Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dithering on Hard Choices



I've been putting off this post for a long time. I've never claimed to be other than a devout Roman Catholic and adamantly pro-life, but I haven't had a lot to say in this blog, or in any other forum for that matter, about abortion. It is a divisive, emotional, and controversial issue. It takes a certain amount of courage to speak out on it because doing so is sure to result in some heated disagreement if not outright vitriol.
I prefer to avoid confrontation as a rule, so when mommy bloggers that I follow post, for example, that they are sick to death of fat, middle-aged, white, Republican men trying to misappropriate moral choices that ought to be the sole purview of women, I hold my tongue. I do this because 1) I don't want to offend the sensibilities of otherwise smart and funny women on the basis of my disagreement with them on one issue, and 2) being a fat, middle-aged, white, Republican man I am already seen to lack any credible moral standing on, not just this, but many issues facing women.
Now that I'm changing my stripes, so to speak, by championing the Democrats' more 'touchy feely' approach to economic policy I find I have to confront the Democrats' decidedly non 'touchy feely' stand on abortion. I may not be a Republican any more, but neither am I a Democrat. Without the relative harmonic safety of one camp or the other, I find I need to 'nut up' and explain myself more fully. Likely this won't be any easier to read than it was to write.

Life in the Balance


I like to say that I used to be a Voldemort Republican. That's not strictly true. I've been a one-issue Republican voter for as long as I care to remember. That one issue is life. The other issues that constitute true ideological Republicanism are not so dear to me. I go back and forth on some of them. I'm just plain opposed to others. Lately I've abandoned supply side economic theory because I have come to believe that it has been a spectacular failure, even though it remains bedrock Republican economic policy. I used to buy it, but I don't any longer. This is why I call myself a former Voldemort Republican.
I've not changed my mind about abortion though. I still vote a pro-life ticket. It's not that I don't care about other issues. I do, but for me the issue of life takes precedence. For me it's been the most important issue when it comes to my vote. If you are wrong on the issue of life, nothing else really matters. It is the last purely moral issue on the table. Everything else is political or economic or both, but the issue of life is central to our humanity.
If you want to vote pro-life, you pretty much have to vote Republican. I don't really understand why this is. It doesn't make sense to me that the Republicans are pro on life and Democrats are pro on choice. I would think it would be the opposite, especially when you consider that, on the other major life issue, capital punishment, the Republicans want to kill you and the Democrats want to rehabilitate you and turn you loose. It's as if, at least as far as the political parties are concerned, it was all a matter of timing. The Republicans want to kill you after you're born, and the Democrats want to kill you before. I don't get it.
You would think that the GOP, the party of individual rights and curtailing government involvement in matters of morality, would be pro-choice. When I hear the pro-choice argument that government shouldn't be telling women what to do with their bodies, and that the decision to have or not have a child is a matter to be decided by the family and not the state, I think that sounds just Republican as hell. And yet the Republicans are happy to interpose government in your moral choices when there is a baby involved, but only, it would seem, before the baby is able to make demands of its own on various entitlement programs.
After you're born, it's an entirely different matter for Republicans. After you're born, Republicans are not so much pro-life as they are pro-keeping-what's-theirs. Once you're weaned from mother's milk and start suckling at the public teat, your life is suddenly not worth so much. You fail the Republican cost benefit analysis. This is why Republicans love capital punishment so much. It puts an end to your state paid support. They want to cut the cost and get you in the ground before you bankrupt the system.
They feel the same way about a lot of entitlements that are meant to keep body and soul together. They don't want to pay for your social welfare or your health care or your food stamps. They don't want to pay unemployment benefits. They just want you to either get a job and pay your own way or go away quietly and die. And no, they're not going to spend any money to create jobs either. That's your lookout. If you want to work, work. It's just that simple. There's not a lot of logic or consistency at work in Republican principles, and for the GOP, what claims to be pro-life, isn't. Not really. I don't know what it is, but it's certainly not consistently about life.
On the other hand, you would think that Democrats, who have traditionally been associated with grand social engineering to lift the oppressed masses out of poverty and affliction and servitude would be in favor of protecting the most disenfranchised of humanity—the unborn. Democrats have always been about legislating the right thing to do, and so they are historically and philosophically associated with The New Deal, The War on Poverty, Affirmative Action, Medicare, Civil Rights, Head Start, The National Endowment for the Arts, Consumer Protection, The Clean Air Act, and others. This being the case, one has to wonder why they keep pushing to expand a woman's right to impose her choice over the rights of her own unborn child to life, liberty and the other guarantees of our Constitution.
Democrats love killing babies—so much so that they don't want people thinking about it much before they get abortions. They are against counseling, they are against educating young women about alternatives, they are against involving families in the decision, and they are against waiting.
They are not against waiting when you've already waited too long though. If you've been dithering about getting an abortion into the third trimester, when fetuses are viable and abortions are not for the squeamish, then they think you should be able to have something called a 'partial birth abortion', a procedure so draconian it can scarcely be discussed in polite company.
In a partial birth abortion, labor is induced, and the baby is allowed to start its trip toward the light at the end of the tunnel. It's not allowed to complete its journey though. Once the tike crowns, it's little skull is pierced with a surgical spike, and its brains are vacuumed into a jar. Then the rest of its now lifeless body is allowed to pass into the world where Democrats will applaud its mother's pluck, and, if she's poor enough, pay for the procedure.
Democrats are actually okay with this. It's the mother's body, they say, and so it's the mother's decision. I would argue that, at the very least, it ceased to be about the mother's body when the baby crowned. In fact I would argue that it ceased to be about the mother's body long before that. I know that, officially at least, the jury's still out on this, but I believe it stops being about the mother's body at the moment of conception. I don't think I'm alone in this. Even Democrats agree...sort of.
Here's where the Democrats are as inconsistent and illogical as Republicans. It's about the woman's body when they're talking about abortion, but if an expectant mother smokes crack, or snorts cocaine, or drinks, or smokes, or abuses prescription medications, then it becomes all about the baby. Democrats don't want you doing anything that might injure your unborn child, unless of course you want to have it killed. Then suddenly it's all about women's rights, and the baby be damned. Oh...and they want the Republicans to agree to pay for it too.
It seems to me that the political parties have got it backwards. If they would just switch positions on abortion, I would have a much easier time embracing the social justice championed by the Democrats over the inequities fostered by the Republicans' dogged insistence on supply side and trickle down economic policies. As it is I have to continue to vote a pro-life Republican ticket because babies can't vote for themselves. I have to continue doing this even though I am certain, way down deep in my analytical accountant's soul, that the Republicans are wrong on just about every other important social and economic issue. I'd certainly feel a lot better about my choices if the choice was clear and consistent on choice.
And here's a final irony—as if choosing weren't difficult enough already. The current state of the economy is putting more and more pressure on women to have abortions. Sure, we're supposed to be in a recovery, but nobody is putting Americans back to work. There are 14 million jobless Americans on the unemployment rolls. There are probably another 11 to 12 million people who are off the official rolls or seriously underemployed. The Republicans don't want the Democrats to solve this problem. They want everyone to wait until 2013, when they hope we will have a Republican administration that can save us all from the Democrats' profligate spending.
Meanwhile, for the millions of jobless and uninsured, having a baby is a bankruptcy event. From a purely fiscal perspective - the favorite perspective of your quintessential pro-life Republican - abortion begins to look like a sensible choice. This may be an unintended result, but that doesn't make it any less real. Any policy that prolongs joblessness fosters abortion. Any policy that increases poverty increases the abortion rate. Any policy that denies basic subsistence and health service options to those who need them most denies life to the unborn. An increase in abortions may be against Republican principles, but it is at least consistent with Republican economic policy. The last thirty years of economic history proves this.
Republicans will argue that the key to economic recovery rests in unfettering the private sector from the burdens of regulation and taxation. Our problem, they say, is big government and runaway spending eating away at the incentives of business to succeed. If we would just reduce taxes on the wealthy and on corporations and loosen the regulatory noose we would see marked and immediate gains in productivity, employment, and prosperity, and these gains would benefit everybody. You've no doubt heard this mantra before. It is currently being touted by virtually every Republican candidate for the presidency. They only vary among themselves in how much they want to give to the wealthy in order to fuel this dramatic turn of fortune. I have to wonder how they can possible hold on to this supply side pipe dream that has been a virtual non-starter since the Reagan years.
If any of this stuff was going to work, it would have worked by now. It hasn't. We haven't had thirty years of unparalleled prosperity. We have had thirty years of consistently lowering taxes on the richest Americans. We have had thirty years of significant erosion of regulations that were originally put in place to protect us from boom, bust, and bailout cycles. We have had, in other words, pretty much full realization of the Republican supply side initiative without any realization of its promises.
Instead of prosperity we got ever more volatile bubbles, followed by ever steeper declines and ever more expensive public fixes. Instead of investment in innovation and jobs growth we got richer rich and poorer poor. The rich didn't invest in America as promised. They invested instead in a status quo designed to keep them at the top of the food chain. They did not risk their capital seeking gain. They used their gains to eliminate their risk. Whenever they made mistakes, which was often, they relied on poor and middle-class taxpayers to backstop their plays. In the words of Nobel laureate in economics, Joseph Stiglitz, we got the privatization of gains and the socialization of losses.
Today the rich are richer than they've ever been. Corporations are booking record profits and are sitting on unprecedented amounts of cash. Even so they are not investing in new technologies and they are not hiring Americans. They are not doing any of the things that supply side theory tells us they are supposed to be doing with their money. And yet, almost unbelievably, the Republican solution is to lower taxes even more on the wealthy and on corporations, and to further emasculate the regulations that are meant to protect the vanishing wealth of the rest of us.
This doesn't make any sense to me at all. It defies logic, and yet you cannot turn on a television or radio or open a newspaper or log onto the Internet without hearing this trickle down claptrap trotted out as gospel. Even people who stand to lose the most believe it. People who will have their retirement funds looted by Wall Street pirates, people who will have their taxes increased to pay for yet another round of million dollar bonuses for a bunch of executives who missed the forest for the trees, people whose dreams are being snuffed out by the very people they look to for salvation, still believe with passion that supply side theory is the answer to all our prayers. Prosperity may not trickle down but irony certainly does, and that may be the great tragedy of American politics.
So this is my dilemma. I vote against abortion by voting for Republicans, but the result of Republicans winning elections is an economy that continues to spiral out of control, and the result of that is more abortions, not less. Of course the Republicans can always legislate against abortion, but then there would just be a lot more babies that those same Republicans are going to legislate against feeding, housing, medicating, and employing. It's a quandary.
The Republicans have done a pretty good job of killing the American dream. Even though they are philosophically pro-life, they are now almost as good as the Democrats at killing babies. The Democrats and Republicans need to switch sides on abortion. That way at least my vote can be consistent with my own beliefs. It may not accomplish anything in the grand scheme of things, but at least it will make sense to me.

2 comments:

  1. You have to get over the semantics. Republicans aren't really "pro life", they are just anti abortion. Dems are pro life, but are also pro choice. People voting for a candidate because of one stance, and ignoring his or her other strengths or weaknesses are a big reason for our problems right now. Ignoring the big picture because of one issue is not a good idea and I hope you and our country realize it before too much longer. In my opinion there is only one Republican who is not a one issue guy and that's Huntsman, who no one is paying any attention to yet. He is also anti abortion.

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  2. I'll grant you that many Republicans are anti-abortion as opposed to pro-life. That was pretty much the point of my post. The term 'pro-choice' however is a purely semantic construct. It is antithetical to life while pretending to be about something else. You can't be pro-choice and pro-life at the same time. The connotation of 'choice' is that one individual's freedom is more important than another individual's life. Someone who is truly pro-life could never be comfortable with this. As far as the danger of one issue voting...also the point I was trying to make. The problem, as I see it, is that no one candidate or party embraces all the stuff I believe in. So I'm going to have to pick the one that comes closest, and then campaign vigorously against the policies they espouse that I can't in good conscience accept.

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