It’s tough to remember now that we are after the Obama campaign, but in 2005 one of the most exciting Centrist Democratic plans for regaining a significant place for liberalism in the country wasn’t finding a foreign policy differentiable from aggressive unilateralism or an economic policy distinguishable from a financialized craps table. Instead the plan for Democrats to regain electoral strength was hoping that Roe v. Wade would be overturned. Democrats could then have something to rally around and the Republican coalition, now forced to actually engage the legislative battle at the state level, would be exposed as extremists and not reasonable people when they had to start proposing bills.
This falls under a kind of Centrist Leninism, where once enough women, minorities, GLBT’ers, and working class people are ground through the mud by conservative governance, once the contradictions have been heightened to a sufficient level, then the people would realize how unreasonable the other side is and milquetoast Democrats could reign again. Scott Lemieux (among many others) demolished this line of reasoning at the American Prospect, and thankfully liberals found some other ways to step into the implosion of the Bush presidency.
But it appears that the attack on women’s rights is coming across the political space at a shocking pace. I’m late on this, and it has been covered elsewhere better: Here’s one list, and that was before the House voted to defund Planned Parenthood (and Representative Speier’s explaining how she underwent an abortion, disrupted the boy’s club Congressional discussion of the topic). Democrats are responding accordingly, pointing out that voter have gotten hoodwinked into voting for hardline culture warriors with no economic plan into office. I hope it works.
I can’t tell if that instinct, to let the other side overplay their hand and then appear to be the reasonable adult at the table, is guiding the strategy around the budget showdown. It helps that the other side is so hellbent on running the country off a cliff, and there exists few, if any, countervailing forces within the conservative movement to stop it. The government is in a major game of chicken for a shutdown around March 4th, one with serious consequences, and I think some Democrats are hoping to use this opportunity to show how reasonable they are. Again, I hope it works. But each day that goes by makes me think that the other side is gaining the upper hand, and like John Quiggin I’m surprised more people aren’t freaking out about this.