Conservative Democrats Are Ditching The President

The polls in the presidential election have been kind to President Obama lately, with him widening his lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in some key battleground states. But the undercurrent a little less rosy for the president, and with five defining events still left in the campaign—both conventions and all three presidential debates—it’s undercurrent that’s most important. The Democratic coalition is starting to fire shots at each other as we build to the fall campaign.

Political pressures have left liberal senator Claire McCaskill troubled about the party convention.

Missouri senator Claire McCaskill is the latest Democrat to announce she won’t attend the party convention in Charlotte. McCaskill, an early supporter of Obama in 2008 is almost surely motivated by sheer political calculation, as she desperately tries to distance herself from the president. No doubt political calculation is also involved in the decision of West Virginia senator Joe Mancin and some of that state’s congressional delegation to also forgo the convention, but in the case of Mancin, he is a genuinely conservative Democrat whose distaste for the left-wing agenda is likely sincere.

Whether the reasoning is based on politics or principle, it’s apparent the city of Charlotte is having a tougher time attracting red-state Democrats than its local basketball franchise is having in attracting legitimate NBA talent.

Pundits focus on tactical and PR solutions to the problem of getting the Democratic coalition all on the same page in time for November—even if Obama manages to hold off Romney and win a second term, the red-state problem has dimmed Democratic chances of taking the House and emboldened Republican prospects for taking the Senate, meaning that unless conservative Democrats come home, a re-elected Obama would face increased congressional opposition and likely look forward to a second term similar to the one “enjoyed by former President George W. Bush.

But what is there for conservative Democrats to come home to? Wherever you look, this president has consistently chosen the agenda of the Left over that of real Democrats who look to the party’s ethnic roots for inspiration. The most obvious example, and the one emphasized here at CV, is the decision to require middle-class Catholic families to subsidize the contraceptive lifestyles of upper-class suburban liberals and calling it “health care reform.” I think it’s safe to say that isn’t what Harry Truman had in mind when he first pushed for universal medical coverage in 1948.

The Keystone Pipeline is another example of the president choosing the agenda of wealthy liberals over middle-class Democrats

You don’t need to be motivated by the right to life though, to have a problem with the president’s agenda if you’re a conservative Democrat. In not going ahead with the Keystone Pipeline, Obama has put the ideology of well-off liberal environmentalists ahead of the economic fortunes of middle and working class families. Obama postponed a decision on the pipeline until 2013.

The president came from working and middle-class roots, as did his wife. But the policy decisions emanating from the White House shout that they find it more important—or at least politically more convenient—to kowtow to the wealthy liberal establishment over and above the real Democratic Party buried beneath an avalanche of secularism.

President Obama does not have the will or even the inclination to create a real home for conservative Democrats, so the strategy is likely to be hope that a few well-placed pieces of rhetoric will persuade this voting bloc to continue to be the abused children of the party, repeatedly returning home and repeatedly taking a beating once they get there. The fact that the Republican Party is not a viable long-term home for anyone with real populist instincts only adds to the temptation.

But to return home only enables the Democrats to avoid making real policy changes to get back to their roots. They have become a party of the rich and corporate-dominated, as surely as their counterparts are, and when one of the prime corporations is Planned Parenthood, that dominance takes on a more sinister look.

The right response to take is the one that Senator Mancin took in simply refusing to go to Charlotte. The right response is the one grass-roots voters in Missouri took, in creating a political climate that even Claire McCaskill thinks that almost anything would be finer than being in Carolina. If you’re a conservative Democrat at heart, uncomfortable with Republican politics, but unwilling to return to an abusive home, there is a third choice—stay in exile, retain your Democratic identity and demand that the party change before you offer your support again. It’s the politicians’ job to win our support, not our job to win theirs. And exile is much better than a constant beatdown.

Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in the late 1940s with a traditional Democratic political campaign at its heart.



  • Caroline

    Dear Mr. Flaherty,

    I understand your frustration with the fact that the Democratic party has become something very different from what it used to be. It has become the party of Death.

    However, I am troubled by your post suggesting that unsatisfied conservative Democrats should “wait in exile.” You seem to be suggesting that one sit out the election.

    What I take issue with is the fact that you have a vote. Do you believe that abortion is the greatest crime humans can commit against each other? And that sodomy and contraception, etc. follow after it? With your vote, you have a chance to make a step against those evils. How could you not do this?

    I consider myself Republican. I have gripes with my party too. But I know that my vote matters and it can be used to protect the innocent. So it would be wrong not to vote in such a serious election just because I was dissatisfied with my party.

    I beg that you and other conservative Democrats who are disheartened by Obama, if you think that he is really pandering to evil, tell him with your vote that you will not stand for his policies.

    Because if you want Obama out of office, the best thing you can do is vote for the other guy.

  • Joe M

    I’m not buying the polls. Obama has two bad weeks of news and half of the polls go up for him and the other half go down. I think he has pals that are trying to prevent the entire bottom from dropping out of his campaign.

    • Caroline

      Yes, I often see his poll numbers go up on RealClearPolitics, but when I look, the most recent poll numbers favor Romney…it’s like they are trying to accomplish something with their calculated poll average.

  • Adam Baum

    I’m sorry, but there is no such thing as a “conservative Democrat”, and hasn’t been for a very long time. If there is any lesson from the past fear years, its that the core of that party is thoroughly focused on centralized power, redistribution and an antipathy to the individual, the family and traditional values.

    Whatever the campaign rhetoric, when push comes to shove, they all vote the party line, and if you don’t believe it, ask Bart Stupak.

  • Bob Greenpoint

    Good that you acknowledge the overall picture…if the vote were to happen today, Obama would sweep 300+ electoral votes (with neither Missouri or West Virginia in his total). Unless Mitt really breaks out personality and policy-wise this summer, it’s not looking good. Interesting, though, that Obama may face a Republican House and Senate.

    • TRuer

      I just read that many years ago Romney said that Roe v. Wade was settled law and that abortion should be legal. Lost my vote. I’d rather have Obama than someone that changes his position constantly and lies in order to tell you what you want to hear.

      • Shawn

        TRuer- Uhhh, Obama has changed his position on policies as well. Just look up what his position was on healthcare when he debated with Hilary Clinton in the democratic debates last year. Also, how can you support Obama if you are against abortion?

        • spirit of spiro

          Shawn, how can you support Romney if you are against abortion? And the polls overall now indicate a big positive bounce for the President after his immigration policy announcement. And the polls indicate he’s going to win big in three battleground states. And given that so many Black Dems sat home during the Wisconsin primary, and the exit poll indicated he still had the support of significantly over 50% of those who did vote, I’m confident Obama will win big there, too. Conservative former Democrats are Republicans these days. So what?

      • Joe M

        TRuer. So, what you’re saying is that it doesn’t matter whether or not someone is wrong about something. Just as long as they don’t change their mind?



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