As Republicans and Democrats focus on their differences rather than common goals, factionalism is becoming the status quo in this country. It’s becoming trendy to be either conservative or liberal, while those who are in between are stigmatized and criticized as “flip-floppers.” Congressmen are afraid to compromise because they’ll be perceived as “weak” or will lose their fringe base of support. The concept of moderation is quickly becoming a long-forgotten principle. Compromise is a dirty word to some; bipartisanship, even worse.
As America braces itself for the upcoming election, I too am starting to think about for whom I’m going to vote. I’m very excited about finally being able to vote, after so many years of following politics and not being able to participate in the process. And even though I plan to register as a Democrat, I would have no qualms about voting for a moderate Republican who fosters bipartisanship.
The problem is, no such Republican exists. I’ve watched the debates in South Carolina; I’ve watched the debates in Florida; and I am convinced, now more than ever, that these four Republican candidates are more concerned about proving their conservative credentials than about what is good and healthy for the country.
The issue of abortion is just one example of their extreme stances that are not copasetic with the rest of the country’s mentality. During the South Carolina debate, I watched those four intelligent, respectable politicians spend 20 minutes arguing who was more pro-life than the other. They were like children, obsessed with proving themselves without thinking about how such a ban on abortion would affect America’s sense of freedom.
In 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided, the decision was 7-2. Everyone agreed that although abortion isn’t a good thing, not giving people at least the choice to get an abortion is even worse. However a different breed of Republicans was on the Court back then – like Chief Justice Warren Burger and Justices Lewis F. Powell, Harry Blackmun and Potter Stewart – who were able to separate their personal perspectives from their Constitutional perspectives and did not feel the need to perpetuate this militancy in regard to certain social issues. With the advent of the arrogant evangelical movement and the rise of the Tea Party, these Republicans are no more; their eradication – and the rise of the pro-life movement – is killing bipartisanship, compromise, the concept of moderation and American freedoms.
As Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in his opinion in Roe, “few decisions are more personal and intimate, more properly private, or more basic to individual dignity and autonomy, than a woman’s decision – with the guidance of her physician and within the limits specified in Roe – whether to end her pregnancy. A woman’s right to make that choice freely is fundamental.” It is this fundamental right that Republicans seek to terminate. Quite frankly, the idea of that happening makes me nauseous, and I urge everyone evaluating the issue to separate your political beliefs from your personal beliefs.
Personally, I would never suggest or advocate for anyone I know to go out and actively get an abortion – they are morally repugnant to my own religious ideas and basic morals regarding virtue and humanity. However, I am also not going to be so pompous as to suggest that everyone should have the same morals and religious beliefs as I do. It is, after all, a key concept of American Constitutional law that the government shall not legislate based on religious principles. Evangelical Republicans, however, seek to change that, and they believe that their views on life should be everyone’s views on life. This, however, is not the proper mindset with regards to evangelism, which should be about respectful discussion, offering to take a non-Christian friend to church, and talking about why Christ is the savior – not cruel condemnation, harsh denunciation and severe diatribe.
For some strange reason, I don’t see these sanctimonious pro-life people, who spend countless hours standing along street corners or protesting in front of abortion clinics, actually take initiative themselves and work to be foster or adoptive parents. Instead of working toward helping women who cannot keep their babies in way that would be more pursuant to their (and my) Christian beliefs, they feel the need to spend their time protesting without thinking of the Constitutional crisis for which they are advocating.
Everyone can sensibly understand that murder is wrong and that is it is OK to ban murder – that is part of an occidental secular moral code; however, how can we say that terminating the development of something that is not even alive is murder? Too often, pro-life proponents use the phrase “the rights of the unborn” to defend a ban on abortion. I ask the question: How can a fetus have rights if it is not born? I understand why abortions should be limited after viability. I understand when some say that at that point a fetus actually possesses the constitutionally protected right to life.
But this is not what these Republicans are seeking to do – they strive to ban abortion straight out, which in turn, deprives women of the “fundamental human right to make one’s own children bearing decision,” in the words of Gloria Feldt, former Planned Parenthood president.
In this way, these candidates are also directly attacking our concept of democracy as we know it. As Justice William O. Douglas once said, “The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom.” I firmly believe Justice Douglas when he says this. There are many things that people do that perhaps they should not do, but that they should still have a right to do – things such as looking at pornography, advocating for the violent overthrow of the government, being a member of the Ku Klux Klan; and even getting an abortion. But Constitutional protection is not about endorsing actions; it’s about protecting them to ensure a free and democratic society. It’s about giving citizens the privacy to make personal decisions about their actions.
This argument today should not be solely about abortion – in fact, it probably should not be about abortion at all. Rather, it should be about privacy, arguably the most important American right. It is, after all, the root of all other freedoms. Without privacy, the people would be totally beholden to the government, and the government would have complete power over the people. Without the right to privacy, the American government and the Party in the novel 1984 would be one in the same. Oceania and the United States would become synonymous.
The people’s right to privacy is what differentiates democracies from totalitarian regimes. The right to privacy is what maintains the autonomy of the people from which all of the rights of the Bill Rights branch off. That is what we should be thinking of today. We should be thinking about that and liberty – an explicitly protected Constitutional right. The idea that the Constitution does not protect a right to privacy – such an essential, innate and fundamental right – is absolutely absurd. The Ninth Amendment indicates that the founders meant for other implicit rights to be protected, and the first Eight Amendments also by and large indicate that there is an endowed right to privacy.
Furthermore, history teaches us that the countries that don’t grant their citizens some modicum of privacy quickly undergo a metamorphosis into vicious dictatorial governments. That being said, though, even without the right to privacy, the right to choose to get an abortion would still be encompassed in the right to liberty – the liberty to make very personal decisions about your body. Once the government starts telling its citizens what it can do with their bodies, then all democracy – all semblance of freedom – is lost; theUnited Stateswould have started on a slippery slope that will surely lead to oppression.
Liberty has been an explicit part of American government since the Declaration of Independence and is assured to the people in both the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments. These two freedoms, liberty and privacy, are what the Republicans are seeking to strip from the American people – these two freedoms are what the Republicans are seeking to strip from the Constitution.
During the South Carolina debate, former Speaker Gingrich criticized the “pro-abortion” movement. What movement is this again? I know I don’t adhere to such a school of thought. I find Gingrich’s reference to the “pro-choice” camp is offensive; I am in no way for abortion, but I am in every way for the woman’s choice to get an abortion in the first trimester. Gingrich’s word choice is indicative of these Republicans’ all-or-nothing mindsets. If you’re not for abortion, you can’t be for the choice to get an abortion. And that is simply not the case – with any issue. There are always shades of gray between black and white. Their mentality is dangerous; this mentality will kill American politics – and the country. This is not just about abortion; this is about the very future of our country.
Last week, in a column Zach Jarrell claimed that the country needs an extremist politician and that moderates are in some way “weak.” I cannot disagree more. A moderate is exactly what the country needs – someone who can be a respectable figurehead for America without going on militant tirades about their sense of right or wrong; someone who can unite both sides of the political aisle; someone who can compromise and work to get us out of debt. Most importantly, we need someone who can foster much-needed cooperation and compromise in Washington.
A moderate is the future of America. I seriously don’t think that person is President Obama, but I’m sure it’s not one of the four Republican candidates.