Abortion And Gun Control: The 2008 Litmus Test

By Martin Bosworth

Events of such magnitude as the Virginia Tech shootings and the Supreme Court upholding the partial-birth abortion ban have consequences both immediate and distant. Like ripples in a pond, the repercussions from both actions (both of which I consider tragic, for different reasons) are going to resonate far beyond the immediate actions and reactions.

In this case, I’m thinking about how the candidates for the Presidency are already going to be asked to stake out their positions on these issues in excruciating detail, and will be forced to delineate where they stand. Some will pander and dodge, some will pass the buck, and some will come right out with how they feel. Daily KOS writer “McJoan” has already called the SCOTUS decision a litmus test for the Democratic Party going into 2008.

Similarly, the issue of gun rights and ownership is already a “pass/fail” for many on the right, both the hardcore GOP faithful and the more libertarian-ish. As one fellow puts it:

Frankly, I tend to be a one-issue voter: Gun rights. How a candidate and his voting record score on that issue probably counts for 50% of my considering voting for him/her, with all other issues filling in the remaining 50% of the equation. There are a lot of voters out there like me. On gun rights, or on abortion, or on a host of other issues. In the last couple decades, I have voted for republican presidential candidates almost solely based on the fact that their democratic opponents supported gun control. I suspect that trend will continue unless the Democrats wake up. Hillary and Obama and Gore and Edwards will never get my vote. Richardson might.

This is my big fear about the elections now–that all of the candidates involved are going to have to take two extremely complex issues and boil them down to cliche talking points just to get past the throngs of questioners who will demand to know where they stand. And given how much debate on these issues is dominated by extremists of all stripes, it’s going to make it that much harder for a nuanced, responsible position to get heard.

Don’t forget–among other things, we’re still in the middle of a terrible, destructive war. The housing market–a bedrock of our economy–is falling apart at the seams. We’re being subjected to illegal and unconstitutional spying with almost no recourse or means of redress. And our planet’s ecosystem is tearing like a dress on Prom Night.

I am a firm believer that a woman has the right to do what she wants or needs to do with her own body, and that gun ownership was enshrined in the Constitution for a reason. But there’s a difference between defending your rights and demanding entitlements without responsibilities. It’s depressing to me that we are even still debating these issues in the 21st Century, but if we must, let us do so with a smarter perspective than defining a candidate solely on any one issue.

2 replies »

  1. Linking presidential worthiness for ’08 to abortion and gun rights plays directly into the Republicans’ hands.

    Why in the hell can’t the Dems learn from the Repubs and reframe the hot buttons for their own purposes – make the talking points campaigns about, oh, “where do you stand on the environment?” and “what can we do to end the war?”

    At least we’d be addrssing issues worth worrying about at present, then…

  2. I remember reading George Lakoff’s great little book Don’t Think of an Elephant and coming away from it with a far better understanding of the whole framing problem and how buying into your opponent’s frames and language puts you on the defensive and makes your job just that much harder.

    Which is why I don’t talk about “climate change” any more – I talk “global heating.” I don’t talk about the environment except with friendly audiences – I talk about clean air, clean water, and public health. “National security” is a little trickier to reframe in Democratic Party-boosting terms, but I’ve been thinking about how the Democrats could use “national power” to their advantage. And purging “War in Iraq” in favor of “Iraqi Occupation” would go a long ways to getting the citizenry even more fired up against the occupation.

    One big problem is that people with great ideas (like how to reframe conservative-serving frames to liberal-serving ones) are shut out of the policy-making and advisory apparatus. I tried several times to get myself insinuated into the Center for American Progress and failed miserably – they never even returned my emails. It seems that, generally speaking, if you haven’t paid your dues in the party grass and you haven’t spent decades cultivating contacts (or having Mommy or Daddy’s contacts on speed-dial), you’re SOL. The recent explosion of blogs showing influence over the process has offset this somewhat, and with a little luck blogs like this one will level the playing field even more.