Mad Johnny McCain's presidential candidacy. The opportunity came during a phone conversation this last weekend. I asked this person (a person with whom I am very close) for whom she would vote this election and got the reply: "Who do you think, Dade? Not the person you're voting for."
I said, "So, you're voting for McCain?" I wasn't surprised, but I was still disappointed.
"Yeah," said she. "He's not that great, but what choice do I have?"
To which I inquired: "What is your objection to Obama?"
"Well, the abortion issue for starters," she said, and then followed with a wandering monologue about the dangers of "big government," "socialized medicine," and other vagaries.
Our conversation was interrupted by external events and so I didn't get a chance to pursue the dialog any further. But I found it interesting that the first and, apparently, the most prominent, objection this person had to Obama was his stance in favor of a woman's right to choose to terminate a pregnancy.
Well, it seems to me that, tragically and cynically, the abortion issue is just another red herring being used by the Republican party to fool people into voting for it.
Yes, John McCain is taking a "pro-life" position (which, I suppose means he favors allowing the individual states to pass legislation to make abortion illegal); and, yes, Barack Obama is "pro-choice." But haven't the last 8 years of Republican domination of the federal government proven that Republican leaders have no real interest in seeing Roe vs. Wade overturned? In fact, it seems to me that the Republican party's interests dictate that they do whatever they can (secretly, of course) to prevent any restrictions on a woman's rights regarding the termination of a pregnancy.
Here's my thinking: By the very nature of the issue, anyone who has a position on abortion will be strident in his/her advocacy. People who are "pro-life," who view human life as beginning at the instant that a sperm fertilizes an ovum, are of course convinced that an abortion is the willful taking of an innocent life. And it follows that such people would believe that abortion is a monstrous crime. Equally, however, those who are "pro-choice," who believe that the beginning of human life occurs at some unknowable point in the process of fetal development, believe that women must have complete control over their own bodies, and that infringements on their reproductive rights are obscene governmental intrusions.
Well, this kind of hard-and-fast philosophical dichotomy provides rats like Karl Rove and his ilk an opportunity to secure a voting bloc, yes? Any demagogue can keep the passions of an issue like abortion high with some cheap, inflammatory rhetoric, yes? And while people scream at each other, while they accuse each other of the most beastly and base of behaviors, financial scandals, cooked-up intelligence reports, and abuse of power don't seem as interesting or vital to those engaged in the moral war.
Going back to my phone conversation, my McCain-voting counterpart feels morally compelled to vote for McCain because he is "against" abortion. But, if the abortion issue were moot, would her already lukewarm support of McCain evaporate into nothing?
And, let's go further, and imagine that the Supreme Court were to either overturn Roe or to rule on a related issue so as to render Roe irrelevant. Would not the passion of the rabid right-wing base of the Republican party be quelled somewhat? Would issues like rebuilding our national infrastructure, or developing alternative fuel, or providing access to health care or education suddenly come to the fore? Would people actually start demanding that Washington move its spending priorities away from corporate bailouts and tax-cuts for the wealthy elite toward things that might benefit the commonwealth?
But the abortion issue is not going to go away. And I don't necessarily think it should go away. A healthy society should always be examining its social mores and its traditions. As Herman Hesse said in Steppenwolf, each age has its own horrors; those things that seem natural and correct in one age seem barbaric and cruel in the next.
Our society must wrestle with the moral implications of the willful termination of a pregnancy. That's our burden. But the outrage around the abortion issue is that it has been used by charlatans to inflame passions in the most cynical of manners: as a smokescreen to obscure the misdeeds of a corrupted political party.