Thursday, December 16, 2004

Who's sorry now?

Amy Sullivan's at it again. Touting the wrong issue with the example, that is. Last time around it was chiding Democrats for their reluctance to embrace religious language and holding up John Kerry, the former altar boy and weekly communicant who kept a variety of favorite Bible passages in his rhetorical arsenal as a case in point. Even if one accepted Sullivan's notion that we should let the Republicans define the playing field by 'chuching up' our rhetoric, Kerry was a lousy example. Southern Baptists don't have a chokehold on religious belief or language, and whild Kerry didn't have a down home, Bible thumping, pulpit pounding style, everyone who cared knew that he is a man of abiding faith.

She's picked a new topic this time, but is stuck on the same example. Noting that Kerry, appearing at a meeting of Democratic interest goup leaders, responded to a question from Ellie Smeal of EMILY's List telling the assembled that "...they needed new ways to make people understand they didn't like abortion..." she allows how "Standing up and saying that to the head of the pro-choice group that holds the biggest purse strings for the party takes some guts." She's right. It did. But she can't leave it alone. She adds, parenthetically "(Not as many guts as it would have taken to say it during the election, but these are baby steps.)"

Which is where her argument starts to collapse. Because John Kerry did say just that, very clearly, and repeatedly, during the campaign. He doesn't like abortion and, again, anyone who cared to know knew that. It was clear in July, when he told the Dubuque Telegraph Herald that
"I oppose abortion, personally. I don't like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception."
While making a principled defense of his pro-choice voting record at the same time.
"I can't take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist. We have separation of church and state in the United States of America."
And he was consistent when responding to the issue in the second Presidential debate.
"First of all, I cannot tell you how deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins. I'm a Catholic - raised a Catholic. I was an altar boy. Religion has been a huge part of my life, helped lead me through a war, leads me today.

"But I can't take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn't share that article of faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant, whatever. I can't do that. But I can counsel people, I can talk reasonably about life and about responsibility."
I think it would be clear to anyone except a single issue zealot that John Kerry was a Democratic candidate who shared the ambivalence many people feel when they try to balance their gut feeling that there's something wrong with abortion with the understanding that under our system of government there's no room for legal sanctions to enforce those feelings, particularly when the feelings are inspired by religious conviction. Not to Amy, though. She insists...
"...it's long past time for the Democratic Party to realize that they continue to lose voters who aren't one-issue abortion voters but who feel unwelcome in the party because of their beliefs. Rhetoric that verges on being pro-abortion rankles even pro-choice Democrats like me..."
OK. But where, among Democratic politicians or within Democratic platforms does she find such rhetoric. The most common language I hear tends to mimic the Clintonian formulation, "safe, legal and rare." Kerry went a step further, plainly stating his personal opposition. I've never, though, heard a Democratic candidate take a "pro-abortion," as in "I like abortion. People should have them." position. Never.

Sullivan's right when she says...
"Parents who are uneasy about parental notification laws don't have rocks in their heads...I'm not saying Democrats should back down from protecting girls in extraordinary circumstances who need to get abortions on their own. But they don't need to frame the argument in a way that implies that those who disagree with them are stone-age misogynists."
Fair enough. But what, then, is her problem with the Kerry, and by extension, Democratic position as outlined, again, at the second Presidential debate?
"...with respect to parental notification, I'm not going to require a 16- or 17-year-old kid who's been raped by her father and who's pregnant to have to notify her father. So you've got to have a judicial intervention. And because they didn't have a judicial intervention where she could go somewhere and get help I voted against it."
People are pro-choice for a variety of reasons. In one corner there's an absolute defense of a woman's right to control her reproductive health. Atrios, who offers a rigorous response to Sullivan here, argues "I'm not pro-abortion. I'm not anti-abortion. I'm anti-unwanted pregnancy." My position is anti-abortion and pro-Roe. It's a matter of privacy. Whether I like abortions or not isn't the issue. I don't, but it's simply none of my business unless an actually concerned party makes it my business, and then all I can do is offer advice. That's happened a couple times in my life. So far as I know, my advice was rejected each time. Neither woman delivered the child in question. I can only guess, though, because the actual circumstances were, once my advice was registered, none of my business.

But Sullivan credits Democrats with no shades of grey on the issue, arguing...
"If Democrats can change the perception that they are pro-abortion, they will finally be free to go on the offensive."
People who cling to that perception of a Party that made the avowedly 'pro-life' David Bonior House Minority Whip and has just selected the avowedly 'pro-life' Harry Reid Senate Majority Leader, choose to cling to it despite the obvious facts. They tend to be exactly the kind of single issue zealots that demand a position so extreme that, frankly, their votes are simply unavailable to us.

Since Sullivan herself is pro-choice, the Party is so clearly tolerant of a diversity of views on the issue and John Kerry's campaign was actually emblematic of the position she asserts we should adopt, it's really kind of hard to figure out what inspired her outburst. She admits that...

"Democrats have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to their record of protecting life..."
But frets
"...no one is going to listen to them if they're too busy chanting 'I'm not sorry.'"
Well, if we have nothing to be ashamed of, what is there to be sorry about?

Atrios offers a counter suggestion...
It seems like pro-life Democrats who honestly recognize that the platform of the party is unlikely to change just want people like me to admit that abortion is "icky" to make them feel better. Well, I'm not going to do that.
I will. I admit it. I think abortion is "icky," at best.

Just the same, I'm pro-Roe. I'm pro-choice. And I'm not sorry.

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