Patterico's Pontifications

4/2/2008

Obama and the Issues: Abortion

Filed under: 2008 Election — DRJ @ 12:53 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

In an Op-Ed in today’s Washington Post, Michael Gerson analyzes Obama’s position on abortion:

“Obama has not made abortion rights the shouted refrain of his campaign, as other Democrats have done. He seems to realize that pro-choice enthusiasm is inconsistent with a reputation for post-partisanship.

But Obama’s record on abortion is extreme. He opposed the ban on partial-birth abortion — a practice a fellow Democrat, the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, once called “too close to infanticide.” Obama strongly criticized the Supreme Court decision upholding the partial-birth ban. In the Illinois state Senate, he opposed a bill similar to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which prevents the killing of infants mistakenly left alive by abortion. And now Obama has oddly claimed that he would not want his daughters to be “punished with a baby” because of a crisis pregnancy — hardly a welcoming attitude toward new life.”

Despite the best efforts of decades of politicians on both sides of the aisle, the issue of abortion just won’t go away. Gerson suggests that abortion helped transform the Democratic Party from one concerned for the weak to a party focused on the individual:

“Abortion is an unavoidable moral issue. It also has broader political significance. Democrats of a past generation — the generation of Hubert Humphrey and Martin Luther King Jr. — spoke about building a beloved community that cared especially for the elderly, the weak, the disadvantaged and the young.

The advance of pro-choice policies imported a different ideology into the Democratic Party — the absolute triumph of individualism. The rights and choices of adults have become paramount, even at the expense of other, voiceless members of the community.”

I think Obama wants to portray himself as – and perhaps he actually is – a person whose primary concern is tolerance and understanding for each individual. That’s a powerful message in an era of polarizing politics. It’s also not surprising that his message is especially appealing to the young, who are more likely than family and older voters to focus on individual rights and concerns.

However, a society that prizes tolerance above all else ends up tolerating everything. As Obama shows in the abortion debate, it’s hard to draw a line when the end point is tolerance.

— DRJ

17 Responses to “Obama and the Issues: Abortion”

  1. I have to strongly disagree that the Democrat Party is the party of individualism. It is most assuredly the party of collectivism and statism. Everything they do is for your own good, of course. Which you’re not allowed to define for yourself.

    Andy (09ab51)

  2. Andy,

    I see your point and it may sound like quibbling over semantics, but I don’t view this as individualism. I define individualism as taking responsibility for your actions and striving for economic self-reliance. I think Gerson’s point was that Democrats have elevated individual rights and concerns to a higher status, as opposed to balancing individual rights with societal concerns.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  3. The issue of abortion should never go away. Not as long as the rights of unborn women are not equally protected under the law.

    And please, lets hope Obama’s daughters never, ever become pregnant while young and choose to let the baby live because how on earth would Obama stand the endless torment from Punishment (as the child will be referred to) when it begins to adoringly coo to Grandpa.

    Dana (fba430)

  4. Obama says he would make Gore a member of his cabinet.
    Can you see Al Gore as the head of the EPA?
    We are so screwed.

    papertiger (81e410)

  5. Despite the best efforts of decades of politicians on both sides of the aisle, the issue of abortion just won’t go away.

    Who, exactly, is making the effort to get rid of the abortion debate on the Republican side? Or on the Democratic side? No, this is the gift that keeps on giving for both parties, but especially for the GOP.

    I found it curious that with Republicans controlling the Senate, the House, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court, they still couldn’t work through a ban on abortion. Bush seems positively lackadaisical on the subject, just like with his constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Seems to me like the vast majority of these people don’t give a rat’s behind about abortion one way or the other and are just using it to keep the peasants looking the other way while they cut the capital gains tax another 5 percent.

    Maybe I’m wrong about that, though. Maybe they really do care and just suck at legislating, and all that talk about the nuclear option was just piffle.

    Russell (5ecf4a)

  6. Russell,

    My point was that many politicians from both sides prefer to ignore abortion except when it’s useful to them. It would have been more accurate had I said:

    “Despite the best efforts of decades of politicians on both sides of the aisle to ignore it, the issue of abortion just won’t go away.”

    DRJ (a431ca)

  7. I found it curious that with Republicans controlling the Senate, the House, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court, they still couldn’t work through a ban on abortion.

    Huh?

    One little sentence, so many logical holes.

    Pablo (99243e)

  8. It’s also not surprising that his message is especially appealing to the young, who are more likely than family and older voters to focus on individual rights and concerns.

    There are no individual rights without individual responsibility. His message may very well be appealing to the young, the spoiled and the self-indulgent, whose world ends at their bellies and gonads. But let’s not confuse him with a libertarian or even a liberal.

    nk (34c5da)

  9. Good point but I’m not sure how else to say it. I don’t think it’s fair to say young voters are self-centered or selfish per se, but they often view the world from a narrow perspective that focuses on what works for the individual.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  10. Thank you Russell. Yes yep and yes. Why should pols care about abortion? If their daughter gets knocked up they can just put her on a plane to wherever she needs to go to get the procedure done.

    It’s such a good issue to keep the little people fighting over though huh? Visceral, right and wrong, evoking strong emotions… and way more interesting than the latest absurdly obtuse report in economic jargon that suggests that A is completely fleecing taxpayers by giving B some kind of big dollar bailout coz uh…well, they need it or something.

    Anytime anyone even SAYS “abortion” I reflexively grab my wallet and check my bank accounts to see if the gov. hasn’t enacted some secret, direct- from-ones’-savings-tax while everyone was down at the local clinic calling each other murderers and facists all over again.

    EdWood (c2268a)

  11. I think James Taranto at the WSJ has an interesting viewpoint on this controversy vis-a-vis the GOP & Dems…
    In a nutshell, he believes that it is a net plus for the GOP, in that the roots on the “right” are more committed on this issue than on the “left”; plus, since children tend to mimic their parents, there are less children of liberals, due to abortion, than there are children of conservatives, due to abortion (all things being equal).
    He calls it the “Roe Effect”.

    Another Drew (f9dd2c)

  12. Rush Limbaugh says the same thing, AD, and is sucks just the same. Children do not get to pick their parents contributors of genetic material. Children are not the property of their parents any more than they are unwanted tissue in their parents’ bodies. They are the future of the world and they are the first responsibility of the world.

    nk (34c5da)

  13. Hey, I agree!
    In our quest for individual rights, we surely have lost sight of our responsibilities to man-kind and each other.

    Another Drew (f9dd2c)

  14. Politicians on both sides can argue abortion is good for them. I think abortion is a huge motivator for liberals when it comes to Supreme Court nominations.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  15. The argument always seems to devolve down to the two extreme positions. On the one hand, we have folks who oppose abortions even if it means the mother WILL die. On the other, we have folks who insist that the state must pay for a Month 8 elective abortion for a teenager, on her whim, and would criminalize telling the parents about it, even after the fact.

    Whatever happened to the “reasonable regulation of rights” that they trot out regarding speech, religion, guns, property, and all the rest of the written part of the Constitution.

    Abortion is the only absolute right in the Constitution, and it isn’t even really there.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  16. Russell wrote:
    “I found it curious that with Republicans controlling the Senate, the House, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court, they still couldn’t work through a ban on abortion. Bush seems positively lackadaisical on the subject”

    — At what point did the Republicans “control” each of the major institutions of govt at the same time? And why would it be necessary to control them all simultaneously?

    Answer: It isn’t necessary.

    Case in point: the partial-birth abortion ban. You would know that as the ban that lackadaisical Bush couldn’t work through. When it passed, in 2003, the Republicans had only a 2 vote majority in the Senate and a 23 vote majority in the House. That slim voting margin did not matter, however, as 80 (EIGHTY!) congressional Democrats voted FOR the ban. Republicans did not “control” the Supreme Court in 2003, and by the time the court did rule on the ban — which was last year — both houses of Congress were in the hands of Democrats.

    There was that period of 11 months (Feb, ’06 to Jan, ’07) when the GOP had the control you speak of, but I’m thinkin’ both parties were focused on the mid-term elections at the time.

    What were you expecting? that the president and both houses of Congress were going to gang up on the SCOTUS and order them to overturn Roe v. Wade? That’s kinda hard to do if there isn’t an appropriate case before the court at the time.

    Missed It By THAT Much (0fedd5)

  17. However, a society that prizes tolerance above all else ends up tolerating everything.

    Amen, bro.

    Here’s an excellent example of that, from a San Francisco Chronicle story on hearings before the California Supreme Court regarding challenges to the state constitutionality of family law making marriage one man/one woman (bold and italic mine):

    [Justice Joyce] Kennard, however, noted that many long-standing traditions relating to marriage – including treating women as property – have been deemed illegal over the years.

    Lawyers for the plaintiffs have pointed to the court’s 1948 decision striking down California’s ban on interracial marriage, and have compared domestic partnership to “separate but equal” segregation. The 1948 ruling, the first of its kind by any state’s high court, recognized a “right to join in marriage with the person of one’s choice.”

    (snip)

    In her arguments, San Francisco Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart insisted … [existing marriage law] violates equal protection. … Once the state has entered into the regulation of marriage … it has to do so on an equal basis.”

    (snip)

    Justices also asked whether the concept of equality evolves, and, if so, why this is the time to allow same sex marriage.

    The concept of equality does evolve, Stewart said, “but just because society doesn’t see something as unequal until a given time, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t always unequal or unjust. It just means we were blind to it.”

    The justices returned several times to the 1948 case, asking whether the justices who issued that ruling could have foreseen a day when people would argue for the right for gays and lesbians to marry.

    Former Senator Rick Santorum was excoriated for expressing the view that the die was cast for legalization of polygamy and worse when Sandra Day O’Connor swung the SCOTUS in overturning Bowers v. Hardwick (which affirmed the constitutionality of Georgia’s anti-sodomy law) with Lawrence v. Texas. The advocates of an “anything goes” society feign shock at such notions, but when it comes right down to it, they whisper in favor of it in hopes that black-robed know-it-alls will impose “everything” on an unwilling populace.

    L.N. Smithee (0931d2)


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