Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Maintaining The Bipartisan Fantasy

It's so charming to read representatives of the Sensible Middle like the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne earnestly proposing common-ground initiatives designed to bridge the divide between Republicans and Democrats--those two equally extreme, equally misguided, equally partisan despoilers of good old-fashioned American centrism. Today Dionne writes about a bill, currently before the House, whose purpose is to lower the number of abortions through programs that health care experts agree will help achieve that goal:
[The Ryan Bill] includes a remarkably broad set of programs aimed at reducing teen pregnancy, promoting contraception and encouraging parental responsibility. But it also includes strong measures to offer new mothers full access to health coverage, child care and nutrition assistance.
Dionne's belief--expressed, as I say, in all earnestness--is that
There are moral and practical reasons for members of both parties, and combatants on both sides of the abortion question, to embrace this approach.
And indeed it is true that anyone seriously interested in reducing the number of abortions--and of improving the lives of women and children in the process--could scarcely oppose the provisions of the Ryan bill.

But here we run across a curious fact. As Dionne notes, the Ryan bill has 23 sponsors in the House, some pro-choice, some pro-life. Yet every single one is a Democrat! Not a single Republican is willing to commit himself or herself to supporting this humane, common-sense approach. How very odd.

For anyone not an unwavering advocate of the Sensible Middle and an equal-opportunity denouncer of the demagogues "on both sides of the aisle," this fact might almost make one wonder about the sincerity of Republican foes of abortion. The refusal of Republican politicians to back a program that could actually reduce abortions might almost make one suspect that minimizing human suffering is less important to them than being able to score points with Christian fundamentalist voters . . . and that their stance on the issue is influenced less by moral conviction than by their fear of alienating the tiny fringe of Americans who not only oppose abortion rights but also free access to contraceptives, and who therefore push for the appointment of extremist kooks like Dr. Eric Keroack to be in charge of our nation's reproductive health programs. (And if, after reading about him, you think that Dr. Keroack is going to willingly administer a contraception program like the one envisioned by the Ryan bill, I have a single-payer-health-care plan I'd like to sell you.)

In fact, examining the Republicans' actual behavior, one might almost believe that they like having the issue of abortion available to fling around at election time . . . especially when every other tried-and-true theme is imploding on them. But that can't be right, can it? And even to assert it would be cynical and (worst of all) not even-handed of me.

Gosh darn it, why can't we all just get along?!

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