The Hole Gets Deeper, the Faithful Keep Digging

abortion, conservatism, Obama Administration, Republican Party

I don’t know that the Right has entirely given up their “it’s still a center-right nation” argument, but lately another talking point is elbowing its way to the center of the rightie attention span. The new argument is that it was the Republican Party that voters rejected, not conservatism.

E.J. Dionne has a slightly different take on this. He notes that McCain picked a right-wing running mate and ran a classically “conservative” campaign against Obama. Yet he got clobbered on election day. Dionne continues,

Note that I have been using the word “conservative,” not “Republican.” This is because the Republican Party is now wholly owned by the conservative movement. The new Democratic majority is built in part on voters who once thought of themselves as moderate Republicans but have abandoned the party in large numbers.

In other words, voters rejected the Republican Party because of the extreme conservatism it has come to represent.

Dionne goes on to say that the GOP is splitting between the “ideological” conservatives and the “dispositional” conservatives.

The ideological conservatives hold to a faith linking small government and tax-cutting to extreme social conservatism. That mix is increasingly incoherent and out of step with an electorate that is more diverse and more suburban than ever. Ideological conservatives talk obsessively about returning to the glory days of Ronald Reagan and sometimes drop Sarah Palin’s name as a talisman.

Dispositional conservatives have leanings and affections but not an ideology. They have had enough with rigid litmus tests, free-market bromides irrelevant to the current economic downturn and anti-government rhetoric that bears no relationship to the large government that conservatives would inevitably preside over if they took power again.

Dionne says, and I agree, that the dispositionals will win out eventually, but not right away. In the short term, the ideologicals will still be in control and calling the shots. The GOP hasn’t yet stopped digging the hole it’s in.

Shifting gears just a bit — a few days ago, Dionne wrote another column in which he expressed hope that the Obama administration will help the nation find common ground on abortion.

“There surely is some common ground,” Obama declared toward the end of the third presidential debate.

He argued that “those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, ‘We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby.’ ” Obama added: “Nobody’s pro-abortion.”

To which I said, yeah, right. Wake me up when it happens. There have been several attempts to create a “common ground” movement going back to the 1980s, and every time it is attempted it quickly falls apart. Essentially, someone on the pro-choice side makes the same speech Obama made in the third debate. And then the anti-choice side proclaims it doesn’t negotiate with baby-killers. End of attempt.

But today I read at Washingtonpost.com that some on the anti-reproductive rights side are waving a white flag and expressing a willingness to talk. Jacqueline L. Salmon writes,

Frustrated by the failure to overturn Roe v. Wade, a growing number of antiabortion pastors, conservative academics and activists are setting aside efforts to outlaw abortion and instead are focusing on building social programs and developing other assistance for pregnant women to reduce the number of abortions.

Some of the activists are actually working with abortion rights advocates to push for legislation in Congress that would provide pregnant women with health care, child care and money for education — services that could encourage them to continue their pregnancies.

The day after the election I explained why I believe abortion is done as a national issue. That doesn’t mean we won’t still be hearing about it on a national level, and in some regions of the country it still has some clout. But the last election revealed that opposition to abortion has no power whatsoever to swing a national election. If anything, I believe their rigid anti-reproduction rights position cost the GOP quite a bit.

The hard core of the anti-reproduction rights movement is unmoved, of course.

“It’s a sellout, as far as we are concerned,” said Joe Scheidler, founder of the Pro-Life Action League. “We don’t think it’s really genuine. You don’t have to have a lot of social programs to cut down on abortions.”

Tons of data collected around the world over many years reveal that there is one sure way to reduce abortion — increase the use of contraception. From Alan Guttmacher:

Publicly funded family planning clinic services already enable U.S. women to prevent 1.4 million unintended pregnancies each year, an estimated 600,000 of which would end in abortion. Without these services, the annual number of unintended pregnancies and abortions would be nearly 50% higher. Among many other benefits, family planning clinic services also save $4.3 billion in public funds each year.

The irony is that Planned Parenthood may very well prevent more abortions than all of the anti-choice organizations combined.

Anyway, whether pregnancy assistance programs will make any measurable difference in abortion rates remains to be seen, but as long as they aren’t coercive, hey — give it a try.

Update:
See Steve Benen.

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12 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Ann  •  Nov 18, 2008 @12:29 pm

    “as long as they aren’t coercive”

    Ay, there’s the rub. Enter “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” which are little more than bully pulpits to talk women out of having abortions.

  2. joanr16  •  Nov 18, 2008 @1:11 pm

    Good luck getting the likes of Joe Scheidler to accept increased access to contraception. He’s from the Torquemada branch of Catholicism, and the Hitler-Goering branch of German-Americans.

    The founders of these organizations had one goal in mind, really: putting the “feminism” genie back in the bottle. Thirty-five years have passed, during which that goal has become impossible. But someone in a hate-based and reality-challenged state, like Scheidler, Phyllis Schlafly, or Randall Terry, will never, ever get a clue. I think a couple of generations will need to pass away, before true dialogue is even possible.

  3. paradoctor  •  Nov 18, 2008 @1:30 pm

    I recommend that we clarify terms. First note that ‘conservatism’ is a misnomer; it does not conserve. What we are up against is radical rightism; nowadays it is the left that is conservative.

    ‘Pro-life’ is another misnomer. Most anti-abortionists are also pro-gun and pro-war; so their commitment to the sanctity of life is conditional. There are in theory some ‘seamless garment’ pro-lifers, against abortion, guns, war, the death penalty, and so on; but in practice even they must compromise with violence, to live in the world as it is. In practice all life must compromise with violence, to live in the world as it is. In the final analysis, there is no such thing as a pro-lifer.

    And as for America, it’s clear this country leans both pro-abortion and pro-guns. Call it liberty, call it savagery, it’s what we are, deal with it.

    And I agree with you, maha, about the dispositionals and the ideologues. In the end, the cynics always get the fanatics under control. It’s inevitable. But… it can take awhile.

  4. jerri  •  Nov 18, 2008 @3:21 pm

    The Faithful have become the sole advocate for the unfertilized egg.

  5. SteveG  •  Nov 18, 2008 @4:35 pm

    It amazes me how Democratic pundits continue to think that ABORTION is somehow about abortion. Even if, miraculously, we were successful in completely eliminating unwanted pregnancies making abortion completely obsolete, ABORTION would not go away because it is really not about abortion from the left or right.

    For the left, it is about protecting hard fought gains in women’s rights and for the right it serves two purposes. First, it is the tip of the sword for those trying to Christianize American policy. Second, it is part of a cage and frame strategy to undermine feminist progress.

    Cage and frame is designed to take an entire collection of discussions out of the public discourse. You take all of, say, women’s rights issues and put them in a rhetorical cage allowing out only one token issue which you then frame in a fashion most advantageous to you and begin yelling and screaming about it at the top of your lungs. Your opponent now has a choice, fight vigorously and use up all the money, energy, and media attention on this one issue or lose on the issue and give momentum and framing power to the other side.

    When you take the bait, the mainstream sees the vigorous, red-faced discussants and assumes that there is fair and open debate on all issues thereby killing all possible progress on any other issue. You can see this rhetorical strategy on immigration, the environment, education, and many other places, but nowhere is it more effective in sucking all the oxygen out of the room than here.

  6. Amyadoptee  •  Nov 18, 2008 @6:02 pm

    As an adoptee rights activist, I believe in contraception, comprehensive sex education, teaching parenting and sexual responsibility. That will drastically reduce the numbers of abortion. However, many of the anti abortionist crowd doesn’t even like contraception of any kind. Its losing battle to argue the point with them. They want to control women, children, and the act of sex. I get tired of it. To them, I am a forever child in the body of a grown woman. Thank God my uterus is gone. I now just worry about my daughters.

  7. maha  •  Nov 18, 2008 @7:12 pm

    It amazes me how Democratic pundits continue to think that ABORTION is somehow about abortion.

    SteveG, for your, ABORTION may not be about abortion. However, for a woman dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, abortion is, um, about abortion. It’s not theory; it’s not ideology; it’s her body and her life. And she is the one I’m concerned about.

  8. Hominidx  •  Nov 18, 2008 @8:33 pm

    The problem here is that yes, there is common ground to be found. While it’s an interesting framing of individuals for reproductive rights vs. The Anti-Rights Movement, which just isn’t the case – “they” are made up of individuals who can be persuaded, and have been, by finding this common ground. It’s discouraging to find such a broad-brushed dismissal here, when many who are people in this monolithic, faceless Anti-Choice Movement who can simply be shown these statistics, these facts, how they work.

  9. maha  •  Nov 18, 2008 @9:30 pm

    when many who are people in this monolithic, faceless Anti-Choice Movement who can simply be shown these statistics, these facts, how they work.

    I tried doing that for years. I gave up. Hard core Fetus People cannot take in even the simplest facts about gestation, abortion procedures, abortions rates, etc. Talking to them is like talking to a tree stump. All most of us can do is keep presenting facts and hope we get through to people who are not married to a movement.

  10. btchakir  •  Nov 19, 2008 @6:31 am

    Begich Takes Akaska!

    Convicted criminal Sen. Ted Stevens is out as the write-in votes are added to the count. Looks like Palin won’t get to appoint herself to the post… or run for it in a special election. That puts her out of the national picture for the next two years.

    Now we need to follow the Minnesota recount, which Al Franken has a reasonable chance of taking given the location of the questioned write-ins, and the Georgia Run-off, which I am not so sure of. It certainly would be nice to get that creep Saxby Chamblis out of the Senate.

    Under The LobsterScope

  11. btchakir  •  Nov 19, 2008 @10:15 am

    Another Appopintment:

    An article by Alexis Simendinger in the National Journal says Obama will name Peter Orszag as Budget Director.

    Orszag, currently Congressional Budget Office Director and a former economic adviser to Bill Clinton, will take on this important Cabinet post as Obama faces the $700 Billion mess he inherits from Bush.

    Orszag is seen as an impressive, 40-year-old analyst with expertise in health care policy, Social Security, pensions, and global climate change.

    He is not expected to have a problem in Senate confirmation.

    Under The LobsterScope

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