Wednesday, January 28, 2009
RELIGION & POLITICS--ABORTION
I think I’ve talked a bit about the Religious Right without using their name, but let’s talk about liberals, too.
One of the cool things about Republicans is that they have allowed for a spectrum of ideas. Consider how many big time Republicans we know who are pro-choice. Giuliani is pro-choice. Even Arnold, the terminator, is pro-choice. Why does this matter? It means that you don’t let one issue ruin the possibility of people joining you agree on a lot of your platform. That allows Arnold and Rudy to be Republicans.
The Democrats, on the other hand have a lot to learn. I don’t know if they were better about it this election in 2008. Perhaps they were or were not; it wasn’t as big an issue this time. The point is that being a pro-life Democrat can kill you politically. Former Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey was not allowed to speak at the Democratic National Convention in 1992 and 1996 because he was pro-life even though he’s progressive views on economic and foreign policy and supports women’s rights. Former Ohio Congressman and evangelical Christian Tony Hall faced similar struggles because he is pro-life even though he’s outspoken on issues of hunger and poverty. Jesse Jackson changed his views in order to run for the presidency as a Democrat. This is a problem.
The Democratic National 2000 party platform (Wallis, “God’s Politics,” 2005) says “Our goal is to make abortion less necessary and more rare. . .We must continue to support efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies, and we call upon all Americans to take personal responsibility to meet this important goal.” That was great! It also said that the Democratic National Party recognizes “different views on issues of personal conscience like abortion and capital punishment. We view this diversity of views as a source of strength, not as a sign of weakness.” Great words, but those words were removed from the 2004 party platform (incidentally Clinton ran on a platform of making abortion safe, legal, and rare, but didn’t do much to make it rare and just helped keep it legal).
So the Democrats have a lot to learn from Republicans in terms of igniting a base of Christians. Though I agree it is very bad practice and thinking to vote on 1-4 issues (abortion, gay marriage, etc) to the exclusion of all others, Democrats could learn something by affirming their pro-choice stance but allowing for differing views within the Democratic spectrum. They would lose so many people who do the exclusive-voting, people who say “I like the Democrats but I just can’t vote for baby-killers.” Again, it’s not good to vote on 2 or 3 issues, but you should allow ideological variance within your party. Moreover, the Democrats can affirm being pro-choice and then work super hard to reduce the number of abortions and unwanted pregnancies. Republicans have won elections on anti-abortion stances and then done nothing to reduce the rate. If you work to reduce the rate even though you’re pro-choice you can get pro-life people to vote for you perhaps. But the most important issue to reduce the number of abortions which is ridiculously high for our American society. The Democrats could even put a website link to the group Democrats for Life, but they haven’t in the past. I don’t know if any of this has changed recently.
The other problem with abortion and people being against abortion is that there is not a consistent ethic of life. How can you be against abortion or a legal practice that kills 4,000 unborn children a day and not be worried about AIDS that kills over 9,000 a day or hunger and poverty that kill over 30,000 children a day. Something’s not right. What about capital punishment? Anti-abortion, pro-capital punishment? It’s possible. I’ve seen it, but the problem with capital punishment besides possible principle objections (thinking killing to show you’re against killing isn’t right), is that it’s easy to make mistakes with death row. It’s overwhelmingly biased along racial lines (just study any justice system statistics); it’s extremely biased against the poor who cannot afford good or any adequate legal representation. Moreover, it is not clear and there is not proof it actually deters crime like a good punishment is supposed to do. It just satisfies revenge (forget about rehabilitation; SIDE NOTE: the three purposes of punishment are supposed to be justice, rehabilitation, deterrence; it is possible to feel that only justice is the true and needed reason to punish so some see it as ok).