How to Pick an Issue that will not Resonate 101
Howard Dean is speaking out about the Schiavo case. I can't help but wonder is the good doctor has been prescribing himself medications that have altered his judgment.
We're going to use Terri Schiavo later on," Dean said ... "This is going to be an issue in 2006, and it's going to be an issue in 2008," Dean told about 200 people at a gay rights group's breakfast in West Hollywood, "because we're going to have an ad with a picture of Tom DeLay saying, 'Do you want this guy to decide whether you die or not? Or is that going to be up to your loved ones?' "Dean, a practicing physician until he became governor of Vermont in 1991, added: "The issue is: Are we going to live in a theocracy where the highest powers tell us what to do? Or are we going to be allowed to consult our own high powers when we make very difficult decisions?"
I would love to see the political ad. Would Dean dare show footage of Terri Schiavo? I think not. Can you imagine? Schiavo looking about, then a deep voice says, "Republicans wanted this woman to get food and water. Tom Delay said that judges who removed her food and water should pay. Candidate X is better because he would never have supported her getting her feeding tube back."
Of course this is ludicrous. Dean must have had his head turned about. I have heard people of all political stripes voice concern about how Schiavo eventually died. This does not make them pro-life, and I do not mean to suggest that all or most people even agree with the political situation surrounding her death. In fact, I think the country was pretty deeply divided. That said, there are degrees of passion here, and if Dr. Dean really thinks that he can sway voters into changing political parties (or even turning out to vote in greater numbers) based on the Schiavo case, he is living in wonderland.
There are Christian conservatives who are reluctant to vote because they are (a) uninterested in voting for imperfect candidates (refusal to pick the lesser, or for that matter, either of two evils, as it were) and (b) uninterested in the political process as a whole, being more focused on the next world, rather than the current. I know of no such corollary among secularists as a voting block. Dr. Dean risks awaking the reluctant voters, with no gain I can determine, as I think it unlikely there is a non-voter who is moved to vote because of a passionate belief that Schiavo needed to die.
We'll see how this resonates in 2008, I guess. But I think Dr. Dean is signing a death warrant if he suggests candidates should run on a platform suggesting that Schiavo's death should be available to all.
UPDATE: Jon Stewart made a point on this while (as he would put it) "making the funny" tonight. Robert Reich was his guest, and Stewart, while discussing the reactive nature of today's Democratic party, said he wasn't sure what the Democratic party would do if it had control of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, other than run around the country pulling the plug on people.
Reich tried to spin this by saying the Schiavo case showed the true nature of the Rupublican party. Honestly, which seems more likely to resonate as a slogan?
Like it or not, this kind of classification is part of modern politics. Being the party that is labeled the "pull-the-plug" party is a recipe for disaster. People may believe that nutrition and hydration should be removed if they ever fall into such a state, but two things will still remain true. (1) People do not like to think about their own death, and a political party that reminds them of their own mortality will fail, and (2) people do not want to consider that their own family members could die the same way should an in-law decide their fate.