[quote author=“Nietzsche”]Paul Starr, writing in today’s NY Times, makes the valid point that Democrats (and liberals) have focused too much on winning constitutional battles through the courts, instead of winning elections, over the past 40 years. Now, it’s payback time. He writes:
To be sure, Democrats were right to challenge segregation and racism, support the revolution in women’s roles in society, to protect rights to abortion and to back the civil rights of gays. But a party can make only so many enemies before it loses the ability to do anything for the people who depend on it. For decades, many liberals thought they could ignore the elementary demand of politics - winning elections - because they could go to court to achieve these goals on constitutional grounds. The great thing about legal victories like Roe v. Wade is that you don’t have to compromise with your opponents, or even win over majority opinion. But that is also the trouble. An unreconciled losing side and unconvinced public may eventually change the judges.
And now we have reached that point. The Republicans, with their party in control of both elected branches - and looking to create a conservative majority on the Supreme Court that will stand for a generation - see the opportunity to overthrow policies and constitutional precedents reaching back to the New Deal.
That prospect ought to concentrate the liberal mind. Social Security, progressive taxation, affordable health care, the constitutional basis for environmental and labor regulation, separation of church and state - these issues and more hang in the balance.
Under these circumstances, liberal Democrats ought to ask themselves a big question: are they better off as the dominant force in an ideologically pure minority party, or as one of several influences in an ideologically varied party that can win at the polls? The latter, it seems clear, is the better choice.
That Paul Starr is one smart cookie.