Re the Nov. 6 mess: First thing to say is, can we avoid the sin of over-extrapolation? The journalistic, not to say human, tendency is to ride every political tide out to sea and back. Gee, if we’re here now, won’t we be there tomorrow? History, a process full of accidents and unplanned events, doesn’t work so. (Remember Hurricane Sandy?) I don’t say this in a kiss-it-and-make-it-better sort of way after the fiasco of last Tuesday. I say it in order to preserve a measure of realism concerning the large cause of Life.
It doesn’t look good—that’s true—when 55 percent of women vote for pro-choice, pro-gay marriage Barack Obama. Stanley Greenberg, the Democratic pollster, attempts to explain: “It’s not about abortion. It’s about women having a modern role, and [Republicans have] taken it to another level, where they’re talking about people losing contraception.” Aha. The Sandra Fluke brouhaha, needlessly elevated by Rush Limbaugh to a bashing contest over the alleged right to free contraception vs. the actual question at stake – has Washington, overriding religious convictions, the right to make Georgetown University, directly or indirectly, finance Ms. Fluke’s protection?
Nor did it help that two Republican senatorial candidates—Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana—expressed in awkward ways their concern for the lives of the tiny percentage of babies born as a result of rape. There was more to the matter than these small episodes: namely, a lingering sense that Republican men (the brutes) are figures out of the black-and-white television era: obstacles to women’s growth and progress. A Los Angeles Times writer, Paul West, seemed this week to celebrate the passing of “the hegemony of the straight white male in America.” (If only I’d know I was once a hegemon!)
The ground would appear to be shifting beneath our feet, harder and faster than ever. Should Republicans therefore surrender to the zeitgeist: dial down the pro-life stuff; acknowledge that choice in marriage partners is as necessary as choice at the grocery store? I expect such advice to provoke plenty of head-nodding in coming months. The easiest policy in defeat is always surrender. Smiles and compliments come your way. Best to acknowledge reality—right?
That would depend partly on one’s definition of reality. When women profess disproportionate admiration for the non-pro-life candidate, it gives concern. Bear in mind this, though: Politics—a game, at best, and generally an unsavory one—isn’t now and never has been the right field for sorting out the varied understandings of life. There isn’t supposed to be a Democratic or a Republican concept of the purposes for which humanity was shaped. Only in the past 40 years have particular voters come to think that Power, as contrasted with religion and tradition, has much to teach us along those lines. What do politicians know about these matters?
How much, for that matter, do voters remember months after an election—what turned them on or off, who said what. The Fluke uproar? A genuine fluke, soon to lie as still as the consternation over Todd Akin’s infamous remark about rape. We may count on more discretion regarding how politicians deal with certain topics, maybe some disquietude (for now) about attacking Planned Parenthood. Which leaves some undoubted political concerns out there on the table; e.g., whether the government can get away with undercutting religious conviction in the evidently sacred name of “free contraception.” The war against Roe vs. Wade continues as usual. Most Americans support restrictions of some kind on abortion. Politicians will find ways to recognize this reality without sounding like Limbaugh clearing his throat. Nov. 6 wasn’t the end of civilization, as we know it. Crawling under the covers in a dark room—that would be more like the end.