Yesterday, I wondered if the Democratic Convention this year will mirror the Republican Party’s 1992 “Family Values” affair; it would “mirror” it in the way a mirror reproduces an image but from the opposite perspective of the original.
Back then, the Republicans focused on “family values,” attempting to raise doubts about then-womanizing Democratic nominee. This year, the Democrats seem also focused on “abortion rights,” attempting to raise doubts about Republicans who, they allege, want to wage some kind of war on women.
In their respective conventions, each party would make social issues the focus by attacking the supposed extremism of the other side. And both times, it seems the parties struggled to find a focus. Then-President George H.W. Bush couldn’t run on the economy, given its sour state in 1992(though not as sour as today) and he raised taxes despite pledging not to do so.
Current President Barack Obama can’t run on the economy, given the weak recovery, with growth much less and unemployment much higher than his team had forecast when he pushed his “stimulus”. And he has failed to cut the deficit in half despite pledging to do so.
Interesting for today’s Democrats that they’re only now, fewer than two weeks before their affair, seizing on the abortion issue — in the wake of Todd Akin’s crazy comments. (And this, like the Bush reelection campaign of 1992, is indeed a campaign in search of a theme.) Yesterday, as I noted in an update, Ed Morrissey reported that recent agenda changes at the Democratic convention, would “make Akin the poster boy of the GOP and focus the three-day affair on abortion and contraception policy“.
Making social issues the focus may rally the base, but it won’t sway independent voters for whom the economy is the primary issues. Democrats this year could learn a lesson from an embattled Republican facing reelection in troubled economic times: social issues don’t win elections.
RELATED: Mark Hemingway observes that “a cooperative media is helping Obama play up the abortion issue—yesterday the Washington Post provided coverage of the Akin controversy on pages A1, A6, A7, A15, C1, and C5“. That much coverage to a Senate candidate repudiated by his party? Have they ever paid one-tenth as much attention to Mrs. Boxer’s crazy statements — and she has been elected to the United States Senate.
UPDATE: In a great piece on a topic similar to that of this post, Byron York offers:
By choosing to spotlight abortion and gay marriage at their national convention, Democrats could give voters the impression that they’ve got their priorities all mixed up. Sandra Fluke may draw headlines, but does she really represent what voters think is most important?
Read the whole thing.
UP-UPDATE: Calling Akin’s crazy comments “a great and unexpected gift” to the Democrats, Ross Douthat warned that
. . . great gifts [can] also [be] great temptations. Having Akin front and center is clearly helpful to the Democrats. Having liberal politicians harping incessantly on the issue — accusing Mitt Romney (falsely) of favoring banning abortion in cases of rape, headlining abortion rights at the Democratic Convention, and so on — is a riskier maneuver.
As the Republican Party has discovered in the past, when voters want to talk about the economy and you can’t stop talking about the culture war, it’s easy to seem out of touch even when the public agrees with what you’re saying.
Read the whole thing.