Monday, June 1, 2009

Saletan vs Obama on common ground

Amanda Marcotte has a nice piece on George Tiller irreconcilable assassin. Read the whole thing, but here's the most important bit:
But I want to talk about how this assassination needs to be a wake-up call to the William Saletans of the world, and also to Barack Obama---"common ground” is a pipe dream. A great deal of people want to believe that we can somehow come together to agree that abortion is unfortunate and the rate needs to be reduced (even though we can’t talk about how anti-choicers will fight you on any attempts to use contraception and education to actually accomplish this goal), and they hope this will at least temper the abortion debate.
It might be easier to think about this situation if you mirror it to the left and eco-terrorism. In regions of the country where there's a strong pro-environment culture, you see some modest sympathy at least for the goals of eco-terrorism, though not for the methods. But there is a large and vibrant environmental movement that has real political clout and which has nothing to do with these nutjobs. At best, someone like Dennis Kucinich might show up at a rally.

The pro-life movement doesn't have quite such a neat distinction. Former Kansas Attorney General, panty-sniffer, and George Tiller-harrasser Phil Kline has been in the news lately condemning Tiller's assassination, but here's Kline's letter to Operation Save America, the successor organization to the professional intimidators at Operation Rescue, of which the assassin was a member. In 1991 Operation Rescue hosted a rally that featured a little known activist named James Dobson. You've also got some Catholic Bishops getting into the mix (not all!).The distance between anti-choice intimidators/terrorists and major figures in Republican politics is much closer than anything you'll find on the left.

Some of the common grounders coughWillSaletancough seem to want actual policy concessions, but a quick look at the 2008 Democratic Platform shows that the Administration isn't giving much ground (note that family planning funding that was strippedfrom the stimulus has been restored in the budget). What this second breed of common grounders is looking for is to excise the extremists from the political movement. It's not about finding common ground with Randall Terry—that's never going to happen. It's about making sure no one at the bargaining table thinks that they're there to represent Randall Terry. As Melissa McEwan is fond of saying, shit like this doesn't happen in a vacuum. The Obama brand of common grounders are trying to shift the terms of debate so the culture surrounding abortion opposition changes. If you have a pro-life movement and a Republican party that's less sympathetic to domestic terrorism, you'll have ... less domestic terrorism. It will never drop to zero; again, despite a less radical environmental movement and little support from politicians, people are still torching SUVs or exurban cul-de-sacs. But most GMC Yukon dealers are more worried about being axed during the upcoming bankruptcy than someone burning their inventory. Meanwhile, according to NAF statistics, daily picketing is a fact of life for abortion providers, and there's roughly one incident of serious violence for every eight providers. There aren't many jobs outside of law enforcement that face that level of daily threats. Creating a political culture where this sort of behavior has little or no support from either party is crucial to making it happen less often.

But we don't just have to wait for talk. Contact your local NARAL chapter and see if they are lobbying the state legislature for a "bubble bill" to at least keep the picketers at bay. At the national level there may be some ill-advised push back against "politicizing the tragedy", but local politicians usually aren't quite so worried, and some can be moved by just a handful of phone calls.

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