A couple of things before I dive into this. (With apologies to Dr. Seuss) Thing 1: I regret that I was not able to continue in the vein of the last post, and that a week or more has gone by. For the first time in my life, I went through a hurricane evacuation, the return to home turf, and a cleanup, an effort that may last for another week or two, so between time lost to outside labor and the fatigue caused by it, I just haven’t devoted any time to other pursuits. And Thing 2: Having read my last post again, I realized there were things I should have said in that post and didn’t. So here’s some more to consider as an addendum to it. Sorry about that.
So, having described the process by which dog-whistle, “not quite” racism, or its close cousin, covert, “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” almost racism came to be a component of Republican core values (Hey, it wins a lot of votes, so…) it was an oversight on my part to fail to enlarge on a “single-issue voter” comment I made.
Single-issue voters are the most faithful straight party voters in existence. Regardless of how a party or its candidate feels about or promises to enact other policies, the single-issue voter wants to hear that this candidate is a true believer in whatever this voter’s obsessive cause is. There are several of these issues, but the most lasting, most effective of these for the Republicans in the modern era has been abortion. Before the late 1950’s abortion in the United States had not been a subject of controversy. Accurate figures on the numbers of abortions performed in the country were not available; so-called “back alley” procedures were rumored. The procedure was, for the most part, simply banned. There was some debate about a woman’s being forced to carry an unplanned pregnancy to term, but no large-scale movement to legalize it in any form.
In 1962, the local host of the children’s TV show Romper Room in Phoenix, Sherri Finkbine (already a mother of four), learned that she had taken medication containing thalidomide, a drug produced originally in (then West) Germany and marketed as a cure for nausea. Ms. Finkbine had ingested over 30 of these pills in the early stages of her pregnancy. (Her husband had picked up the pills on a European trip.) After taking the pills, she learned that the medication was suspected to cause birth abnormalities if taken by the mother in early stages of pregnancy. Her personal physician recommended that she seek a therapeutic abortion, legal under Arizona law at the time. At the same time, Ms. Finkbine went public with her personal situation, to warn others who had taken any thalidomide-based drug of the dangers it posed. She began to receive death threats and promises of legal action against her as well as the hospital where the procedure was to be performed; abortion had abruptly moved to the front page and to the six o’clock news.
Ms. Finkbine eventually obtained the abortion by going to Sweden; her obstetrician there eventually confirmed that the fetus was grossly deformed and stood little chance of survival. Following her story, Gallup polls showed about half the general public thought she had done the right thing; as time went on, public opinion shifted further in favor of liberalization of abortion restrictions. Foes of liberalization mobilized, and positions hardened as some states moved to lift absolutist laws on the subject. Lawsuits and countersuits were filed in many jurisdictions. Eventually, all this culminated in a case before the US Supreme Court, the famous Roe v. Wade, in 1973. That decision, which seemed to settle the issue in favor of a woman’s right to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term, has never been accepted by a large minority of the US public, and that portion has remained active in trying to return to a more restrictive regimen of law on the matter.
Republican party politicians have gradually assumed a rather unanimous position in opposition to the current state of affairs and have promised to pass ever more restrictive laws in many states. It is difficult to say how many of them sincerely support a more restrictive view. It is not in question that those voters who vote with single-issue fervor against the right to abortion, even with restrictions as to late term procedures, support the Republican Party. The national Democratic Party generally adheres to a position laid out by former President Bill Clinton, who said that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.
A relatively recent addition to the single-issue voter list is known as “marriage equality.” In another case decided by the Supreme Court, state laws against gay marriage were wiped out. So-called “social conservatives” have sought to circumvent this change in legal climate; it is too early to know whether marriage equality has the staying power to become a long-lasting single-issue at election time, but this is another rock solid Republican issue at present.
Perhaps the most rock solid single issue, though, is guns. Why? Well, according to the National Rifle Association (NRA), the national Democratic Party is coming after your guns. Never mind that the Democrats have floated only mild tweaks to gun laws in recent years–things like registration of legally-obtained guns or limiting magazine size. ANY control of gun ownership or any restriction on the potential carnage that can be caused by guns is anathema to the NRA. Recently, they attracted attention with a series of ads that said, in part, to those who find them too strident, “We’re coming after you.” To perhaps millions of voters, the Democrats’ advocacy of some limits to firearms is unforgiveable, and candidates of both parties are filmed ritually at campaign time shooting at target ranges or going on bird hunts.
National health care is the final issue I’ll mention here. You’d have to have spent the last several years on Jupiter or somewhere not to be familiar with this one. It has engendered some of the most manifestly stupid campaign talk ever. The ever ready to speak new levels of stupidity 2008 candidate for Vice-president, Sarah Palin, claimed that the Affordable Care Act would have “death panels” to decide when Grandma would become too expensive to keep alive, and thus, would be allowed to die. Many Republican voters are fanatically insistent that the ACA amounted to a “government takeover of health care.” Health care is still in the hands of professionals. The ACA ensures payment for services through a web of insurance availability and increased Medicaid.
Enough. My head hurts. Next time, I promise, I’ll spank the Democrats.