I’m usually reticent to link to my own posts, but I do feel the need to note that, six months ago, I noted that the GOP only gives two farts about abortion in the months leading up to a presidential election:
They’re laying on the guilt like it’s 1992 this time around. Or 2000. Or 2004. I’ve seen probably a dozen blogs linking to (already-well-known) summaries of the candidates’ previous speeches, and on not a few of them the bloggers say none too subtly that anyone who does not vote for McCain is of the Devil’s party but might not know it. My personal favorite is one that chides evangelicals planning to vote Obama for wanting to be “cool” (certainly nobody would prefer any actual policies other than the GOP’s; folks must just want to impress their iPod-listening friends) but forgetting that “We will stand before the judgment seat of Christ for our decisions.” Vote Obama, go to Hell. I loves it.
Now don’t get me wrong–I know that not every Republican voter is a one-issue Republican voter, and although I’ve never met one, I could entertain, theoretically, that a one-issue abortion voter who always votes pro-abortion in spite of preferring the GOP’s dispositions in favor of more frequent state executions, bigger Pentagon budgets, and an increase in nuclear weapons might exist. (That person truly would be of the “party of death.”) I also know, however, that the one-issue Republican is not an uncommon beast in my circles, and I in fact used to be one. That ended some time ago when I realized that GOP accusations about “buying votes” with social policies aimed at assisting the poor apply just as well to the GOP’s “pro-life” platform: so long as they can convince anti-abortion voters, especially but not exclusively Christians, that the RNC is the only chance of ending abortion, they can keep banking on that voting bloc (pun intended). Without the abortion question, they’d have to go about convincing evangelicals that the same rapacious Capitalism that William Jennings Bryan, without a doubt one of Fundamentalism’s great heroes, spent a career combating (including his last and most famous fight, against the political manifestations of Darwinism in Cleveland, Tennessee) and which actually gives abortion a context in which to be intelligible (why do women get abortions if not for fear that the system as it stands will punish the mother? and what system tells us most unflinchingly that entities not “productive” lack any good reason to go on living?) is actually what they should be about. They might be able to do it–after all, they’ve somehow convinced many Christians that weapons that can destroy and have destroyed cities full of women, children, and Christians are the very things that tax dollars should buy–but it’d be tougher than simply ringing that old abortion bell.
Of course, those bloggers and radio show hosts aren’t nearly as effective, endorsement-wise, as NARAL and NOW and the abortion agencies who make their opposition to McCain a matter of public record. Once those facts became known, abortion once again leaped to the national stage, and the campaigners for elephants had all the ammo they needed to start the guilt offensive. If McCain had a shred of integrity, he’d cut checks to these organizations for being the most effective organizers of guilt-ridden evangelicals in 2008. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but if payment actually went where service was rendered, that’s precisely where the money would go. I wish I could grab the advertising chiefs of these organizations and yell in their faces, “ABORTION ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE! ALL YOU’RE DOING IS DRIVING EVANGELICALS TO THE POLLS TO VOTE FOR THE OTHER GUY!” Perhaps it plays into their hands as well–so long as the country is being run by people who pretend to be anti-abortion every four years, they have an enemy against whom to mobilize their own donors. If I sound like a conspiracy theorist, I assure you that this also only happens every four years or so.
I’ll go ahead and say again that I would still be a one-issue abortion voter if I believed for a nanosecond that anyone in the running for the President of the United States of America in 2008 had any real intention of passing a Constitutional amendment outlawing the practice. But in exchange for 26 years (that’s most of my lifetime) of promises, the GOP has produced a Supreme Court that outlawed a procedure that constitutes one half of one percent of all abortions. At that rate, it’s going to take them around 5200 years to eliminate abortion, and if human history is any indicator, most republics do not last that long. And during those same 26 years the GOP-influenced-and-controlled government has invaded Iraq by “fixing the intelligence,” made public school teaching far more a burden than it should be, begun a regime of torture in military prisons and by extraordinary rendition, exchanged prisoners to Iran for weapons to sell to Nicaraguan terrorists, propped up an increasingly oppressive Saudi regime, and likely far more that the public will find out only after somebody has the courage to de-classify a couple libraries’ worth of documents. In 5200 years, I can only imagine what that mentality would lead to.
I know full well that the abolition of slavery came only after a politician so threatening to those who most benefited from the practice that they seceded from the union and precipitated a war rose to power, and I fear that another such cataclysm might be, at this point, the only thing that dislodges the practice from the law books. Despite various actors’ threats, nobody is seceding if McCain gets the nod. If people want to bring that to pass, one could imagine better ways than to keep voting for a party that’s done next to nothing about it for 28 years of influence and outright control of the capital.
One more thing: I haven’t voted for a DNC candidate for president for over a decade, and I haven’t been voting much longer than that. So anyone who says I’m a shill for the asses doesn’t know his own from a hole in the ground. But I am sick and tired of the GOP’s promises, every four years, that they really do care and that their constituents are voting for “life.” If people want to be abolitionists, let them be abolitionists. I’d suggest starting with a vote for Joe Schriner, the only candidate with nothing to lose and who might just “make abortion illegal” (the very straightforward phrase on his website). If people mean what they write, and if abortion policy is enough to disqualify a candidate from receiving Christians’ votes, then let those Christians of conscience swear off the asses and the elephants. To do otherwise is to praise by faint damns a party that exploits but faintly ever fights the great systemic crime of our era. I suppose, in the end, I can’t keep anyone from that. But I will once again, as I often do, close my brief commentary on the abortion question with Henry David Thoreau, thus:
Practically speaking, the opponents to a reform in Massachusetts are not a hundred thousand politicians at the South, but a hundred thousand merchants and farmers here, who are more interested in commerce and agriculture than they are in humanity, and are not prepared to do justice to the slave and to Mexico, cost what it may. I quarrel not with far-off foes, but with those who, neat at home, co-operate with, and do the bidding of, those far away, and without whom the latter would be harmless. We are accustomed to say, that the mass of men are unprepared; but improvement is slow, because the few are not as materially wiser or better than the many. It is not so important that many should be good as you, as that there be some absolute goodness somewhere; for that will leaven the whole lump. There are thousands who are in opinion opposed to slavery and to the war, who yet in effect do nothing to put an end to them; who, esteeming themselves children of Washington and Franklin, sit down with their hands in their pockets, and say that they know not what to do, and do nothing; who even postpone the question of freedom to the question of free trade, and quietly read the prices-current along with the latest advices from Mexico, after dinner, and, it may be, fall asleep over them both. What is the price-current of an honest man and patriot today? They hesitate, and they regret, and sometimes they petition; but they do nothing in earnest and with effect. They will wait, well disposed, for other to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret. At most, they give up only a cheap vote, and a feeble countenance and Godspeed, to the right, as it goes by them. There are nine hundred and ninety-nine patrons of virtue to one virtuous man. (“Resistance to Civil Government“)
Now by no means am I claiming that my own feeble donations to crisis pregnancy centers constitute anything worth bragging about, but I can at least point to actual women whom the centers have helped, and nobody can point to wars that those centers have started on pretext of national security threat, education policies that they have enacted that punish teachers who try to help the helpless, surveillance systems that they have planted on American citizens, torture chambers that they deny to the cameras while holding secret meetings deciding what to do to prisoners’ bodies, alliances they’ve formed with tyrannical regimes, or promises they’ve made and broken to end the practice of abortion altogether. Such centers are small and quiet protests, places that proclaim the crime of abortion to heaven and cry, “How Long?” Given a choice between the GOP and Save the Child Ministries, I know where my dollar is going, and once I’ve decided that, abortion simply isn’t an issue any more when I show up to keep up my reputation with the church ladies who volunteer every election at the polls. And so I can and will in good conscience think about questions of education, nuclear weapons, the surveillance state, war and peace, state execution, tax policy, and all the things that different Washington regimes actually do affect rather than the one thing I can say with some certainty any of them won’t change. I’m not saying abandon the stand against abortion; I am saying to put that fight where it belongs, on the streets with real women, rather than in the voting booth, where the Washington crew will leave it until it becomes useful again.
If my resolve holds, this will be the last post I post about the presidential election. With only 10 days to hold out, that shouldn’t be too hard. I’m tired of all of this, and I can only hope the Supreme Court declares the next president quickly. In the meantime, if you’re really serious about abolition, Vote for Joe. I imagine that’s what I’ll be doing. Imagine that.
One last addendum: This essay from n+1 is just too fun not to put in here. I don’t claim that it’s acute analysis or even-handed civil discourse or even intelligible at points, but the strangeness of it is compelling. I hope someone has something to say about it, because when I finished reading, I could only scratch my head.