A Last Stand

E. J. Dionne Jr. has an excellent op-ed about how abortion is a Litmus Test for Hypocrisy.

It is well worth the read.

It deals less with abortion per say. And while Dionne looks at the positions or rather the evolving positions of various politicians, he only uses that as the point of his foil.

He looks at the deeper issue. Abortion, as with many other issues, is a test of whether a politician can tow the party line. To be accepted to the upper echelons of leadership, one must adapt to the parties ideas. Abortion happens to be one of the first and foremost of those ideas.

This has two effects.

First, politicians are forced to represent positions they don’t necessarily hold, thus they use talking points memos and pundits to push issues. That waters down the political debate and disillusions voters. Do you really believe the politician or is that just another plank in the party line?

But second, the public crucifies politicians who don’t actually have positions on some issues. Simply because the issue is, in the opinion of the lawmaker less then central, the public and the pundits have room to attack and destroy the opposition. According to Dionne,

But there is something systematic about the willingness of politicians to adapt their views on abortion to suit the preferences of whatever electorate they are facing at any given time. The reason: Our political system has created strong incentives for candidates to be less than candid about what they really think.

To begin with, candidates are rarely willing to say outright what’s true for so many of them: that they do not consider abortion the most important issue in politics and that it is not the reason they entered public life.
[…]
Yet politicians who acknowledged that abortion was not one of their driving concerns would be denounced, oddly enough, as unprincipled. [my emphasis]

I feel that the party system, while necessary in a less connected past, it has out lived it’s usefulness. Perhaps it is time to find a way to bring the vote closer to those who are effected. To stop forcing politicians to take a stand on every issue, only on those that they believe in.

And remember, taking a stand isn’t always a good idea. Look what happened to Custer.

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