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What Happens When Perceived Electability Trumps Ideals April 25, 2006

Posted by papundit in Uncategorized.
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In 2004, many of my Democratic friends, despite a lack of enthusiasm for Kerry, voted for him in the Democratic primary. They were "Anybody but Bush" voters, and they wanted a candidate who could win even more than they wanted a candidate who inspired them. They liked Dean or Clark but believed Kerry- as a war hero and a senator- was the man to defeat Bush. These same voters believe Casey- as the son of a pro-life icon- is the man to defeat Santorum. The casey-is-boring-and-uninspiring-but-he-can-win tone of many articles gives me a sense of Bush/Kerry deja vu.

John McIntire, writing in the Pittsburgh City Paper, states that he is an "Anybody but Santorum" voter who would like to see the Democrats win an election. His concern is that when Casey "gives his stump speech, there's more charisma coming from the stump."

One of Chuck Pennacchio's supporters on the Yahoo Group Pennacchio_for_Pennsylvania wrote,

"Casey's lead over Santorum probably tells a lot more about Santorum than it does Casey. How many people are actually excited about the prospect of a Senator Casey?! Even many of his supporters admit he's dull and has no message."

I suspect that even some Casey's supporters would be more excited about a Senator Pennacchio than a Senator Casey, but the Democratic Party has made a conscious decision to sacrifice idealism in favor of perceived electability. The Philadelphia City Paper observes,

"Sure, he's pro-life, but so are a lot of Democrats and swing voters in western Pennsylvania. Casey could pull them back into the Democratic ranks, the thinking goes. As for the staunch liberals and pro-choice moderates in Philly and its suburbs, well, what are they going to do? Vote Santorum?…When Casey takes the stage, he is greeted with raucous applause and cheers a savior's welcome…He does not mention abortion, but he doesn't have to. Bob Casey doesn't have to agree with them on everything, the Democrats have decided. Bob Casey just has to win."

Some of my Republican friends have told me they are concerned that a Santorum loss would discourage the Republican Party from nominating social conservatives in the future since they could be perceived as less electable. This concern is one reason that they will be volunteering and contributing to the Santorum campaign.

But reading these articles makes me wonder what a Casey win would mean to the Democratic Party as they prepare for 2008. Whether Casey is a social conservative or just a liberal pretending to be a social conservative is a matter of debate. Regardless of Casey's true position, it is clear that a victory for Casey would send a signal to the DNC that abandoning (or at least pretending to abandon) traditional Democratic social issues (abortion rights, gay marriage and gun control) is the path to victory. And that victory would sound the death knell for Democratic support of issues dear to the left-wing base in all but the bluest of the blue states.

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