Friday, August 04, 2006

On Forming Coalitions

Aaron wrote something in the Plan B thread that really got me thinking:
...isn't the abortion debate a really weird proxy for all sorts of more fundamental debates, about the prevalence of sex ed and policy to deal with unwanted children, for instance?
Indeed it is. Here are a couple possible explanations:
  1. The anti-abortion movement is a diverse coalition of groups. Large subsets may have homogenous views on the “prevalence of sex ed” or “policy to deal with unwanted children” but they have decided to focus on their common goal first.
  2. The anti-abortion movement really isn’t all that diverse. They actually do push for those other issues, but they get the most attention for abortion.
  3. The anti-abortion movement isn’t diverse and they aren’t really pushing hard for those other things because it’ll upset the conservative political coalition.
I think I put my money on a combination of 2 and 3 but I think it would be clearer if we threw in auxiliary issues like “opposition to birth control” and “a woman’s place in society”. I’ve never had a political conversation with a staunch pro-life person that didn’t devolve into other much wackier issues like that. But while the rest of the Republican coalition seems comfortable working with people who want to stop abortions and may even share a shallow commitment to the pro-life cause, they probably don’t feel the same way about those other issues.

I guess what I’m saying is that “shallow” support is important to an interest group. Or failing that, an interest group at least needs to be “respectable”. If it isn’t it won’t be able to form coalitions and it will find itself shut out from power. Example: The number of people who actively oppose building a wind-farm of Nantucket Sound is probably smaller than the number of Neo-Nazis in this country. But one is a respectable position (even if I happen to disagree) the other is not. I’ll happily accept and work with an anti-Wind-Farmer Democrat but I wouldn’t ever attend the same meetings as a Neo-Nazi or work with one for a common goal*.

That’s really I think one of the key ways in which the battle for “hearts-and-minds” translates into winning elections. Few hard-core supporters ever actually change their minds. The best you can manage is to convince everyone to stop politley ignoring the issue.

*Except maybe ridding the world of alien invaders from outer space… first things first.

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