Wednesday, September 21, 2005

News From Penisland

A joke courtesy of the Heretik about some recent events in the liberal blogosphere: First a group of feminist bloggers (smart ones, too) published a letter about John Roberts and then Armando on Daily Kos sort of gave an answer to it. The gist of the interaction has to do with the importance of the pro-choice stance in the Democratic Party. Armando thinks that the party should be a big tent, with room for people who don't believe in the woman's right to choose but who are otherwise in agreement with Armando. The idea is to use them to get into power and then somehow ignore them on all the so-called social issues. This is probably easier said than done, and the pro-life Democrats are quite likely to vote with the wingnuts on any women's rights issue. Which of course makes the whole big tent strategy meaningless for anyone whose first priority is the rights of women: the tent will collapse on them.

The real question is whether the woman's right to reproductive choice is one of the tentpoles or not, among ideals such as economic and racial justice, gay and lesbian rights and environmental protection. If it no longer has this role then the big tent might end up spacious indeed as most pro-choice women stop bothering to vote.

The political game question is quite different. It has to do with the idea of getting into power and winning with the idea of grabbing all those independents who hover in the middle and would be Democrats if only the Democrats were more like the wingnuts. This might make sense if there indeed are many such independents, all "single-issue" voters on abortion which I very much doubt. Those voters are already voting for Republicans.
The costs of such an unlikely victory are fairly high if you happen to be a feminist, for "social conservatives" are not just against abortion. They are pretty much against the whole idea of equal rights for women (and gays and lesbians). They are opposed to mothers in the labor force and gender equality in education. They are opposed to same-sex marriage and to a military consisting of anything but heterosexual males. And so on.

Then there is the "single-issue" voter argument. Should the Democrats cater to those who vote on the basis of a single issue such as abortion? Armando would say no. I always find it interesting to read comments threads about the care and feeding of the single-issue voter. The single-issue pro-lifer is taken seriously, explained carefully and seen as eminently wooable. The single-issue pro-choicer is often asked to make the necessary mature compromises for common good, and then many of these pro-choicers try to explain why they can't make thse compromises, why certain issues are like water and bread for them, necessary for anything else even to register much. Some use examples such as whether a white supremacist would be welcomed with open arms into the Democratic big tent. The answers this elicits explain carefully how this country now agrees that racism is bad but the question of women's rights is still debated. The point this misses (among others) is the way pro-choice women feel when their political opponents are embraced by those they thought were on the same side. Betrayal might a be a good summary of this feeling.

Politics does involve compromising and some things are best done holding ones nose. But it is hard to see what remains of the Democratic ideas if compromising means letting go of the idea of equal opportunity, and that is what I believe social conservatism ultimately means. For women, at least.