advantage that Democrats have always had over Republicans. Nobody understood this better than the Democrats’ current Pamphleteer of Record, Saul Alinsky, who included in his toolkit making the opposition live by its own rules.
It’s not necessary for you to believe in those rules for the criticism to be valid. A friend of mine, who frankly has no interest in the Constitution beyond the bludgeons of the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause, has no problem pointing out (sometimes fallaciously) where this or that Republican isn’t much of an originalist. The criticism has two purposes – it dispirits Republicans who have to compromise from time to time, and it advances the subtext that maybe originalism isn’t all that important, after all.
The Democrat coalition has for years consisted substantially of balkanized interest groups, seeking to officially balkanize both American politics and society. Pointing out that in practice, the political activities of that party does not serve the interests of women (in this case), or other groups, is unlikely to faze the professional victims, but may give their alleged constituents pause to consider.
Indeed, making use of the fact that such a coalition is ultimately a zero-sum game is the surest way to fracture it. Democrats are especially threatened by prominent conservatives who are either not white or not men. Even if one believes that the Democrats on the Apportionment Commission were motivated more by the chance to take out leadership than to target prominent Republican women, the fact that so many of the Republican leadership are also women sends a message of its own that Democrats would rather not confront.
Many conservatives are still upset with Rep. Stephens over the state-run Health Insurance Exchanges and her intemperate response to their objections. Indeed, almost a year on, added information about Obamacare has highlighted and validated just about every one of those objections. I’m not in Rep. Stephens’s old or new district, and she was personally very supportive of both my runs for office. But she’s a big girl, and can take of herself.
My worry is that, by a too-vociferous insistence that those on our side not only agree with us, but agree with us for exactly the right reasons, and using exactly the words we would use, we’re going to end up robbing ourselves of effective rhetorical weaponry. Arguments that work amongst ourselves may not be so successful out in the wide world of independents and thoughtful Democrats. And arguments that peel away pieces of their coalition may be less persuasive among conservatives. There’s more than one way to skin an interest group.
Slings and arrows are part of politics and political discourse, even within your own camp.