07/18/2005 11:23 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Dems Should Take Back the Vacation Talk

I just got off the boat. For the past week my family and I have been guests on the R Family Vacations cruise created by Rosie and Kelli O’Donnell. Along with 2000 other people – gay, straight and lots of kids – we sailed to Halifax, Nova Scotia and back down to NYC through Boston and Cape Cod. And I was a cynic. Truth is, since I get both claustrophobic and seasick, I had to be brought kicking and screaming on this trip. I just wasn’t in the mood for an onslaught of gayness.

I was wrong. It was a magical vacation. And what made it so special was that it was a wonderfully luxurious boat filled with many interesting people, who all wanted to share family stories and let their kids experience an environment where a majority of the children had gay parents. For one week, it seemed as if the world was gentle, fair and welcoming.

The real world did, of course, keep popping up. Web access on board was plentiful and the noise of l’affaire de Rove came through loud and clear. But sailing in international waters gave me a different perspective to the news of the moment. The distance I felt from the hype was much akin to the everyday attitude of a majority of Americans.

Over and over people on the ship asked me why the Democrats are focusing so much attention on Karl Rove and not, instead, providing a better alternative story for the American people to hear. It is a good question.

Karl Rove won’t resign no matter how many blog posts, front page stories or speeches from the floor of Congress take place. These people don’t succumb to that kind of pressure. They just don’t think it matters what the NY Times, the Washington Post or the Huffington Post, for that matter, says. If Rove were a Democrat, he would have been gone last week. Like Tom Delay, he would have been the victim of so much Democratic hand-wringing that continued service would have been untenable. But that is not how the Republicans operate. They answer to their base, not the media and not the public as a whole.

So why are Democrats wasting the chance to talk to people about what they really care about? As long as the political conversation is about Karl Rove, the Republicans win. Sure, the President’s current allegiance to Rove is damaging but the White House has obviously made a calculation that it is better to keep Karl around than to get rid of him and have the subject changed. That alone should give Dems a clue as to how important it is for us to change the subject.

It is no sure thing that Democrats will be able to get people to focus on politics at all during these few weeks. But our only hope is to talk about something more relevant. Summer vacation is family time. It is also a time for anxiety for parents. Because instead of worrying about our jobs, on vacation, most parents worry about their kids. Do we give them enough time? Are they learning the right values? Can we afford to send them to the right schools and provide for their health and welfare? How does the war affect my family and their safety?

(And lest anyone doubt that the gay and lesbian parents on our cruise have all the same anxieties and commitment to their children as straight parents, rest your concern. In fact, the normalcy of the conversations was soothing.)

Democrats have more answers to the problems faced by families in America today. Now is a good time to try and dominate the conversation with those concerns. When people across the country feel certain that the Democratic political leadership cares more about these issues than scoring political points, we will finally benefit from the President’s dropping approval ratings.