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Whose party is
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Socially conservative Democrats have been arguing since 2004 that their party won't win until it abandons its commitment to "multiculturalism," a term that encompasses racial equality, feminism, and gay rights. Never mind that George W. Bush prevailed primarily because he was seen as strong on defense (quite an irony, that). These backlash Democrats are out to blame their party's defeat on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Now it seems the retreat-from-justice clique is about to become the dominant faction in the Democratic Party.

Consider the strong support from liberals that Pennsylvania state treasurer Bob Casey has received in his bid to unseat U.S. senator Rick Santorum, even though Casey is antichoice. This is a troubling sign--and not just if you believe that controlling your body is a basic human right. The struggles of women and gay people are inextricably linked in our society, and a retreat on one front is bound to affect the other.

When conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks crows that "a different sort of liberalism is taking over the Democratic Party," he's thinking of a return to the 1950s, back before the party embraced the fight for civil rights. By the '80s that commitment had expanded to include women and gay people, and this broad support is what the party is being advised to reverse.

Not that most Democrats will back a federal constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage, but local party organizations aren't likely to help our side when such measures appear on state ballots. And in public statements Democratic candidates may duck and cover on marriage equality--and even on civil unions.

Can the party lure white male voters who, it believes, deserted because they despise feminists and fags? To answer that question, the Democrats may have to sit silently while the rights of women and gay people are eroded.

What if the Republicans find that attacking us alienates swing voters? Sounds like good news, but it may not be. If both parties collude to avoid bringing these "divisive" matters up, just getting gay issues on the national agenda will become a Sisyphean task.

It's time to remind the Democrats that a pragmatic strategy must also be a moral one and that extending equality to the victims of sexual bigotry is the righteous position. And if the party doesn't listen up, the next step should be to organize on behalf of candidates who do support us, especially in the primaries. After all, the white males who are formulating this exclusionary definition of liberalism aren't the only Democrats. Feminists, gays, racial minorities, and their allies are a broad swath of the party's base. We give lots of money and put lots of energy into the party. Mess with us and you'll pay a price.

Don't get me wrong--I want the Republicans to get the heave-ho. But I'm not willing to defer my rights. To the Democrats, I say: If you really want to win, find a way to reconcile the American people to the project of democracy. That's what real liberalism is about.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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Richard Goldstein