Why it’s cool(er) to be liberal again
The L-word is quietly working its way back into the political lexicon.
The number of voters identifying themselves as “liberal” jumped three points on Election Day, from 22 percent in 2008 to 25 percent this year. That’s the highest that number has been since at least 1976, according to exit polls.
The term “liberal” has long been somewhat of a pejorative in American politics — or at least been less popular than the alternative.
When Ronald Reagan was reelected in 1984, just 17 percent of Americans identified as “liberal.” And even back when the founder of the New Deal, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, took 61 percent of the vote in 1936, it was more popular to be a “conservative” than a “liberal,” as Wonkblog’s Ezra Klein pointed out.
That may be changing, though. While the “conservative” label has stayed about where it is, self-described liberals have increased from 17 percent of the electorate in 1980 to 21 percent in 1992 and now 25 percent today.
And the three-point jump between 2008 and 2012 is tied for the biggest jump in the last three-plus decades.
Here’s how that looks on a graph:
Now, this shouldn’t be over-sold. We’ve still got far fewer people identifying as “liberals” than identify as “conservatives” (35 percent). And we have yet to see a stampede of Democrats rushing to embrace the label.
But for a label that Democrats have shunned for a while now, it seems to be on the ascent.
There’s a bit more to the article explaining what factors are leading to this, social issues being among them.
Personally, I’d like to see the country shift further left, that is, were “moderates” are actually at the center and not right of center as they seem to be now.
He’s talking about Obama and healthcare reform, but I think it could equally apply to the current (also healthcare-related) situation in Ireland*. Legislating on X is eminently all of those things, and even if it’s only marginally pro-choice (as someone pointed out, such legislation would only give doctors, not women, the choice to terminate a pregnancy where they were concerned for her safety) the very reason why it hasn’t been done so far is because to do so would disturb the hegemonic ideology of Catholic conservatism in Irish politics.
Since I’m a critical bastard, it only took most of yesterday before I started to get concerned about the actual meaning of the Savita case versus the (justifiably) dogmatic, emotional and firmly pro-choice responses to it. I explained my aversion to Catholicism in the Irish context and the possibilities of the facts not being quite what they seemed, but I’m still firmly of the opinion that the upshot of the case is that restrictive, ambiguous, religiously-derived laws contributed to Savita Hallapanavar’s death. Today’s lead editorial in The Irish Times is an excellent, nuanced and detailed argument weaving together the various medical, legal and political uncertainties into a clear call for action. (Except, its closing remarks bring a pessimistic note to the debate: “The sooner the Government can bring clarity to the legal morass that this case and others have exposed, the better. But, in reality, it may bring cold comfort to those moved by the appalling plight of Savita Halappanavar.” It hints at broader issues than those covered by potential X Case legislation.)
There are scores of stronger broadsides around the web currently, and people, especially women, have a right to be angry and to demand action on the basis of what is most likely to be the correct assessment of the case (despite whatever ultra-cautious judgement comes out of the reflexively produced inquiries). They have every right, as well, to connect this to the broader pro-choice agenda, because from the moment it hit the headlines it was never just about the facts of a single case - it was a signal that, by allowing a death even just to be connected to the denial of abortion, we as a society have failed to live up to the tough political choices inherent in attempting to preserve a ‘pro-life’ constitution in a modern, developed country.
However - and I am loathe to give their statements any further airing - the pro-life movement will seek to deny the obvious necessity for action, and undermine the emotional, human response to this tragedy as long it is sited in an unfavourable political context. They will point out - with some modicum of truth - that it isn’t quite as simple as the pro-choice placards make out; and then go on to further claim that either abortion would not have helped, or that termination was already permissible and the doctors were at fault (not, of course, the guidelines they rely on or the ambiguous legal context they work in), and that therefore legislation - which would strike at the conservative hegemonic ideology that abortion is an untouchable, sacrosanct issue almost beyond political debate - is unnecessary. This is false, but it must be responded to with care. As the Irish Times puts it:
“It is not possible to say categorically that earlier medical intervention to end Savita Halappanavar’s pregnancy by “expediting delivery” of her miscarrying foetus would definitely have saved her life. Medical science is not that certain. Septicaemia can take hold fast, uncontrollably, and devastatingly. But earlier intervention could have saved her life, and it would have been available to her in many other hospitals (although, for theological rather than medical reasons, not defined as an “abortion”).”
That parenthetical comment sums up both the hegemonic influence of Catholic morality and its distortion of the medical issue. It also serves as a wedge between issues relating to miscarriages during pregnancy and what pro-lifers consider ‘true’ abortion: ignoring the fact that it is their attitude to the latter that clouds (and in extreme cases, includes) the former and causes these problems. It is utterly legitimate and feasible to legislate for something that is shrouded in uncertainty, uncertainty that is itself problematic. Just thinking through the logic involved brings out the flaws:
“Was the view being taken by the medical team that, although in deep discomfort and pain and bearing a foetus that could not go to term, and despite the subsequent outcome, Savita Halappanavar’s life was not actually threatened in the early stages of her crisis, even if the life-threatening possibilities were inherent in her condition? Were they therefore constrained not to perform an abortion?”
But the realist perspective also says that this will remain complicated, inexorably so, within the constitutional confines that Ireland has bound itself. And that is how questioning a tragic but still uncertain case leads, not to one quick legal solution, but to an idea more fundamentally threatening to the pro-life position:
“…it begs questions not so much about the conduct of the Galway medical team as about the inadequacy of the Constitution’s already controversial provisions. Would the Irish people really wish to deny a woman in her position an abortion when, legally speaking, her life could not be said to be in jeopardy?”
The opposition to allowing abortion, as in Britain, when there is a threat to the mother’s health (as distinct from her life), is based on the principle that it will become too broad and lead to abortion on demand - unacceptable to those who believe their opinions on the life of the unborn must trump the choice of any woman. But if the alternative is to put the choice in the hands of doctors, and continue to wrestle with the legal and moral ethics of legislating for childbirth, will the pro-life centre hold? Or will the apparent denial of choice to one woman and her subsequent tragic death lead ultimately to choice for all?
*It also has this great footnote-worthy observation that I had forgotten was true, but also links in to the wider basis for reproductive health:
“In Europe, the ground floor of a building is counted as zero, so the floor above it is the first floor, while in the US, the first floor is on street level. This trivial difference indicates a profound ideological gap: Europeans are aware that, before counting starts – before decisions or choices are made – there has to be a ground of tradition, a zero level that is always already given and, as such, cannot be counted. While the US, a land with no proper historical tradition, presumes that one can begin directly with self-legislated freedom – the past is erased. What the US has to learn to take into account is the foundation of the “freedom to choose”.”
Save the Rich: “Papa” John Schnatter Edition
“Papa” John Schnatter, Papa John’s founder and CEO, is back in the headlines once more for his assertion that there’s no way on God’s green Earth he can afford to provide health care for a portion of his employees, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Now, Schnatter hasn’t been hurting for cash. As Brian Warner writes:
When Papa John Schnatter hosted a fundraiser for Mitt Romney earlier this year, the Republican candidate began his remarks by saying: “Who would’ve imagined pizza could build this? This is really something. Don’t you love this country? What a home this is, what grounds these are, the pool, the golf course…. This is a real tribute to America, to entrepreneurship.” If your house impresses Mitt Romney, the ultimate one percenter, you know it must be pretty awesome. To start, John Schnatter’s 40,000 square foot castle is located in a wealthy country club suburb of Louisville, Kentucky. The property is spread out over a 16 acre estate and as Romney mentioned, features several swimming pools, a private lake and a golf course.
But who knows what’s going to happen now that the health care mandate could supposedly cost him $0.15 a pizza?! Schnatter claims the costs will be $5-8 million per year — though he had no trouble with giving away two million free pizzas this September that cost the company 24 to 32 million dollars.
Maybe he was counting on Mitt Romney winning.
Papa John Schnatter
1904 Stone Gate Rd. <— (address listed for political fundraisers)
Louisville, KY 40223
Or you can send it to Papa John’s Corporate:
2002 Papa John’s Boulevard
Louisville, KY 40299 or
Papa John’s International, Inc.
P.O. Box 99900
Louisville, KY 40269-9990
My letter [click to zoom]:
As I wrote, I may not be able to afford their overpriced pizza, but I can afford a nickel, a dime, and a stamp. I encourage folks to help save the rich and send Papa John some nickels and dimes to offset this gigantic burden, especially since it’s not financially feasible for him to survive without the extra few million. Apparently.
It’s the least we can do for folks working under such a selfish bastard.