Very briefly, here is where I stand on abortion and on these labels we use to describe our positions on the issue. First of all, I prefer using the prefix “pro” over “anti”. I am personally pro-life and believe that a fetus is a person or at least a person in the making. Other than miscarriage or abortion, the only other potential thing a fetus will become is a baby. I also realize what enormous strides women have made toward equality thanks to safe and legal abortion and birth control. That women have made these strides is an undeniably good thing. Making abortion illegal would not only reverse a great deal of this progress, it would create a devastating abortion black market and would force many women to perform do-it-yourself abortions. Not good.
It’s also important to me that our culture moves toward fewer abortions by choice rather than through the blunt arm of the law. This will be more sustainable in the long-term. Likewise, I believe that more private and public efforts need to be made to help women who would otherwise have an abortion choose to bring the child to term, including more funds for public daycare, public health, and so forth. This is one reason I support some form of universal healthcare, and why I support the use of birth control.
I use the term ‘pro-life’ not because, as Anne suggests, I prefer to hobnob around with people who disagree with me on this issue, but because it sums up my beliefs on many issues beyond the abortion debate such as war, torture, and the death penalty. (Perhaps that’s too imprecise. I’ll have to think about it.) Many of the people on the right-winger list I was on support all sorts of things I find abhorrent (though I’m a big fan of much of Reihan Salam’s work).
Well I didn’t put myself on that list. Nor do I have any desire to lead the conservative movement or any other movement. I’m against political movements in general. I really don’t belong on the list, and probably every other member of the list would agree. The people I generally collaborate with at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen have a mix of views and stances on abortion, but they all agree that the wars we’re immersed in are absurd and that torture is abhorrent and evil. There are lines that need to be drawn in whatever political sand we walk in, but abortion strikes me as a much more complex and emotional issue, much less black and white. II believe there is sincerity on both sides of this issue, whereas on many other culture war issues, that same sincerity simply doesn’t exist. You may disagree, and I’m sure you have good reasons to do so.
You can call anything that seems to walk the middle of an issue ‘High Broderism’ if you like, but I think that’s a cop-out (it may apply at times, but using it reflexively is just silly). I may say the Republicans and Democrats will both be losers in this mosque controversy, but clearly the Republicans are on the wrong side of the issue whereas the Democrats are merely bound to screw things up for themselves. (Except for Harry Reid, who is on the wrong side of the issue.) Pointing this out is hardly an instance of false equivalency.
Some issues are divided into sides that many of us would rather not be on. Artificial opposites are manufactured and if we don’t hop on one bus or the other we must be squishy moderates, trying to please everyone. We have all sorts of false dualisms in our society. We have to be Republican or Democrat; we have to be liberal or conservative; we have to be pro-choice or anti-abortion. Well even my three year old understands what a false choice is: “do you want peas or carrots” almost inevitably turns into “neither, I want goldfish crackers.”
When some of us decide that these labels are stupid or decide to eschew orthodoxy in favor of some sort of fusionism, or point out that both these oppositional binary forces are wrong or right to a point, we’re immediately castigated as lazy centrists. Well I’m not trying to please anybody. More than anything, a lot of the positions I hold mean that I piss everyone off. I’m not trying to do that either.
I don’t pussyfoot around issues about which I care passionately. Immigration, torture, war, gay rights, the drug war – some things simply don’t have gray areas as far as I’m concerned. Torture is immoral and will always backfire; war should be avoided at all costs and preemptive war is a crime; we should end the war on drugs entirely; gays should have the right to marry and be treated equally under the law; and our borders should be as open as possible. On other issues I think there is more nuance. How do we find that balance between free markets and a fair, egalitarian society? How do we balance productivity with social stability? How can we best preserve the good elements of our civilization while still allowing progress and change to flourish? How do we balance organic growth and change with the need for regulation and safety nets?
These aren’t simple questions with simple answers, and quite frankly a lot of partisans on both sides don’t care to answer them, they just care to win, to grind their opponents down and set up clear divisions. Take healthcare reform. I don’t buy the Cato line that markets will solve everything in health reform. I also don’t think single-payer is the best we can do or that the public option was some magic bullet. I look across the pond at countries like the Netherlands that use private markets, backed by sensible government support, to create an effective and relatively inexpensive healthcare system. Or Singapore, which uses health savings accounts backed by a single-payer system to drastically reduce health costs.
I really liked Ron Wyden and Bob Bennett’s healthcare bill also. Not because it was some moderate, meet in the middle solution but because it was actually pretty radical – at once fiscally sound and egalitarian that fixed a lot of the problems and inequities with the status quo. It was a better bill than the one we got, but I think the one we got has the potential to be better than the system we have now. Time will tell.
Good ideas may come from either side. False compromise and squishy centrism is a bad way to meet in the middle, but not all trade-offs need to be false compromises either. And I don’t want to make the trade-off between good ideas and partisanship that a lot of people seem to think is somehow more noble.
Really, except for the fact that he is more hawkish than I am and puts a little bit too much faith in government while I put more emphasis on competitive federalism and the dictum that ‘all politics are local’, I’m not all that far from Matt Yglesias politically. Though I imagine we disagree on many of the particulars, this passage is something I largely agree with:
So that’s the agenda I have to offer. For rich countries—productivity growth, social insurance, and efforts to improve public health all aiming at allowing people to live more and more of their time outside the bonds of commercial work. For poor countries—capitalism, to get the process of prosperity and social betterment rolling. At the interface between the two—a generous and humane approach to migration issues so that people can have the freedom to escape bad situations, and a trade regime that aims at facilitating the exchange of goods rather than coercing poor countries into adopting the preferred policies of rich world companies. And for all of us, an overhaul of energy systems so the world doesn’t boil and we all get to keep enjoying our prosperity.
P.S. I really dislike the term ‘centrist’. It is a definition that relies on something else to exist and implies that views held rest nicely between two wings. I’m not a centrist. I’m downright radical on some issues. Finding common ground and common discourse is as much an exercise in denying the false dichotomy of left and right as it is finding a happy medium. Or something.