Tin Ear

I’m having one of my bang-my-head-against-the-keyboard moments again. If you wonder why I do it more often when liberals do something amazingly boneheaded, it’s because I’m a liberal, and I JUST HATE IT when I see things that convince me that we’re going to be sleeping on the porch for the next few weeks.

In the course of an interesting post on what we should require from journalists – in terms of disclosing or aligning their own interests – Atrios casually mentions this:

“Since when is having an abortion a controversial act?”

Well, to about half the country, it’s a damn controversial act – and even if you think they’re wrong (as I do) might it not be just a little bit smart to at least do them the courtesy to acknowledge that, well, “this is kinda controversial but I don’t see it as an issue here?”

If Atrios (or anyone else) cares, it’s tin-eared acts like that which drive home the point that the Democrats just flat aren’t interested in people who don’t live in Cambridge or Brentwood. Yes, this is an isolated slip of the keyboard, by one person who isn’t standing in the center of party politics.

But it’s a perfect character note for why we’re at risk of losing the election – and a lot of elections in the coming years, until we learn just a little bit of humility.

19 thoughts on “Tin Ear”

  1. For people who think that abortion is murder, then I guess it might be just a little controversial.

    For me, I have heard of miscarriages termed as spontaneous abortions, and I dont think that anyone could possibly call that murder.

    But… I bet there are some do-gooders out there who would go after a woman if they found evidence of unhealthy living by the would-be mother.

    This whole issue as well as gay marriages should be a local or state, not national issue.

  2. DaveC is right on this:  miscarriages ARE called spontaneous abortions, others are called induced abortions.  The word “abortion” should have no more political or social impact than the word “appendectomy”, and the made-up label “partial-birth abortion” is just as much an inherent lie as “semi-automatic assault weapon”.

    But DaveC is wrong that abortion should be a local or state issue.  It is NOBODY’S BUSINESS and it should NOT BE AN ISSUE any more than any person’s private religious beliefs should be an issue to anyone else, or would you prefer to be subject to legal sanctions when a majority of which you aren’t a part gets all up in arms about “the OUTRAGEOUS and IMMORAL THINGS that THOSE PEOPLE BELIEVE!”

    I agree that we’ve got an issue with a sub-replacement fertility rate, but all you have to do is look at abortion-banning Germany to see that the legality of abortion is a distraction at best.  The bigger problem is probably the replacement of children as retirement policies by the false promises of government old-age insurance systems like Social(ist) (in)Security.  If you privatize the costs and socialize the benefits, exactly what do you expect to get?  A lot less supply and a lot more demand.

    Abortion should be regarded as a consequence of a mistake, a small tragedy taken voluntarily to prevent a bigger tragedy such as dropping out of school and becoming effectively unemployable as well as nearly unmarriageable.  Among our biggest personal tragedies, a lot of them seem to have incompetent, unprepared parenthood at the core.  I’m all for families, but an unemployable teenage girl with a baby isn’t a family in any normal sense of the word.

  3. Guys, this isn’t about abortion pro or con; it’s about having the basic sense to recognize that people might not only disagree with the formulation “Is that even an issue?” and be offended…and that those people are the ones who vote.


  4. I think you’ve hit the nail squarely on the head, AL. There are too many people out there for whom these issues aren’t matters for discussion, but are religious convictions (on both sides of the issue). So any attempt to discuss the questions immediately founders because one or both sides are unwilling to even concede that the other could legitimately feel differently about the issue. I get clobbered all the time because, while I personally believe the government should stay out of the abortion issue, I understand where people who oppose abortion are coming from and I think Roe was an abysmal legal decision. So I’m hated on both sides of the issue. ;)

  5. Andrew Olmsted wrote:

    I get clobbered all the time because, while I personally believe the government should stay out of the abortion issue, I understand where people who oppose abortion are coming from and I think Roe was an abysmal legal decision. So I’m hated on both sides of the issue. ;)

    Well for whatever its worth, I’m on the other side of the issue and I have never “hated” those who take an opposite position. I do find it encouraging though that you agree “Roe was an abysmal legal decision.” I can understand how someone might think that it was wrongly decided even if they tend to favor the outcome, there is a larger concern with how it was decided and what sort of problems are created when an issue that had been decided by the people through their democratically elected legislatures was suddenly usurped by the courts.

    I would be willing to support reversing Roe and returning the issue to the State level. Chance are we would find a happier medium in most States in which abortion was legal for cases of rape, incest, and to protect the life of the mother but outlawed or restricted when used just for birth control with some States have stronger restrictions and others having fewer or none.

  6. Abortion can be a controversial decision even among those who believe it should be legal. First, some such people feel the legal question itself is close, and second, those who, even completely supporting legal abortion, find the questions of whether to have an abortion in a particular instance very difficult. (I know women who agonized over the decision to have an elective abortion, and I know others who appeared not to care beyond the inconvenience of the appointment and the embarrassment of admitting to carelessness.)

    I think Atrios was making a sick sort of joke here. I didn’t read it straight on.

    BTW, my brother, who was a Blackmun clerk and who supports legal abortion, thinks Roe v Wade is not a persuasive opinion. I think that’s becoming the accepted wisdom in a widening liberal circle.

  7. Absolutely agreed – one of my most ferocious opinions is that abortion is extraordinarily controversial. I’m frustrated with people on either side who pretend that there is no ethical or moral delimma involved.

    I think, fundamentally, that if abortion is an “easy” issue for you morally, you have something quite disturbingly wrong with your morals.

    I ultimately tilt pro-choice simply because I think when an ethical issue is clouded, unclear, and controversial, the government shouldn’t be the one making that call if it can be avoided.

  8. That abortion remains controversial despite Atrios ignorance of the fact is indicated by the tenor of the thread thus far. Abortion is a magic word that once uttered becomes the focus of all attention as if it were an intellectual black hole. In this case, its use was only as an example of a different problem AL perceives liberals, who do not count me among their number, to have.

    What Atrios statement represents is the attitude now prevalent among liberals, especially those with a leftist tinge, that they are more concerned about the common man than the those on the right and that they know better what the common man needs than even the common man himself. This is the arrogance that needs tempering by humility.

    The arrogance stems from their self-importance, but the absence of humility is due to their lack of contact with the common man (or woman). It is difficult to imagine Reuther, Meany or Lewis welcomed or comfortable at the Democrat National Convention in Boston.

    Another example is Kerry going to Sun Valley to ski for vacation and Bush clearing brush on the ranch in Crawford. Perhaps the expression ski resort Democrat will replace the now obsolete country club Republican.

    AL’s concern for future elections is not misplaced.

  9. I think the whole political quagmire known as the abortion debate is the net result of what happens when the federal courts step into an issue that should be left up to the states. Can anyone HONESTLY read Roe v Wade and not agree that it creates rights out of the gray areas of the 14th Amendment while totally ignoring the 10th? It was and still should be a States Rights issue. We are seeing the same thing happening with the Gay Marriage debate- it is a direct result of the courts ruling that anti sodomy laws are unconstitutional. My view was more in line with Justice Thomas, that stupid and archaic law is not by definition unconstitutional. Rather than letting the Political and Legislative processes do their jobs, judicial activism subverts the process.

  10. The reason the right has a better ear than the left is that there are a lot more ex-leftists on the right than there are ex-rightists on the left.

  11. I could accept the view that abortion ought not to be politically controversial. But it ought to be morally controversial.

  12. I think the abortion issue is a hard one morally and an easy one politically.

    It is none of the government’s business.

  13. Abortion is murder. Pure and simple. You can spin that any way you want but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because females that abort their children are murdering like minded females. Women that have an raise their children are producing more VOTERS that think abortion is a crime. Eventually we will out number you. That means we win. The only way you can fight back is to stop aborting your babies. So there is no long term problem. Except the 3 to 5 million humans murdered over the years. Future generations will consider this genocide. Just as todays Americans for the most part consider the slaughter of the American indian genocied and Slavery to be evil. The Americans of those times didn’t find killing Indians or Owning Slaves controversal.

  14. You know, I can’t imagine what Atrios meant. I mean, obviously abortion is extremely controversial. It seems like such an odd comment, I can’t help but think he meant something else and expressed himself badly. We really ought to ask him what he meant. Anybody know him enough to get a response out of him?

    On the other subject, I’m conflicted about Roe vs. Wade. On one hand, as a piece of constitutional interpretation, it was not very logical. On the other hand, as a piece of policy, I honestly believe that its effects have transformed society. If the law prevents an abortion, you end up with an unwanted child being raised by somebody who isn’t psychologically prepared to raise them – in all likelihood, you end up with a delinquent. Crime has been going down for a long time – there’s a possibility that this is at least partially a consequence of Roe vs. Wade.

    So what’s a liberal to do?

    – Josh

  15. A.L. has it right.

    There’s a condescending elitism that’s crept into so much of the left it’s simply breathtaking. I saw another prominent lefty blogger recently actually suggest that women who changed their names upon marrying should face strong social disapproval and pressure to not do such things for it was part and parcel with the treatment of women as property and… bleah. So now we’re not just condescending and elitist, but we figure our moral beliefs are so self-evidently correct that we can bully others intellectually?

    In the particular case of abortion, a majority of women consider themselves pro-life and about 70% of them would support greater restrictions on abortoin than the courts currently allow. The latter point has always true, and radical pro-choicers used to claim that that was only the older generaly of fuddy-duddy women, and the younger “liberated” generation of women would come around–and instead, young women are more pro-life than ever, now making up a majority of women, and so now the radical pro-choicer’s line is that they’re “too young to remember what it was like.”

    Anything except admit that thoughtful decent people might just have a different view, right?

    Then there are the elitist snobs who tell me that I have no right to an opinion since I’m male. As if having the experience of seeing my child moving in my wife’s body, and hearing his heartbeat, is irrelevant. As if I’m some sort of unfeeling brute and monster. As if there aren’t tens of millions of women who have views far more conservative on this issue than I do.

    By the way, I’ve always been fundamentally pro-choice. But to say it’s “uncontroversial” is head-bangingly stupid–a case of wishful thinking, i.e. “smart and enlightened people find it uncontroversial, but of course those slobbering religious fools make it controversial.” Bleah.

  16. Even among the irreligious, abortion can be viewed as murder.

    Being at least agnostic (leaning toward atheism) I see the destruction of a unique human DNA as either the murder of a human or the murder of a potential human.

    If I accept that this organism, which has a unique human DNA is human, than from a libertarian view, I must also concede that this organism has rights as any other human.

    And as a woman who has had an abortion and has living and much loved children, looking back at my decision to abort, the nine months I wasn’t willing to sacrifice for another human does not balance out against the destruction of that human. Nine months is a drop in the bucket of my lifetime. It didn’t seem so when I was 20. But essentially, what I did was sacrifice another human life because I was not willing to pay for my own mistake.

    For me, the controversy is when the girl/woman did not make a mistake but was a vicitm. And even in those cases, it’s hard to weigh nine months against a human life. And it is because of such cases that I remain pro-choice.

    However, society has made the decision too easy and too acceptable. And they’ve done so by denying the truth, that a fetus is a human. Albeit a dependent human, but a human organism none the less.


  17. I’m personally pro-life, but politically pro-choice. I won’t be voluntarily aborting any of my pregnancies, but I’ve known a number of women who have done so, and respect that the situations they were in made an abortion necessary to them at the time. But it was a decision that affected every one of them – even if it only came out when they’d had too many to drink.

    Which is why I think its dishonest to treat abortion like an uncontroversial issue. Even if the legal controversy is pretty much settled out, my experience has been that a lot of women who abort end up surprised by how much it affects them. To treat it like a nothing issue means women who end up getting an abortion are unprepared to deal with its results. Likewise, treating sex like a nothing issue leaves teens unprepared to deal with the results.

    I think perhaps there’d be more room to compromise with pro-lifers, if pro-choice people would concede the point that a fetus isn’t just a mass of tissue, and aborting a baby can be a painful decision to make – but sometimes it really is the best decision the woman involved can make. Maybe if someone had said that to Ms. Roe, she wouldn’t be trying to overturn Roe v Wade now, based on the argument that her lawyers lied to her, and she didn’t really know what an abortion was at the time.

  18. Folks, I really want to cut this off, because I did not intend to create a forum for us to discuss abortion – one of the most controversial issues of the day -without some kind of framing argument to make the discussion possibly fruitful.


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