Monday, February 20, 2006

Strange Bedfellows

They say politics makes them. And "they" are right. The WE Blog (blog of the Wichita Eagle's editorial staff) says that an "ultra-leftist organization" is urging liberals to be more like Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) when it comes to human rights abuses in North Korea. In fact, the group, Ironweed Films, calls Brownback "the strongest congressional advocate for human rights in North Korea" (they've got a petition you can sign too).

I had a conversation with a friend over the weekend, in which we were talking about "principled conservatives" (such a rare specimen these days!). She said that she could respect some principled conservatives, but there were certain types she thought were just flat wrong, like the "social conservatives." I demurred, saying that while I think social conservatives are really, really bad on a host of important issues, their moral passion can also lead them to really stand out on some critical issues that other politicians (Republican and Democrat) would rather just let slide. Brownback, on both North Korea and Darfur, is a perfect example of this. If being a hard-right Christian Conservative makes you more likely to support a Darfur intervention, then I can't bring myself to indict the whole movement (and lest we forget, the Darfur victims are primarily Muslim, not Christian, so this isn't just sectarianism acting up).

On a moral level, it's appalling to think that Democrats are ceding the human rights issue to folks like Brownback (to be fair, most Senators in both parties are pretty weak on the issue). It's distressing that no Democrats have seemed to come out as hard on this issue as he has. But on a political level, I think this is fertile ground for Democrats to bridge the gap to moderate evangelicals who think our party is hostile to everything they stand for. Because it clearly isn't. Sure, we'll probably never come to an agreement on abortion rights. But not torturing prisoners? Not supporting genocidal regimes? Not letting poor people starve? These are "values" too--and ones that Democrats have a clear advantage on. Use that leverage to crack the GOP base, and we'll be reaching that rare pinnacle of doing what's right and what's popular.

Thanks to Patrick Kowalczyk (via e-mail) for the heads-up.

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