Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Akin, Fusionism and Wasting Your Vote

In the general and deserved explosion over Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment, I am starting to believe that people are giving him too much of a pass for simply having said a ‘stupid’ thing.  There seems to be a larger undercurrent to his politics within this statement.  If one delves into what Akin is saying here it  also leads to a need to once again question this larger ‘fusionism’ question in which libertarians and people in the liberty movement should compromise more in order to have a seat at the table with the Republicans.
So, to the first issue of ‘legitimate rape’:  If it embeds properly below you should watch the entire abortion segment from the 1:57 mark.

In this entire piece we see the general stream of consciousness from which the 30 seconds of ‘legitimate rape’ comment comes from.  Now, to my mind, what we see here is not an idiotic ‘wrong word’ error, this is a full narrative.  In this bit it is acknowledged that he is staunchly pro-life.  The interviewer asks after exceptions, some situation in which a woman would be allowed control over her uterus.  We start with ‘life of the mother’.  In his little explanation he seems to qualify the idea that a woman could have an abortion to save her own life, if there was no chance for the baby to survive.  This is certainly generous of Mr. Akin, IF your life is in danger AND the life of the baby is untenable, then the state may allow for you to save your own life.  The next part, which so many people have conflated to mean, that if you got pregnant it wasn’t really a rape, because somehow or other your body knows rape from sex and would not allow for conception (I would see the underlying context being that if you got pregnant you must have liked it ergo not rape).  What I see here is something slightly different, yet just as offensive.  There is an unspoken part of what he is saying, in which he seems to be answering the question in a larger, pre-constructed narrative.  To (fairly on unfairly) put words in his mouth, what I believe him to be saying is this:

  • As an article of faith (more on this below) I believe that life begins at conception and that all abortion should be outlawed by the state
  • Some people will ask ‘what about a life of the mother exception’ so to placate those somewhat reasonable questions we will allow for this scenario.
  • People will then ask after rape and incest as they always do.  Should a woman have to carry a baby to term that is a product of this most horrible of personal violations?
  • In his perfect world abortion would be completely illegal, but people would complain about ‘why no exception for terrible events like rape?’.  But if we had a ‘rape’ exception wouldn't a woman who wanted an abortion (some feminist probably) just claim to have been raped?  Ok, sure that might happen, but what about an actual LEGITIMATE rape?  What then?

This is where, I believe, his moronic diatribe about rape not resulting in pregnancy picks up from.  He and those like him want to outlaw abortion because they think it a sin. It seems cold and heartless, even from a religious perspective, to force a woman to carry a rape induced pregnancy to term.  Imagine further if you happen not to hold this religious conviction that the moment sperm touches egg that a soul is beamed into the zygote from heaven, it is going to be extremely difficult to get that person on board with this plan.  Overly harsh or critical on my part?  Today in Religion Dispatches there is a great article by Sarah Posner that discusses Akin’s brand of abortion activism (here).  The most telling part of that article I think is where the Presbyterian Church in America (Akin’s church) citing a position paper by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church stance on rape induced abortions:
But acknowledging that indeed such pregnancies do take place, the OPC asked, “should she seek an abortion? We must reply in the negative. We are here weighing the shame, pain, and inconvenience of the mother against the life of her child, and we have no choice but to decide in favor of the latter. The unborn child must not be put to death for the sin of a parent. A Christian must indeed sympathize with the plight of a woman in such a situation, and must be prepared to give counsel, prayer and other help. In spite of her suffering, she should be helped to see from God’s Word what a privilege it is to bring a child into the world, and how the child, even from such an origin, may be one of God’s elect—a blessing to God’s church and to the world.”
Nothing in that statement has anything to do with the secular governance of the United States or the individual state governments, yet you assume by everything that Akin has said and done, this would be his preferred position.  This should be a huge problem for anyone in the liberty movement, because regardless of your own personal religious convictions, people who claim to be aligned with liberty should believe in liberty of conscience.  If the starting point for a policy is a religious notion of how a Christian God watches over American government policy, and gets annoyed if we do not follow biblical principles in our laws and policies, then liberty people need to call them out as theocrats and stand athwart of whatever agenda they are proposing.

In the larger fusionism discussion I see people like Akin and similar elements within the Republican party as precluding the grand alliance between libertarians, the liberty movement and Republicans.  Some libertarians are pro-life, and in my own philosophical journey I have read what many pro-life libertarians have had to write on the subject.  In the end, even those that claim to use a non-religious ‘life at conception’ argument do not convince me.  I am also not an evictionist, purge the trespasser anytime you see fit either.  I am more in the “I am not a woman, but if I was I would want unquestioned dominion over my body when it comes to first trimester pregnancy, and we can have a reasoned, scientifically based discussion of issues after that” camp.  I see abortion as none of my damn business, and for those libertarians, even pro-life ones, who preach fusionism, what do you say about the Akin’s of the party?  The man starts from a theocratic position, that God watches over America and how it acts, and our laws should reflect his wishes.  How can liberty people sign on to get in the boat with this man, along with the Santorums and so many others?  Pro-life?  How about pro-liberty first?  People keep saying social issues should be on the back burner this election, but it is not wise to ignore things like this.  Even if the more libertarian Republicans are able to win this time around, what then?  Will they be allowed into the decision making?  The GOP will be voting on a plank involving abortion at the convention this week, and according to CNN the draft reads:
"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,…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."
Does this mean you cannot be a pro-life Republican?  If you are a liberty-minded Republican, can you vote against this amendment when it comes up in congress and keep your committee slots?  What is going to be the litmus test for being in the Republican tent?  Given the language of that plank statement, the enshrining in the constitution the idea that a woman needs to cede her personal autonomy to the state, I don’t really understand how it is they expect women to vote for them, much less advocates of liberty.

In this fusionism, small ball, change from the inside discussion, I do not see the light at the end of the tunnel my compatriots are seeing.  What issues do we gain on?  ‘Gotta beat Obama’ only carries if the other option actually appeals to you.  Given the Romney/Ryan insistence on pandering to Medicare voters, lack of a plan to cut anything, and desire to increase defense spending, I would really like to know what the point is.  My choice between Romney and Obama is what exactly?  They are both terrible on war, drugs, privacy, security theater, spending, cronyism and a raft of other issues; not a dimes worth of difference.  Throw in the Republican positions on Gays, immigrants and this desire to insert the constitution into every woman’s uterus, and…where is the liberty corner of this tent exactly?  What I would really like to see is someone stick a microphone in Romney’s face and ask him where he stands on waterboarding terrorists, and then ask the libertarians who we should be supporting.

In the end it isn’t really about how many of our concerns can be addressed within the Republican party, but how many depredations we suffer, how many principles we compromise in order to have a minor cheerleading role in the ‘big tent’ - over there in that dark corner by the bathroom, come out when we need a vote - before we decide to go inhabit our own tent, as I have said many times before, throw sand in the gears and break the machine, before the machine breaks all of us.  What is truly unfortunate in the whole Akin thing is that the LP of Missouri has a candidate, a possible third choice as it were between statist big government McCaskill and theocrat Akin, that as of right now, that people can’t learn anything about.  Let's see if they step up and change that given the tremendous opportunity they have presented.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Future is Yours to Ignore

One of the reasons I have not been able to post recently is the birth of my third son.  As I was perusing the internet while bouncing him in his chair yesterday I saw a Twitter post from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee stating they had new bumper stickers.  The sticker reads: Save Medicare, Vote Democrat (to which I replied).  There you go, a naked pander.  No substance, no notion or framing of the problem, which is monumental, just a simple little “vote for us so you can keep getting yours”.

As I lay in bed last night I am trying to expand that line of reasoning, how do I explain this to my children down the road (they are all under six at the moment).  When they are old enough to understand the concept of the budget, on spending more than you bring in, and how so much of what is spent is on entitlements, on moving ever closer to insolvency I am supposed to say what exactly?  The Obama/Elizabeth Warren line seems to dictate I say something along the lines of:

Well boys, you see promises were made by people who died well before I was born. The people who made those promises underestimated the enormity of the task, the burden it would place, and the reality and scope of the issue, but that is unimportant. What is important is that you step up and meet that obligation, fulfill that promise. Don’t question it, don’t ask after the sustainability, the efficacy or utility. Don’t wonder if there is a better way to do things, don’t imagine that you are not bound by the past and that your generation can change the system. No, no, no, do none of those things, we have a Social Contract and this is the way things are done. 

Seem reasonable?  I love my parents, really and truly, but if push comes to shove in a choice between my kids and my parents, my parents are screwed.  And knowing my parents like I do, they wouldn’t even let it come to that.  They would step up and make the right choice.  My children have the right to change the system if need be, consent of the governed as it were.  We today, and they in the future, have the right to adjust course.  If we are about to crash head long into a wall we are allowed to turn the wheel.  To deny that opportunity is by definition tyranny.  Simply saying “Save Medicare” does nothing to solve any problems, it is a simplistic, selfish and moronic proposition.

This of course is not a reason to jump on the Romney train.  Pander is starting to become his middle name.  He is using the bloated, inefficient, wasteful and corrupt Medicare program as a campaign tool as well.  “Obama cut Medicare!” as if that was in and of itself an evil.  The old people vote though, so why not whip them up.  He of course extends his panders to whip up other bits of the base.  When the real issues that face this country involve spending trillions of dollars we do not have on top of trillions we have already thrown away, he advocates spending even more on defense, pegged to GDP, because you can never be to safe.  When economics and age baiting become to hard he can also be sure to bring up important issues like protecting us all from the gays and their desire to destroy marriage as we know it.  There is no maturity or seriousness coming out of either of these campaigns, and it is very disheartening.

When I see people in the liberty movement continue to push this fusionism issue with the Republicans, this lesser of two evils, don’t throw away your vote, we have to get Obama out mentality, I just shake my head.  Where is the real difference?  This whole “work from the inside’ is just so laughable.  Wait till 2016, Rand Paul might run, as if that were somehow the saving grace.  Is it about the men or the principles?  Can real change be incrementally secured?  If push come to shove between getting Santorums of the party in line versus the Paulites, how do you really think it is going to play out?  Can you change the system before it changes you is the big question here.  These two parties are going to spend a billion dollars to secure the halls of power, because the interest involved all gain something from the ‘system’ as presently constructed.  I don’t see rewarding either side a victory and begging for crumbs from the table as being the best way to advance a liberty agenda, for there is no gain for the 'system' in it.  I would rather throw sand in the gears, get people outside of there comfort zone, and say for once ‘vote your conscience’.  To say there is no hope in that is to say that the people can not change the system, even incrementally.  I often imagine Whig politicians making the same arguments we hear today back in 1852: "Its a two-party system".  When is the last time you voted Whig?  There will be nothing done this year prior to the election, because keeping up the “the other side is a bunch of intractable ideologues” fiction motivates the base.  When the election is over we can be sure that they will rally around the idea that cutting the budget through sequestration would be terrible, and everyone will keep their goodies.  Yet saying ‘to hell with this’ and casting a vote outside of the system is somehow crazy and naïve.  We have been hearing that for decades now, and we will continue to hear it, because it is what is needed to keep the status quo.  It will be up to us to stop listening, or our children can suffer the consequences.