Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On Social Issues...

I believe in a woman's right to choose and I have nothing against gay or lesbian marriage. But I don't have to vote for Obama because we agree on these issues.

Consider that Congress is currently controlled by Democrats. They aren't going to lose their majority in the House or Senate in this election, or most likely the next two. Their control of Congress guarantees we will never see the Senate confirmation of a far-right Supreme Court nominee who has proclaimed a willingness to overturn Roe v Wade. On gay rights issues, it takes 2/3 of Congress and 3/4 of the states to ratify a Marriage amendment to the Constitution. In addition, the general concept of separation of powers and a built-in system of checks and balances render a President powerless to unilaterally alter the status quo on these matters.

Furthermore, consider that there were some of the most rabid right-wing, god-fearing, bible-thumping, jesus-quoting, proselytizing, christian-evangelical Republicans in control of Congress AND the White House for six full years (2000-2006) and they still couldn't muster the support necessary to pass any significant "game-changing" social issue legislation, get a single amendment to the constitution or even win minor federal bench appointments through the Senate Judiciary Committee!

The past decade of hyper-partisanship shows that its going to take AT LEAST a veto-proof majority of votes in Congress (on either side) before we ever see any socially relevant, precedent setting legislation or radical far-left or far-right appointments to the federal benches. Such a plurality at any time in the near term is a virtual impossibility due to gerry-mandered House legislative districts and the effectiveness of micro-targeting specific demographics in Congressional elections.

McCain and Obama both know we're not going to see any changes to standing law or the constitution in the next four years, if not forty. I think its shameful how both men continue to play the sides off one-another on the abortion issue, stirring up trouble between liberals and conservatives and stoking their respective political bases. It's a divisive and nonconstructive political strategy that should not be employed. Although neither candidate has the guts to say social issues are the least relevant items on their agenda because there are substantial voting blocs on both sides who consider the issue of paramount concern in elections.

Every four years, we get the pro-life folks on the conservative Christian right and the NOW crowd with the liberal left claiming that the next President has the power to drastically alter the makeup Supreme Court for the next twenty years. This is a far cry from the reality of the situation. Congress wields an enormous amount of power in the confirmation process and individual Senators have the ability to filibuster nominees or deny Judiciary Committee votes to Judges they deem unfavorable, i.e. Reagan nominee Robert Bork and Nixon nominees Clement Haynsworth, and G. Harrold Carswell.

It's also appropriate to note that the current swing vote on the court, Anthony Kennedy and the first woman Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor were both Reagan nominees. Justice David Souter was brought to the Court by George HW Bush and Paul Stevens was nominated by Gerald Ford. My only point being that it's not easy to predict a Justice's judicial philosophies over the long-term.

Personally, I blame the influence of the Catholic Church and the far-right evangelical group thinking at super-churches for their intractable stance on women's choice. I believe both sides should be working towards a legislative compromise that forever ensures Roe v Wade, a woman's right to privacy and the freedom to choose. Religious groups should heed their own gospel, and allow women the control of their own destinies, for "We shall all stand before God to be judged;" - Romans 14:10.

Furthermore, what happens if abortions are outlawed? Will social conservatives who preach about saving babies then become fiscally liberal and advocate for the billions in additional health care and welfare costs associated with caring for and raising millions of low-income children? Are we to create a national abortion rescue orphanage to feed and clothe the countless unwanted children born to mothers who cannot possibly support them? The thought of overturning Roe v Wade is preposterous to me and other conscientious conservatives who shudder at the prospect of restricting a woman's right to privacy and the untenable welfare crisis to follow.

Call it a flip-flop, a moment of clarity/honesty or a shrewd political calculation leading up to the 2000 Presidential election, but McCain has said, "I'd love to see a point where Roe vs. Wade is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe vs. Wade, which would then force women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations."

While he did vote to confirm Justice Ginsburg, McCain has a lengthy record opposing women's reproductive rights.

I also take offense with McCain's position on abstinence-only education, he's further right of Palin on that issue, it's worth noting that McCain and Obama both oppose a federal marriage amendment, and they share similar positions on stem-cell research.

Regardless, the next President is largely powerless to unanimously dictate social policies or do anything more detrimental than what Bush has already done. There is no clear and present danger to a woman's right to choose in this election, gays aren't going to lose any of their existing rights and this issue is moot for me.

I will admit that Obama has more of an appeal to me on this topic, though I sincerely desire that a McCain presidency leads to the relaxation of the anti-choice rhetoric coming from the current White House. However, if this was an Obama vs. Huckabee or an Obama vs. Palin election, Obama would look much more attractive to me as a candidate based on these issues.

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