Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sex, Soup, Religion, Politics

A century ago it was declasse to discuss sex, religion or politics at a dinner party. George Bernard Shaw petulantly pointed out that those were the only topics worth talking about, but he was voted down.

Now we are engaged in a great election year, and suddenly we are all talking about the politics of sex and religion to the point of yawning in each others' faces or falling asleep in the soup. Most of us  -   excluding the evangelicals and the minority of Catholics so far right they might as well join an evangelical church  -   are bored to death with a discussion that has staggered along for half a century. By now even George Bernard Shaw would want to talk about something else.

There's nothing to debate any more, folks. It's over. The far right has lost the argument about government intrusion into the "most private" of our conduct, as a Supreme Court Justice has labeled sex and its outcomes.

And  -  listen up, far right evangelicals!  -  if you get a conservative GOP president, it won't make one bit of difference! A GOP president can't and won't change the law on this issue.

Sex and pregnancy, says the Supreme Court, are private matters. And it keeps on saying this. An admittedly liberal court said it in Griswold v. Connecticutt in 1965 when striking down a law prohibiting contraception. In 1973 two of Nixon's three appointees to the Court  were with the majority in Roe v. Wade. By 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Court had become even more conservative in makeup due to Reagan's appointments but nevertheless ruled against the Texas law banning homosexual conduct. Through the years, the Court has had frequent opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade and the concept of the right to privacy .

It ain't gonna do it.

I won't bother you with the legal reasons. Nor the sociological ones. But let's just admit that the Court is a political animal and that GOP Chief Justice Roberts is not the stuff of which martyrs are made.  Obama put him on notice in a State of the Union address after the Citizens United decision that the Court can be the focus of some very hot political attack. Not since FDR attacked the Court's obstructionist "Nine Old Men" has the Court been openly challenged by the co-equal President.

Most of all, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, etc. does NOT fit with the GOP agenda. And Roberts and his GOP cohorts on the bench know that.

The GOP has NEVER made a sincere and determined effort inside or outside the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and the right to privacy. And it NEVER will.

Roe v. Wade has been lifeblood to the GOP for almost forty years. The GOP has used it to corral hordes of very sincere right-to-life folks who would otherwise be Democrats. Promising an "overturn" of Roe  -  which it can't do short of Constitutional amendment  -  the GOP has baited and switched on this issue for  a generation. Three Republican presidents have had a collective FIVE presidential terms to name Supreme Court Justices. They did NOT choose nominees whom they knew would overturn Roe and the right to privacy. They could have, but they didn't. These presidents and their nominees made a big show of assuring the public they had never even discussed Roe v. Wade and how the nominee might vote. Oh, yeah, sure. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Why would the GOP give up its best card? As long as the GOP can fulminate against Roe and the right to privacy, it can continue to corral the sincere but politically deceived evangelicals and some Catholics. Setting aside the merits of the Roe issue, one can only pity the blindness of the evangelicals in still trusting the GOP to do something it has failed to do for almost half a century. We can all respect the religious faith of these blind people, but their unwarranted faith in the GOP is ridiculous.

It's worse than ridiculous. It's tragic. By still trusting the unfaithful GOP, these voters are voting against their own self-interest on everything else. Most of these blinded folks are lower middle class, suffering mightily in the Recession, earning less real income year by year, devoid of good education, and facing even worse prospects for their children. The Democrats would help them on these issues; the GOP is their enemy on these issues.

So that's why sex and religion are now a hot topic in politics even when, as far as most Americans are concerned, the issues are settled. As soon as the economic numbers started to improve and Obama's favorability started to go up, Santorum grabbed the GOP's traditional distracting issues: the so-called "social issues".  It was very clever, not only because it stirred the constituency that harkens to this stuff, but because Romney can't fight him on these grounds. Romney certainly can't go further right on these issues than Santorum because there is no place further right than Santorum.

The far right evangelicals will never learn. Some of their preachers have, however, and decided a few years ago that maybe the true mission of their brand of Christianity is not to be a voting machine for the GOP. They even suggested that maybe their flocks should focus for a change on helping the poor or being good stewards of the environment. This radical idea seems to have fallen on deaf ears now that Santorum has blown the battered old trumpet.

But let me ask a question: IF the preachers and their flocks REALLY care so much about Roe v. Wade and the right of privacy, why haven't they spent the last 45 years getting a Constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's rulings?

They certainly know how to organize the troops and bring pressure. So why haven't they done it?

Because once the evangelicals are removed from the fray of national ELECTIVE politics and focused on securing a Constitutional amendment, the limelight for their now-famous leaders shrinks enormously. Constitutional amendments require muscle at the state level, not the national. Does anyone remember the gals who patiently worked the halls of state legislatures to get the amendment approved giving women the right to vote? Where there any enormous salaries and expense accounts for these women warriors as there are now for the evangelical leadership? No and no.

Call me cynical, but after almost half a century of the GOP and the evangelical leaders NOT doing the obvious thing, one has to wonder.

But don't mistake me. If a Romney or Santorum gets elected, there could be Court appointments that would result in the overturn of Roe v. Wade and the end of right to privacy. It could happen. Things are the same for half a century; then they change.

So let's not take any chances. Two seats on the Court, and maybe even three, could come open in the next four years. We can't take the chance of having a more conservative Court. Beyond the right of privacy are other hugely important issues that could come before the Court on the environment, rights of the accused, civil rights, and on and on. We have to work hard to be sure Obama is re-elected. If we doze through this campaign, figuring the GOP candidate is a born loser, we may end up drowning in that soup we fell asleep in at the dinner table.

And George Bernard Shaw would be so pissed!


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