Just a little bit of history repeating ...
An article about Howard Dean includes some comments on social issues:
"The issue is not abortion," Dean told the closed-door fund-raiser. "The issue is whether women can make up their own mind instead of some right-wing pastor, some right-wing politician telling them what to do."
And Dean told the Hiebert fund-raiser that gay marriage was a Republican diversion from discussions of ballooning deficits and lost American jobs. That presents an opportunity to attract moderate Republicans, he said.
"Moderate Republicans can't stand these people (conservatives), because they're intolerant. They don't think tolerance is a virtue," Dean said, adding: "I'm not going to have these right-wingers throw away our right to be tolerant."
While one might be confused as to who the intolerant "they" are in the sentence that includes references to both conservatives and moderate Republicans, I'll go out on a limb and say that Dr. Dean thinks voters who oppose abortion and gay marriage are the intolerant ones (I'm glad he won't tolerate the intolerant - nothing worse than those who won't accept others, right?).
The important point here, though, is that history is repeating itself. We have been told again and again that the issue is not abortion. The issue is "choice". That formulation is a great political tactic, in that it diverts attention from the issue itself. But Dr. Dean must realize that the issue keeps coming up for a reason - the issue is abortion. Thirty-plus years, a string of judicial set-backs (from Griswold to Roe to Casey to Carhart - not to mention lesser known Supreme Court cases like Doe v. Bolton (though every time I hear the name Bolton now, I think of this)), and a roller-coaster ride of the legislative ebbs and flows of support, and still the pro-life movement is a factor in every election. This is not a mistake, this is not a one-time deal. This is the reality which you must face to win an election on a national level.
I'll go out on another limb and suggest that Dean's political calculus is different. I'll wager that he sees more of a loss than a gain to be had by supporting pro-life candidates. And, short-term, he's right. The Democratic party will suffer in the short term without the support (political and financial) of Emily's List, NARAL, PPFA, NOW, NAF and the like. And as the new kid on the block, Dr. Dean can not afford to take that hit. But, if he is worried about the long-term health of the party, he needs to push it to accept pro-life candidates and voters.
But let's take a look at the logic of the rest of the comments. Dean is interested in attracting Republicans who are not pro-life. He also thinks that he must "Set core principles that define the Democratic Party."
So, if you are a Republican because you are for lower taxes, which presumably means cuts to social programs, you might still fit into the "core principles" demographic Dean wants to define. But if you are pro-life, you are intolerant, and do not fit.
So Dean's vision of the Democratic party is a party where former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman (pro-family cap on welfare, drastic tax cuts on the state level that led to (less progressive) tax increases on a local level, but pro-choice) is welcome, but New Jersey Representative Chris Smith (anti-family cap on welfare, anti-death penalty, pro-union, pro-environment, but pro-life) is not?
Somehow I doubt that building your party on core principles like abortion rights and gay marriage, while being willing to sacrifice stands on social safety net programs is going to work. But maybe Dean's political calculus is different.
Of course, if the only value on which the Democratic party is willing to stand becomes defense of abortion, I guess this speech looks a little silly, huh?