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Friday, December 24, 2004

Did Kerry Lose Because of Abortion?

Some Democrats seem to think so.

But Democratic leaders said they were concerned that their candidates - in particular John Kerry - were perceived as morally untroubled about the issue.

Let's go to the third debate:

I believe that I can't legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith. What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn't share that article of faith.

Maybe that's too abstract a way to frame the issue, but I think the problem is perhaps more rhetorical than substantive. Kerry said essentially the same thing in the second debate when a woman asked him what he would say to an abortion opponent.

Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater here, so to speak. That Kerry may have failed to connect with voters with regard to this or that issue does not mean that Democrats need to move to the right. Kerry was just a crappy communicator. There is a way to speak out for abortion rights in a way that can have broader appeal, like the "safe, legal and rare" line from Bill Clinton referenced in the NYT Nagourney piece.

UPDATE: I see the LA Times had a similar article yesterday:

Party leaders say their support for preserving the landmark ruling [Roe v. Wade] will not change. But they are looking at ways to soften the hard line, such as promoting adoption and embracing parental notification requirements for minors and bans on late-term abortions. Their thinking reflects a sense among strategists that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry and the party's congressional candidates lost votes because the GOP conveyed a more compelling message on social issues.

To be clear, I support all three of those things mentioned in the article. I don't think carving out reasonable limits to abortions, and providing alternatives, is necessarily inconsistent with choice. Then again, I'm not exactly the most adamantly pro-choice Democrat you'll ever meet.

Note again, though, the concern is that, "the GOP conveyed a more compelling message." Generally, I think it's better to work on conveying the message better before you start changing around your beliefs for political expediency.