Monday, November 10, 2008

Douthat vs. Kmiec continued

Ross pushes back against those who think that he was wrong not to better engage with Doug Kmiec.

Personally, I'm less interested in anyone playing nice with one particular thinker than I am in the GOP recognizing that the Republican Party platform, and Republican party orthodoxy, hold extremist views on abortion that are hurting them with the moderate electorate. Now, I find this position entirely consistent with their rhetoric: if we really are having a Holocaust of the unborn, if every abortion really is murder, then an extreme response is necessary. But that's not the way most Americans seem to feel about abortion, which is that it's a profoundly sad but sometimes necessary practice that should be legal early on in the pregnancy and then more harshly restricted the closer to birth you go. I think it behooves reformers like Douthat to consider whether the extremist option on abortion is politically self-defeating, and if it would make more sense to pursue a compromise position-- particularly given the inability of Republican dominance to produce the kind of law on abortion they'd desire.


John said...


What kind of "compromise position" do you think would be possible, given that Roe explicitly makes any meaningful compromise effectively illegal? Ross has said explicitly - e.g. in his recent Bloggingheads - that he'd actually prefer a middle ground solution, with authority returned to the states and late-term abortions widely prohibited even if early-term ones and other special exceptions are allowed. But the fact is that this sort of position isn't realizable under the current law - and so long as liberals continue to malign anyone who wants to overturn Roe as an extremist, that's never going to change.

Northerner said...

hold extremist views on abortion that are hurting them with the moderate electorate.

That's misleading. The Republicans purport to want to ban all abortions. Clearly the American people aren't there. The Democrats oppose any limitation on abortion (or abortion funding) that is ever proposed. The American people as a whole aren't there either. They're in the middle. And if you poll people on when and for what reason they would want to legalize abortion, it's clear that a strong majority of the American people would go for more restrictions than currently exist, or than are currently allowed under Roe. If enough Americans figure out that eliminating Roe doesn't equate to banning all abortion, they'll overwhelmingly agree with Republicans on that one.

Freddie said...

I'm actually not advocating a compromise position. I just think that the Republicans should think about crafting one in response to the seeming unpopularity of a total abortion ban. I think you guys are being a little deceptive about the Republican party platform, and certainly about Republican orthodoxy-- which is for a total abortion ban. Which makes sense. You don't have a holocaust going on and then say "Well, let's have the states decide if this genocide is cool or not." The states rights issue has been a Trojan horse, a way to win short-term victories in the march towards widespread criminalization.

Boz said...

For your argument to really be taken seriously and as something other than whining about extremist conservatives and Republicans, you need to say why a policy's unpopularity dictates politicians rethinking it. Or put differently, why is anti-abortion different from other unpopular positions like gay marriage (which has been gaining in the polls but has yet to be validated at an election) or desegregation in about 1920 or anti-slavery in the 1840s that I suspect you would think worthwhile?

Freddie said...

Except that I'm not arguing that Republicans should reconsider their stance on abortion out of principle. I'm just suggesting they might do so out of political necessity. You might have noticed that the GOP is in something of a downturn, one which might invite examining all of the sacred cows of conservatism. That doesn't mean you necessarily go in Kmiec's direction. It does mean that you don't write him out of the discussion entirely with a harsh screed.

Dave Hunter said...

John, I agree that there isn't a compromise that the pro-life movement can make with the left right now. There's no reason for abortion rights advocates to compromise on anything, as we already have our platform guaranteed by the Constitution. What would the pro-life movement offer as incentive?

They might though, soon find themselves in the position of being forced to compromise with the rest of their coalition on the right.