Palin, Abortion, and Culture War
Why the silence from the political right, as McCain does his best to undermine some of the basic underpinnings of our democratic culture?
I think what we are now observing is the very real cost of treating abortion as the only issue that one need consider in evaluating a candidate for high office. Palin’s candidacy is a clear consequence of this approach. She is obviously unqualified for the office she seeks. Her repeated lying about the “bridge to nowhere,” even after the lie has been plainly exposed as such, suggests a craven ambition and utter disregard for democratic political morality. And yet opinion leaders on the right remain enthusiastic in their support of her.
And why shouldn’t they? On their view, abortion is murder (not merely a “grave immorality,” not merely “like murder,” or “similar to murder,” but “murder,” full stop). The murder of millions of innocent children is, the argument goes, the most significant political issue we confront, by a wide margin. And so whatever other shortcomings Palin has are irrelevant compared with her unequivocal support for overturning Roe v. Wade.
The question to put to supporters of Sarah Palin is how far they would take this train. If abortion is important enough that it justifies throwing away the basic rules of democratic political deliberation, or that it justifies supporting an incompetent liar to become a heartbeat away from the presidency, is it important enough to justify dismantling our constitutional system of government?
This is not an idle question. Many in the pro-life movement compare abortion with slavery. And, of course, many abolitionists thought that the existence of slavery necessitated a complete dismantling of our Constitution. For example, radical abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison once said that if the Constitution protected slavery, then it should be burnt. Do Palin’s defenders feel the same way?
Palin’s selection as a running mate, the McCain campaign’s descent into Rovian dishonesty, and the silence of McCain/Palin’s defenders on the right are a reminder that, to them, we are not merely involved in an election, we are at war. And in war, anything goes — propaganda and dirty tricks are the order of the day. The key is to defeat the enemy (in this case, Obama and his supporters). As McCain’s spokesman Brian Rodgers put it: “We’re running a campaign to win. And we’re not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it.”
Is this really the future we want for our democratic system?