Help! What Should I Say?

Help! What Should I Say?

By Patrick F. Cannon

Regular readers will know that I feel a general contempt for politicians, with no particular bias against either Democrats or Republicans. As it happens, I live in Illinois, whose finances have been wrecked by years of Democratic-dominated mismanagement. On the other hand, Republican candidates for governor have associated themselves with commercials that no ethical person would countenance.

            Now, with the leak of Supreme Court Justice Alito’s draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, many candidates for the House and Senate face a dilemma. Apparently, roughly two-thirds of their fellow Americas support a woman’s right to decide whether to have an abortion or not. While there are certainly states where Republicans can oppose abortion with little worry, there are others where seats may not be so safe.

            It has been widely expected that the Republicans would gain control of the House in the mid-term elections. Historically, the party in power is vulnerable, but apparently some Republican candidates think the expected decision may be a wild card possibly affecting their electability.

            As it happens, I have an opinion on abortion rights, as I expect you do too. I’m not likely to change my mind after many years of thought, and I wouldn’t think of asking you to change yours. But what if we were politicians?

            A news source I respect reported recently that Congressional candidates – Republicans in particular – have been asking their election consultants for advice on how they should talk about abortion during their campaigns. Think about this. After all these years of mouthing the “pro-life” party line, some Republicans are looking at the numbers – that two-thirds who support abortion – and beginning to sweat just a bit.

            The reality is this – most politicians have no reasoned opinions on anything, much less abortion.  What they do know is that a seat in Congress is worth both having and especially keeping. It provides a large staff to do the actual work, leaving plenty of time to schmooze contributors and be schmoozed by lobbyists. And grandstand. Notice how many members have made their way to Ukraine to show their solidarity with that beleaguered country. To save some dough, maybe Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell should have taken the same flight!

            I don’t mean to suggest that there are no principled politicians. Although I think he’s living in a self-created Socialist Valhalla, I do think Bernie Sanders is sincere in his beliefs. So, I think, are Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney. But what are we to think about someone like Kevin McCarthy? And the 147 Republicans who, against all credible evidence, voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election?

            McCarthy is on record as telling fellow Republicans immediately after January 6, 2001 that he thought President Trump should immediately resign. And Washington’s Spinx, Mitch McConnel, was on record as saying he should be impeached. They said these things because they well knew that Trump had indeed tried to overthrow the election. Since then, their memories have clouded over, so don’t be surprised if they waffle a bit on abortion if they think it will get them elected.   

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

7 thoughts on “Help! What Should I Say?

  1. I’m certain every politician on both sides of the aisle has a staff of PR consultants to tell them what to say and how to say it. Biden can’t get through breakfast without somebody ordering it for him. A few may have strong personal feelings about Roe, but most just vote with their party position or aren’t that particular about how they like their eggs.

    Overturning Roe (easy, medium, hard?), if that is what the Court decides, is less about abortion than law. The existing ruling, decided by the Supreme Court in 1973, was never enacted by Congress. The Court took one side against the other. There was no vote in the political arena by the elected representatives after debate and compromise, and so Roe has failed to settle the abortion question even after nearly fifty years.

    The US Congress may take up the issue (snaky Schumer failed recently in an act of cynical political theater), but it has become hopelessly partisan, and it is doubtful it could pass any law that satisfied more than the position of the majority party. But there would at least be a formal vote of elected representatives, and if the law proved unpopular, a new Congress could change it.

    The people’s interests are best served when states and their legislatures grapple with an issue as it pertains to their respective jurisdictions. Legislators, not judges, are closest to the people. They are the ones who are charged to respond to voter demands and channel conflicting interests through the prism of debate and accommodation. They are the ones who have a responsibility to face their constituents and explain at election time their decisions.

    It’s expected that states will craft laws that differ from one another but reflect the preferences of their respective voters. That is the proper, political process. It may be imperfect and arduous, but it is the best way for citizens to have a voice in the laws that govern them. Without such a process, everyone becomes a law unto himself.

    In Europe, laws on abortion were adopted by each member country according to what was most appropriate for them. Some are very restrictive (Poland), others liberal (Sweden). Each spells out conditions like fetus viability, waiting periods, doctor’s authorization, parental consent for minors, etc. And if someone in a restrictive country wanted to abort, she could simply go next door to another country for the procedure. The point is, the rules weren’t handed down by a court, all or nothing, but legislated, and without the adolescent hysterical rancor we have here.

    Former Justice Scalia, dissenting on the 1992 Casey case that upheld and amended Roe, argued the Court could not resolve the issue: “By foreclosing all democratic outlet for the deep passions this issue arouses, by banishing the issue from the political forum that gives all participants, even the losers, the satisfaction of a fair hearing and an honest fight, by continuing the imposition of a rigid national rule instead of allowing for regional differences, the court merely prolongs and intensifies the anguish.

    “We should get out of this area,” he urged, “where we have no right to be, and where we do neither ourselves nor the country any good by remaining.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that the court acted originally because the Federal legislature wouldn’t or couldn’t. It will, as you suggest, be settled state by state, but I believe it’s important enough to warrant Federal action. It won’t get it, of course. Some matters should be decided by the individual, not the state.


      1. As something of a libertarian, I agree individual judgment, not the state, should prevail, especially in questions of morality or conscience, but here substantial government subsidies through Federal healthcare programs, funded by taxpayers, are at issue. There needs to be some consensus comprising accommodations on all sides, not a simplistic we are right, you are wrong proposition. The Tenth Amendment states, “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The “necessary and proper” clause could allow Federal action, but I sense the states could address the issue more effectively, even if with variations on Federal guidelines. Legalization of marijuana, despite Federal approval (I don’t recall if Congress approved it or if it was a ruling by the Justice Department) still is decided by the states.

        Liked by 1 person

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