Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Bulworth wrote yesterday about John F. Kennedy's eloquent defense of the separation of church and state, and a current Democratic consultant who's advising clients to forget about it. It's an excellent post, and I mostly agree with it...but there's one bit I do think is worth commenting on:
But even more broadly, this tendency to pander to religious interests reflects an unwillingness on the part of many Democrats to engage in any kind of conflict whatsoever. While the issue is more economics than religion, Matt Stoller discusses this tendency among Democrats such as John Edwards.
True enough, as far as it goes. Certainly, Democrats as a whole have avoided conflict in cases where I would have liked to see them engage in it.

That said, while conflict may be necessary, that doesn't make it a virtue. Conflict should be avoided, except where absolutely necessary. We need the broadest possible coalition if we are to have any hope of governing, and unnecessary conflict diminishes the coalition. We cannot afford to discard our fundamental principles (like separation of church and state), but we also cannot afford to engage in conflict for its own sake, no matter how emotionally satisfying that may be.

(And to illustrate 'conflict for its own sake', I'll take the Matt Stoller example Bulworth brought up. As Ezra explains, Stoller is slamming Edwards for working with Al Wynn on a single specific anti-poverty strategy. Yes, Wynn is a whore for the creditors...but Edwards, and Edwards' advisor on bankruptcy issues (Elizabeth Warren), are not. Stoller's point seems to be that if somebody is bad on some key issue--or, hell, bad on a lot of them--any attempt to work with them at all is 'appeasement', even if it concerns areas of genuine agreement. That's the opposite of coalition-building.)

In the case of religion, conflict is inevitable...but we need to be very careful to choose the right conflict. Republicans have worked long and hard, with a good deal of success, to frame the conflict as 'Democrats vs. religion'. If that's the conflict, we lose. I think Vanderslice is deeply misguided about how to go about defusing this particular manufactured conflict, but I think she's right about the necessity of doing it somehow.

[Cross-posted at If I Ran the Zoo]

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