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Friday, April 02, 2004

Where has the 1986 Daschle gone?

Like oh, so many former social conservatives who are now toeing the DNC line on abortion, guns, and gay marriage, Tom Daschle was once in step with the social views of South Dakotans. History professor Jon Lauck has this article on National Review Online about the Daschle of 1986.

Here's the last few paragraphs:

Running as a conservative Democrat, Daschle was also able to neutralize the impact of social issues. On November 1, in response to criticism of his abortion record, Daschle sent a letter to voters stating that "I am unalterably opposed to abortion on demand" and casting the issue as "a battle over human life." Daschle enclosed a letter to him from a minister, who vouched for Daschle's pro-life credentials: "I remember some of the very personal, deeply soul-searching conversations we've had on this subject. You used expletives like 'repulsive' and 'gross' in underscoring your abhorrence of abortion. You even said it is a form of murder, and I believe you are right. The bottom line is you are as opposed to abortion as I am."

One of Daschle's 1986 newsletters also attempted to neutralize the gun-control issue: "I am against it. No representative of our state has ever supported restrictive Federal gun-control laws written in Washington and there is a very good reason why. What makes sense in New York is crazy in South Dakota." Daschle ran, as Howard Dean might say, as a member of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.

In October, to round out the election in a state with an aging population, the Daschle campaign played the Social Security card, and said that Abdnor voted to cut Social Security and Medicare 37 times in six years.

Despite running as a pro-gun pro-lifer, a crusader for Social Security, and a Bryan-esque populist on farm prices in the middle of a farm crisis during the disastrous Reagan mid-terms, Daschle only won by 4 points. Now, after passes in 1992 and 1998, Daschle is running as a promoter of NARAL and Emily's List (even though the South Dakota state legislature voted to ban abortions this winter), as someone who just infuriated the NRA by voting for two gun-control measures in the Senate and fumbling away the gun-maker immunity bill (even though the state legislature voted to oppose the gun-control and adopted immunity legislation), as someone who opposed the president's prescription-drug program, during a presidential cycle with the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate topping the Democratic ticket, against a strong opponent, while trying to keep his liberal caucus from revolting.

If Daschle's positions during his last campaign in 1986 are invoked by voters to rebuke the positions he now takes as Democratic leader of the Senate, 2004 could see Daschle's last campaign.

Lauck is keeping up with much more on this campaign here.


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