English: Rep. Albert Wynn (left) joins Gloria ...

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The subject was civility in politics. The show, I think, was Melissa Harris-Perry’s assemblage of refreshingly bright talking heads (although it could have been the Chris Hayes show). The takeaway for me was a recommitment to the belief that the Left should never compromise its principles when dealing with the Right. Consider the abortion debate, for example.One side wants the freedom to choose, the other an outright ban. In the old days…not so long ago, really…both sides would try to resolve differences through compromise. Were they to try to do it today, the conversation might go something like this:

Mediator: Can we agree that abortion is bad and that we wish it didn’t exist?

Voices on both sides of the table: Sure! Abortion isn’t something to like. It’s a terrible thing.

Mediator: Ok. Can we also agree that abortion has been with us for a long, long time, and that the consequences of illegal, back-alley abortions were often tragic?

Voices: Sure. Terrible consequences. Very sad…

Mediator: Can we also agree that if Roe v. Wade were reversed that illegal abortions would reemerge in order to satisfy at least a portion of the demand?

Voices: Yes, that will happen, but there will be far fewer abortions. That’s good.

Mediator: Ok, if we know that illegal abortions will once again flourish, which is bad, but that the number of abortions will go down, which is good, then let’s shift the discussion to what steps we can take together to reduce the number of abortions without having to suffer the tragic reemergence of illegal abortions.

Voices: Sounds good. What do you have in mind?

Mediator: Well, we know that sex education in the schools works, and that easy access to birth control works…

Voices: What? You’re calling for more sex education in the schools and contraceptives? Forget it. Those things are off the table.

Mediator: Why? Won’t it accomplish what you want?

Voices: Contraception is wrong. Sex education in schools is wrong. Sex outside of marriage is wrong. No deal.

Mediator: Really?


This is what happens when religion masquerades as politics. It’s what happens when dogma trumps common sense. It’s why the Left must never give in to the Right-wing ideologues who would impose their beliefs on the rest of us.

  1. Stephan Sotkin says:

    The problem is the left feels this obligation to compromise and debate but you need two rational sides to accomplish a reasonable result.

    • bmccabe says:

      Thanks for commenting, Steve. The sad thing is that compromise was possible in the past. The dance that the Republicans had with the religious right…and the culture war that resulted…made compromise a bad word. What we are left with is, indeed, a war.

  2. I think this is related. We have seen over the years religion playing a greater and greater role in politics and unless we want to live in a Christian Republic of America (ala Iran) then we have to ask some pretty hard questions about where this is leading.

    I wrote an article about the responsibility that the media plays in allowing politicians to advertise their religious credentials and yet they refuse to ask the hard questions. Namely, how their personal religious views would affect their ability to represents all of the voters. (There are actually more issues than that but that’s the main one)


    I mean I personally do not want a person in power that thinks science should take a backseat to religion. So, if my rep feels that way, I need to know so I won’t vote for him. Instead, this is considered too hot an issue for the media to inquire about.

    • bmccabe says:

      I feel exactly as you do, Nomad. In a post on this site entitled “Religion in politics, a line in the sand,” I offer this test to determine whether ideas are suitable for political debate: when ideas cannot stand apart from the faith-based belief set from which they spring, especially when those ideas can influence domestic and foreign policy, they must have no standing in the public square debate.

      • One thing I think is very strange is this unquestioning obedience to Israel. I know it is related to something from the Old Testament but I think there’s plenty of room for mischief in following another nation simply because of a Biblical teaching. Looking at it without religious bias, why should America be any more devoted to Israel than, say, Chile or Thailand?
        And I am old enough to recall the shiver running up every moderate secular’s spine when Reagan announced that he thought the end of the world as depicted in the Bible would come in his lifetime. Good grief.. he was already pretty ancient when he made that remark.

      • bmccabe says:

        Good point. It infuriates me that no interviewer ever delves into this with candidates like Santorum and Romney. The American people deserve better. On the same subject I wrote the following in connection with GWB’s first term in office:

        We have a president (Bush ’43) who has an infallible view of good and evil, who doesn’t allow facts to get in the way of his vision, and who sends American sons, daughters, mothers and fathers into combat “knowing” that there will be no casualties. This irrational behavior makes sense only in the context of his “born-again,” evangelical beliefs which, when checked at the church door, are of little consequence. However, when those beliefs are allowed to guide the foreign policy of the most powerful nation on earth, they have the potential to thrust the world into the abyss of worldwide cultural and religious war. (For a summary of Christian evangelicals’ view of middle-east strife, click http://www.bitterlemons-international.org/previous.php?opt=1&id=55#226)

        Christian evangelicals may argue that such conflict is the inevitable playing out of Biblical prophacy: They are entitled to their beliefs. But for the sake of good men and women everywhere who do not share them, this obsession with Armageddon must be made part of the national debate before it, indeed, becomes prophecy, not of the Biblical variety, but one tragically self-fulfilling.

  3. wow you must have been listening in to my conversation with a friend on the right. seriously you hit the nail on the head about thinking things through. the right doesnt want govt to pay for anything but their oppressive, backwards “advice” on how to live is free i guess.

    • bmccabe says:

      Mom, thanks for your nice comment. Your thinking…and mine…on this makes it tough to accept all this talk of religion, doesn’t it? To me it’s a kind of twilight zone; how can people be so cock-sure that religion provides some kind of an answer to the tough, vexing problems of civil society when religion, throughout the entire history of man, has failed so miserably at doing so? You might be interested in a post on my blog entitled, “Why I left the Catholic church.” It spills my personal beans, so to speak :).

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