Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Taking it right to anti-choice zealots

      Sure, I might have missed it. Since reality TV started chewing its way through the television schedule like a weevil in a cotton boll, what's to watch?

       Nonetheless, I'm confident I have seen something on TV rarely if ever tried by Democrats: A candidate is going right after his opponent's attempt to inject government into the private decisions of women.

      Commercials of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) assail his opponent, Ken Buck, for advocating a "fetal personhood" amendment to the state constitution. More pointedly, the commercials have women doing the assailing.

      Cumulative message: How dare (Buck) want government to interfere in my personal decisions?

      Here's how he dares. To win a Republican nomination anymore, a candidate must swear allegiance to the religious right and to hard-line anti-abortion positions. That includes opposing common forms of birth control, and of course blocking embryonic stem cell research.

      Ah, but now Buck, a Tea Party favorite who defeated the GOP establishment choice, is softening his stances as the nominee. He says that though he would prohibit abortion even in cases of rape and incest, he doesn't want to amend the state constitution.

     The "personhood" amendment he backed could prohibit more than prototypical abortion. It also could prohibit birth control like the IUD and the birth control pill, both of which can prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall.

      Buck's staff now says the candidate wants to focus on the economy. Interesting.

      Why run from this, Mr. Hard-Right Candidate?

      Better question: Why haven't progressives run to the studio to hammer on anti-choice zealots for these positions?

      The whole palette of issues plied by social conservatives gives the lie to the American right's rhetorical underpinnings. Tea Party "less government" placards aside, the hard right is not interested in a hands-off government. It wants an in-your-face government. It wants organized school prayer. It wants to censor the Internet. It wants government to side with Leviticus on sexual orientation.

     And don't be deceived. The Tea Party movement is a religious right movement. Right, Sarah Palin? Right, Christine O'Donnell?

     In Alaska, some say the GOP primary victory of Tea Party choice (and Christian right hard-liner) Joe Miller over U.S. Senate incumbent Lisa Murkowski was driven by economic issues. Actually, turnout for Miller was pumped up by an anti-abortion parental notification bill on the ballot. Murkowski lost by a razor-thin margin in large part for being one of the few pro-choice Republicans in the Senate.

     Well, that's what winning GOP nominations has come down to. What about winning general elections, something we're told Republicans will do in great numbers in November, the Sword of Yahweh cutting giant swaths?

     Interestingly, establishment Republicans are doing everything they can to tone down the whole social issues thing. This week when House Republicans issued campaign agenda, they deliberately edited out any references to red-meat social conservative issues, particularly abortion.

     Progressive candidates should not let them shove these matters aside. Why? Because these are mainstream concerns of centrist voters, particularly women in the case of abortion. Sure, these voters are concerned about jobs and GDP. They also are interested in fundamental matters of freedom, a word we are to assume the Tea Party has copyrighted.

      Let's talk, and force GOP candidates to talk, about the abortion issue, because it dramatically portrays a so-called "anti-government" movement with corrupt logic verging on fraud.

      It's time to go right after those who hide behind "pro-life," the weakest and weasle-iest label in American politics.

      To what extent are you "pro-life," Mr. or Mrs. Politician? Would you have government mandate a rape or incest victim to gestate to term? If, in moderation's sake, you want to leave a rape/incest loophole, how would you adjudicate whether either offense occurred? What about abortion out of medical necessity? What government entity would determine that, as the woman and doctor stood by?

     Every anti-choice politician should be challenged in just such a way. And why? Because it cuts to the core of the big-government authoritarianism peddled as "conservatism" today.

     Sorry, Tea Party, but Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan are not your patron saints. Your founders are Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Bob Jones. What drives you is what put them in fancy cars. You want government to run people's personal lives.

     The placards say "less government." That depends on what kind of government you want less of.

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


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