Separating the symptoms from the syndrome

Had enough already of the economy, jobs, and Medicare as political issues?  Are you ready for some good, old-fashioned, divisive social issues, guaranteed to split Americans along religious lines?  That’s what evangelical Christians do, and with the election getting closer there should be no surprise that a new round is erupting.

The Republican National Convention is next week; this week the platform committee approved a plank regarding abortion that pretty much falls in line with the party’s position on that issue over the last few platforms: no abortion, no way, no how…and no exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest.

“Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” said the draft platform language approved Tuesday, which was first reported by CNN. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”

I’ll give them this: that’s the only intellectually consistent anti-abortion position possible—if an unborn child has a fundamental right to life, there can be no exception that would permit that right to be “infringed.”  But that’s a hard line to take, and those exceptions have been included in many laws outlawing abortions because, to most people, it doesn’t seem fair for the government to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term when she didn’t choose to become pregnant, or when the pregnancy itself threatens her life and health.  Unless you don’t believe that women deserve the same treatment under law as men, in which case, well, that’s tough luck for the little lady.

Is it just coincidence that this comes up as a Missouri congressman stuns us with the concept of “legitimate rape”?  Probably; more’s the pity.

Let me give Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., the benefit of the doubt.  When he answered a question about permitting abortion in the case of rape (KTVI-TV’s complete report is here), and said that he understood pregnancy as a result of rape was rare because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” I think he was trying to say that he believes that most of the pregnant women who claim they were raped are lying about having been raped, not trying to suggest that there is such a thing as “legitimate rape” as opposed to “illegitimate rape.”

In other words, he was demonstrating his ignorance.  That’s what’s driving a large part of the reaction, but what’s driving the rest—the portion from within the Republican Party—is that Akin looked stupid on a national stage, thereby threatening the GOP’s takeover of the U.S. Senate in this election, and opened up a crack in the extremist positions of the Republican Party for all the rest of us to take a peek.

We should not be fooled that Akin’s statement, merely because it is so offensive and quickly retracted or clarified, is a mere slip. It actually represents the worldview of Akin and many like-minded Republican colleagues. His comments are part and parcel of a view of civil rights, women’s rights, and science that should be antithetical to a modern society. It reflects a worldview that has held up progress on too many serious issues, a form of know-nothingism for the modern era, a rejection of the very notion of learning.

There’s little doubt that the “conservative” forces that have taken control of the GOP have a wide-ranging agenda driven by their adherence to the belief that America is a Christian nation that needs to be evangelized, to be “taken back” from the forces advocating the constitutional principles of a secular, inclusive, civil society.  What was once the party of Lincoln, of Roosevelt, even of Reagan, has moved so far to the extreme that it’s left a lot of its old membership behind.  (Let’s make posting examples of that a new parlor game, shall we—who wants to go next?)

Republicans…conservatives…evangelical extremists…organizing themselves to support and promote their beliefs, is absolutely their right, without question; speaking out against that myopic vision of our country is a right, too.  A right LZ Granderson exercised today…

Some social conservatives talk of protecting religious freedom, but what they are really seeking is a theocracy that places limits on freedom based on a version of Judeo-Christianity that fits their liking.That language is also being considered for the GOP’s national platform.

And John Avlon, also

So the real scandal is not just the sincere stupidity of Akin’s statement — it is the policy that undergirds it, enshrined in the Republican National Platform. The problem is bigger than politics, and that’s why it is worth discussing in this election, even when Akin is off the front pages.

…just to name two; I’ll be looking for the slightest excuse to post more.

Today Akin apologized for his comment and confessed he does understand that, yes, rape can cause pregnancy.  He also defied his party (from a safe perch behind Mike Huckabee’s microphone) and said he will not resign from the Senate race against Missouri’s Democratic incumbent senator; the applause and the apoplexy resume.  But Akin is not the issue…he’s only a symptom, and one to which an attentive citizenry needs to pay attention.

Crazy conservatives shoot themselves in the foot, then reload

The radical right of the Republican Party keeps drifting farther and farther away from the reality where most of us exist.  The good part is they’re getting less and less likely to remain a national political force, since as they get more and more extreme in their views they’re pushing more and more moderates away while their own supporters, angry old white people, are dying off.  The overreaction to every imagined slight against The Way Things Should Be and The Way Things Used To Be has become comical, and an easy target for Jon Stewart and others.

The Daily Show took note of last week’s hissy fit in a hatbox over mandating health insurance coverage for contraception services and the requirement that employers offer such coverage, even some religion-affiliated employers, and was delighted to report that the conservative message machine didn’t miss a chance—again—to bulldoze blithely over that line that separates rational argument from hysterical exaggeration.  Click the pic, and enjoy.


Last Call for 2010

party-hat I’m cleaning out files and dumping what I’ll never use—some of it because the crummy foreign-made hyperlinks are broken—and while reorganizing the rest I found some things that need to be posted now, as a benchmark, because I’m sure this stuff isn’t over yet.

I’ve been very interested in the growing disaffection with American politics and politicians, and not just what’s coming from tea parties.  Back in April Mark McKinnon and Lawrence Lessig called for a constitutional convention if only to shock the legislative classes into understanding that people have had enough of the corruption that has institutionalized itself  in Washington, D.C.  By fall, of course, Jon Stewart got tens of thousands to rally for simple reasonableness in politics and government, and by the end of the year McKinnon and some other esteemed names were launching the No Labels approach to finding solutions to problems.  This could just generate “passionate ambivalence”, but I’m optimistic: the dismissive comments coming out of the loudest mouths on both ends of the spectrum might just mean the center has found a weapon to use against the unreasonable and the extreme.

Inconceivably, the Roman Catholic Church took the disgrace of the priest sex abuse scandal, and made it worse: first a senior official says criticism of the church is like anti-Semitism; then we learn that while in his prior job the man who now leads this church had authority directly from Pope John Paul II to act in these cases, and for 20 years chose not to; and now for Christmas, the pope says western society and its permissive sexual attitudes are partly to blame for many of the church’s celibate employees sexually abusing underage members of their parishes.  Like I said before, why aren’t these people in jail?

On the subject of blogging, I recently found some great sites that have helped boost traffic here at the corner idea stand.  Take a look at Blogiche, Alpha Inventions, and BlogSurfer if you want to get more eyeballs on your blog; you’ll get a new insight into what else is out there, too.

I’ll wrap up with syndicated columnist Scott Burns and his column from last January which reminded us then (and now) that everything old is new again: there’s always a crisis, we can’t rely on our government to take care of us, and we are getting better as the years go by.