The Republicans’ Shameful Divide-and-Conquer Strategy with Abortion

[The following is an oped piece that will be running this weekend in two of the main newspapers of the congressional district in which I live, Virginia’s 6th.]

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What’s better for democracy? Focusing on issues that divide us, and will likely always divide us, or focusing on values and goals that we share?

Anyone who believes that we’re better served by focusing on what we can accomplish together rather than on what makes us fight each other should be outraged at what the Republican Party does with the issue of abortion.

Even if one agrees with the policies that Republicans are pushing, one should recognize that the way they have used the abortion issue is destructive, and a disgrace.

During these years when our country faced its deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression, abortion has been nowhere near the top of issues that Americans wanted their leaders to address. But here we are fiercely embattled over abortion in a number of states – Virginia, Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and in a number of others. What these states have in common is that they are now under the firm political control of Republicans.

We’ve got plenty of issues that could bring us together, plenty of goals that could unite us.

Millions remain out of work. The majority of American families have been losing ground economically. A whole generation is being denied entry into productive adulthood. Higher education is increasingly hard for ordinary Americans to afford. The United States used to be the best at giving its people the opportunity to advance. Now Americans are the most likely to be stuck at the economic level into which they’re born.

Meanwhile, extreme weather is wreaking havoc across the land, and all evidence indicates that climate change will get worse.

All challenges that we might meet if we worked together. But the Republican Party has been making sure we can’t.

Instead, the GOP has decided to focus our political attention on an issue on which disagreements have proved irreconcilable. We’ve fought out this issue for forty years.

As with most basically religious questions, we can either fight endlessly or agree to disagree.

America was founded by men who recognized that when it came to such disagreements, the way to a healthy society was to accept that we have differences and to focus on values that bring us together. The men who enshrined “freedom of religion” in the Constitution knew the history of the Old World, where Protestants and Catholics had fought for generations.

We Americans have learned to respect each other’s right to follow our own paths on these deep matters, even when we believe that other people’s beliefs are so wrong that they’ll go to hell.

That’s the American way on religious questions — questions such as, “When does a developing life become entitled to the full human rights of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?’”

Some years back, we reached a kind of truce on abortion. When Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, it was established that taxpayer dollars would not pay for anyone’s abortion. For a while, the issue died down.

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The political payoff for Republicans in fanning the flames of our most divisive issue is clear: Divide and conquer. So long as Americans fight each other, we can’t make common cause to achieve common goals. That’s terrible for most Americans, but just fine for the rich and powerful whom the Republicans are really serving.

That small elite has tripled its share of the nation’s wealth in the past generation, creating the most inequality America has seen in living memory, the biggest gap between the richest and the rest among all the democracies. All of them.

As this wealth gap has widened, Republicans and their allies – with the Citizens United decision —have made it much easier for money to buy our government.

Getting the ninety-some percent of Americans, who have been losing ground, to fight among themselves has been a successful political strategy for these rich and powerful interests. The abortion issue is one key to that strategy.

For a generation or more, the Republicans have been ginning up the moral passions of many Americans who are not being well-served by the American power system and economy – who are getting a bum deal and struggling to make ends meet — goading them into fighting over an issue that will do nothing to improve the quality of their own or the children’s lives.

Divide-and-conquer directed against the American people is immoral. The grassroots people who find abortion morally intolerable are doubtless sincere. But the political force that uses that issue to distract from the gross immorality of stealing wealth and power from hard-working people – a party that talks about the unborn but votes to take food away from already-born children — does not share such moral passions. It is only exploiting them.

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6 Responses to “The Republicans’ Shameful Divide-and-Conquer Strategy with Abortion”

  1. Ross Mullins Says:

    I could not have framed the politics of decisiveness better than this. I truly fear for the future of our great country. What ever became of compassion and the democracy of the “commons”?

  2. David R Says:

    One can live at peace, more or less, with others with their various life styles, races and nationalities as long as they can accept and follow a common civic code. The essence of such a civic culture is respect for the code.

    Naturally where there arises some whose unvalues are a minority whatever that is, and they want to publicly push it forward and that be admitted into the culture code as normal, natural and right, well, how can you avoid resistance and conflict. The offended majority . . respecting the common civic code . . demand political action to require outward conformity. That may be the only path to unity and where it remains un accomplished there is ongoing conflict.
    The current open conflict began, am I correct ?, when the Supreme Court
    -becoming less supreme all the time- pronounced itself contrary to the currently held Civic Code creating government sponsored public disunity.

    I personally agree with a comment that appeared now years ago on NSB that let people do what they will and people who would abort their babies would probably be unfit parents anyway and the world would be spared more of their kind. I sort of take that view.

    But wholesale trashing of human life, whether slavery, elective warfare, or drone strikes committing murder on unknown innocents to ‘kill’ some ‘suspect’ etc . . etc is offensive to people I prefer to respect.

    Life and history both move along astonishingly fast. We see this more as we get a little older and develop a little wider field of vision.

    I cannot see we are moving to a brighter future for the U S A and Republicans of today is/are just one aspect of a big, big BAD. . .

  3. Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:

    David R writes: “Naturally where there arises some whose unvalues are a minority whatever that is, and they want to publicly push it forward and that be admitted into the culture code as normal, natural and right, well, how can you avoid resistance and conflict. The offended majority . . respecting the common civic code . . demand political action to require outward conformity.”

    Whatever the merits of that argument in a general sense, it does not apply to the situation in America with respect to abortion. If I recall some recent poll results, more than 2/3 of Americans do not want Roe v. Wade overturned. Even a sizable proportion of the pro-life people do not want that.

    So the notion that abortion rights are the “unvalues” of a “minority,” if that was the implication, is untrue.

    But my piece was not about the merits of various positions on abortion, it is about the way the Republicans are using it. Divide and conquer. Of all the issues to focus on, they choose the one on which we are most fully and irreconcilably divided.

    Of course, this has been a pattern of the Republicans: relate to virtually ever issue in ways that accentuate our disagreements, and put the focus on those on which it is least possible to find common ground.

    That’s what this piece is about, what I’ve been about for nearly nine years: a dark spirit that works to destroy, and that’s taken over the political right.

  4. David R Says:

    Question : If being anti-legalized abortion is a small minority pray tell how is it a political advantage to support that small minority. Doesn’t add up in my thinking; maybe the public school education has failed me.

    Or maybe something else is the actual reality.

    ? ? ?

  5. Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:

    Three things on this, David R.

    First, the Republicans as a national party are quite possibly in the process of self-destructing, which evil tends to do to people. The only reason that they haven’t already been defeated –take a look at the opinion polls about the Republicans in Congress– is that President Obama (and the Democrats generally) are too cowardly and/or blind to fight them effectively. The Republicans in Congress get individual advantage by being extreme, because the only way they lose their gerrymandered seats is to be defeated from the right by a primary opponent. This is not my observation, it is now generally recognized. So representing general public opinion is not what these people need to do. They just need to protect their right flank.

    Second, the right has done an excellent job inflaming the passion of certain kinds of voters, and creating ONE ISSUE VOTERS out of them. One such issue is guns, and another is abortion. The majority may have one kind of view, but most of them do not vote on just one issue, whereas the adherents of the more absolutist positions (on abortion or guns) will vote on that issue alone. I believe 90% of the public –even 3/4 of NRA members– wanted the universal background checks passed. But the Republicans defeated it, and may well not pay too high a price.

    But the main point is the third: the payoff is that by making sure the American people are fighting each other, the Republicans serve their plutocratic masters. They disable to people from making common cause. They distract energy from what would really serve the public interest. And they discredit government. All of which leaves the people with the most power and wealth free to do what they want, unhampered by an American public making sure the game is fair and they don’t get the shaft.

  6. David R Says:

    I cannot comment on percentages for this or that; really do not know.

    However I apparently may have missed something. Where the abortion issue is most prominent seems to me is among the religious hobbiests who prefer an issue removed from their own personal sins and attitudes and used by semi-conservative and religious broadcasters along with a few other issues agitating and seeking contributions to “keep up the fight”.

    The Republican Party may pick up votes with an anti-abortion stand and will lose none as the pro abortion folks that do vote would not be voting Republican anyway; the Democrat Party is sooo aligned with their other issues.
    (In courtesy I will restrain the old Ho ! ho ! here; I have no idea with what sincerity the argument may be put forward)

    I think the issue killing the Republican party is the nature of the Republican Party, Ho ! ho . It’s true . . them people is really the way they are and if you don’t have money you really ain’t one politically no matter how you vote.

    Foreign policy under Bush still continuing, unbalanced taxation and the economy generally and excessive government control in some fields and not enough in others
    are really the main-and crucial-issues and

    I see little difference under the administration Barack Obama is performing for.

    The Republican Party still gets conservative votes primarily because there is no alternative yet.

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