Blog No. 25. Abortion, Guns and Evolution.

On January 3 and 4, The New York Times printed a trilogy of pieces – two articles and an op-ed column – that many RINOs would find acutely depressing. The first article was titled “Access to Abortion Falling as States Pass Restrictions ” and the second was “Banished for Questioning the Gospel of Guns.” The op-ed, by Charles M. Blow, was titled “Indoctrinating Religious Warriors.” The pieces were unrelated in that each addressed a separate subject, but they shared a common thread: the influence of the far right in the Republican Party.

Abortion. The abortion article reported that “A three-year surge in anti-abortion measures in more than half the states has altered the landscape for abortion access, with supporters and opponents agreeing that the new restrictions are shutting some clinics, threatening others and making it far more difficult in many regions to obtain the procedure.” Such measures involve, for example, requirements that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

Other laws bar abortions after periods as short as 20 weeks. Such restrictions appear, on their face, to conflict with the standard adopted by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade and later modified in 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. That standard recognized “the right of the woman to choose to have an abortion before [fetal] viability and to obtain it without undue interference from the State.” Whether the Court will modify that standard, or find another way to uphold any of the restrictions, remains to be seen.

As a political matter, the article further reports that “Advocates for abortion rights, taking heart from recent signs in Virginia and New Mexico that proposals for strong or intrusive controls may alienate voters, hope to help unseat some Republican governors this year as well as shore up the Democratic majority in the United States Senate.” The perspective of supporters of abortion rights may be overly optimistic, but it suggests that making anti-abortion positions the centerpiece of a political campaign seems risky at best. More broadly, It would  be preferable if positions on abortion could be viewed as matters of personal conscience and not made the subject of partisan politics by either party

For its part, supports the standard adopted by the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood and hopes that it will not be eroded or abandoned. As a political issue, we respect the views of those with whom we disagree, and we respect their right to seek judicial or legislative decisions as they see fit. We do, however, regret the impact of the abortion issue on the Republican Party.

Apart from pluses and minuses at the voting booth (and there have been both), the use of the issue as a litmus test has inevitably limited the talent pools from which candidates are drawn. Many individuals who are highly qualified potential candidates, but who support abortion rights, will decline to run if they cannot or will not undergo a “battlefield conversion” ala Mitt Romney. The net result has been a dumbing down of the party.

Moreover, the litmus test is plain wrong. We reject the claim that there is anything “Republican” about an anti-abortion position. The central claim of Republican philosophy is that we seek “less government” and one that intrudes the least on individual lives. Surely that philosophy provides a strong underpinning for abortion rights. Some will argue that political philosophy is trumped by concern for the life of the fetus (or even the embryo), and for them, so be it. But their position should be recognized for what it is: an exception to Republican philosophy, not an expression of it.

Guns. The second depressing article dramatically illustrated the fanaticism of those who oppose any and all forms of gun control.

The article described the treatment of one Dick Metcalf by the gun community, which consists of gun enthusiasts and gun manufacturers. Mr. Metcalf has for many years been a distinguished and widely-read writer on guns and shooting.  He had a regular column on the back page of Guns & Ammo and starred on a popular television show about firearms. In October 2013, however, he wrote a column entitled “Let’s Talk Limits” in which he committed the shocking heresy of suggesting that the Second Amendment permits at least some regulation of guns.

The consequences of Metcalf’s heresy were immediate and severe. He was banished from both magazine and television show and has little prospect of ever working again in the field in which he had been eminent. In his column, Metcalf supported a recently passed Illinois law requiring 16 hours of training for a license to carry a concealed weapon. But he also wrote more generally of gun regulation:

[W]ay too many gun owners still seem to believe that any regulation of the right to keep and bear arms is an infringement [of the Second Amendment].The fact is, all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be. Freedom of speech is regulated. You cannot falsely and deliberately shout, “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Freedom of religion is regulated.  A church cannot practice human sacrifice. Freedom of assembly is regulated. People who don’t like you can’t gather an “anti-you” demonstration on your front lawn without your permission. And it is illegal for convicted felons or the clinically insane to keep and bear arms.

But many argue that any regulation at all is, by definition, an infringement. If that were true, then the authors of the Second Amendment themselves should not have specified “well regulated.” The question is when does regulation become infringement?

* * * *

[Some readers argue that], “The Second Amendment is all the authority we need to carry anywhere we want to” or “The government doesn’t have the right to tell me whether I’m qualified to carry a gun.” I wondered whether those same people believed that just anybody should be able to a buy a vehicle and take it out on public roadways without any kind of driver’s training, test or license.

I understand that driving a car is not a right protected by the Constitution, but to me the basic principle is the same. I firmly believe that all U.S. citizens have a right to keep and bear arms, but I do not believe that they have a right to use them irresponsibly. And I do believe their fellow citizens, by the specific language of the Second Amendment, have an equal right to enact regulatory laws requiring them to undergo adequate training and preparation for the responsibility of bearing arms.

(The Metcalf column can be found as a PDF here a bit fuzzy but is legible if printed out.)

It is hardly surprising that members of the gun community would disagree with Metcalf, but it is the ferocity of their response that should command our attention. It is yet another reminder that advocates of gun control must bring a comparable level of passion to their cause. Although polls have repeatedly shown that a majority of the public supports various gun control measures, that support has been no match for the intensity of opposition from the NRA and its co-religionists.  Nevertheless, the will of the people will eventually be heard, and before it is, the Republican Party would do well to reexamine the symbiotic relationship it has developed with the gun lobby.

It may also be noted that, while Democrats have been generally more supportive of gun control, they too have responded to pressure from the gun community. Thus, several have earned the endorsement of the NRA for votes against gun control measures without losing any support from their Democratic colleagues. (A notable example is Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas who had been attacked in ads run by the group founded by Mayor Bloomberg, Mayors Against Illegal Guns. It has been reported that Bloomberg has been pressured by senior Democrats, including Senators Schumer and Reid and former President Clinton, to drop the ad.)

Evolution. Perhaps the most dismaying member of the trilogy was Charles Blow’s op-ed on belief (or non-belief) in evolution.  Citing polls conducted by the Pew Research Center, Blow reported that only 43% per cent of Republicans believe in evolution, while a larger number, 48%, believe that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” (The remaining 9% apparently claimed not to know or declined to say.) This represented a change from 2009, when at least a majority of Republicans, 54%, believed in evolution. (Lest Democrats feel too smug, we note that only 67% of their number were reported to believe in evolution.)

The reason for the statistic for Republicans is not mysterious. According to the Pew data, white evangelical Protestants reject a belief in evolution by a margin of more than 2 to 1. And that group is approximately 40% of those who describe themselves as “Staunch Conservatives” or “Main Street Republicans.”

While disagrees respectfully with the position of those who oppose abortion under all or most circumstances, it cannot accord the same level of respect to a disbelief in evolution. While we may, indeed we must, respect the right to believe that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning, it is not, in our view, a belief that is worthy of serious consideration.

What, one may ask, is the rationale for linking the three reports discussed above? While we have not come across any data to confirm it, we believe that constituencies that oppose abortion, oppose gun control and dis-believe in evolution are substantially overlapping. Individually and collectively, they have exerted enormous influence over the Republican Party and it is an influence, we believe, that has not been in the best interests of the Party or the country. It is just such influences for which was created to provide some (albeit small) counter-balance. The road is not an easy one, but Sisyphean tasks are not for sissies.

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10 thoughts on “Blog No. 25. Abortion, Guns and Evolution.

  • It never ceases to amaze me how fear and deception works from the pulpit.
    Some of the best and brightest drop down to a 5th grade mentality when they walk through the sanctuary doors. Learning anew and objective thinking will be hard to come by on these subjects because we have so many that are dumber than a junk yard dog.

  • I am fully supportive of RINOCRACY’S positions and your complaints about the problems the alternatives create. The real challenge comes when we contemplate what to do about it. You have convinced me that we are not going to change the Republican image or its domination by the ultra-conservatives in the minds of the vast majority of Americans any time soon. Perhaps it is time for a new party, a coalition of RINOs with the substantial force of independents, together with some conservative Democrats. This is probably a pipe-dream, but I suspect the way to move in that direction is to elect a moderate president, whether he be Republican or Democrat and push the needle back toward the center. Then, when his or her reelection comes around, introduce him or her as the founder of the “New Party.” I have thought Chris Christie could be such a candidate, in spite of the recent transgressions of one or more members of his senior staff.

  • Dear Doug,
    This piece was brilliant…not that all your work isn’t brilliant, but this blew me away. One of your other readers commented that “WF Buckley would be proud.” I would go further…I think WFB (among many other pundits) would be envious!
    We must figure out how to get RINOcracy on “Morning Joe’s” radar…your commentary deserves national attention, and the sooner the better, if we want to encourage clarity, sanity and eloquence in our public discourse.
    Dear Fellow RINO-Readers: Any ideas? Connections?

  • I am unable to see how we all accept as sensible requiring testing to obtain driver licenses but we refuse to insist on some simple testing to obtain a gun. I also can’t understand why we would ever permit high capacity guns to be available to non-military and non-police personnel. How did the notion of a “militia” in the time of the 4th amendment come to mean every Tom, Dick and Harry?

  • Well, what’s a fella to do? I believe in God, I believe Darwin was and is right, I believe that women have the right to determine for themselves when and if to have children and to retain dominion over their bodies, and I think the NRA is a pernicious tool of the armaments industry. I also own more guns than any rational person needs and continue to hunt and target shoot for pleasure and believe that the 2nd Amendment is an historic aberration and that the Government is not out to get me and take away my guns. So what you do is be a Democrat and watch all of my good friends squirm as a pregnant brain dead women in Texas is kept on life support for no rational reason just to satisfy the ideological madness of the few. To paraphrase the Judge, does anyone have any shame left?

  • It never ceases to amaze me that the GOP, the “Pro-Life Party,” avocates life but also unfettered access to guns, which, of course, end life. They love the fetus right up until birth; post-birth apparently is held to another standard.

  • In two of the three articles cited (abortion and evolution) it is clear that fundamentalist religious beliefs are not only infiltrating the GOP to its detriment but also the country as a whole to its detriment. The pressure to enact legislation to reflect these beliefs is pervasive as is seen by laws passed at the state level in the last few years. As far as the issue of gun is concerned, it is by far probably the most outrageous. The U.S. is one of the largest, if not the largest, exporter of guns worldwide. Although I do not have the data since it is most likely secret, many of them undoubtedly wind up in the hands of of those who kill our troops- which is why the manufacturers lobbied against having “Made in the USA” stamped on each gun.

  • While I appreciate RINO’s concern for the potentially adverse political effect of building a party platform on 18th Century belief systems, I would broaden our concern to that of the nation, regardless of political affiliation. The anti-access to legal abortion crowd are either too young to remember, or too smug in their righteousness to recall the horror that was a woman’s option when illegal abortions were the bailiwick of the backyard clothes hanger practitioners. Of course, women with adequate resources could always find compliant clinics in Puerto Rico (on the East Coast) to help them in their time of extreme need. (I’m certain that there were West Coast facilities, but I can only comment on what I know.) I don’t think it’s necessary to roil the waters to also point out that some of the most vocal opponents to a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy, are notably quiet in the face of severely diminished support for the WICs and Food Stamp programs which provide nutritional help for the bairns once they’ve made into the world.
    As for as the evolution deniers, think of the mischief they are promoting when we look to the next generation’s crop of scientists, physicians and for that matter, geologists. I have no problem with them living in their own world construct, but when they undermine rationality in our schools we don’t have to worry about being eclipsed by the Chinese of Indians in matters scientific, we have to worry about Texas State Board of Education and their “editing” Biology text books for their public schools. Politics aside, Yikes!

  • While there are other topics that I believe need clarity, for some time I have wondered when RINOCRACY would address the GOP position on gun control, abortion, and evolution and in this piece you have done a commendable job.

    I have my own list of issues that seem to “pop up” – states rights, voting restrictions, wealth inequality and the influence of money on policy and tax policy. My favorite topic is however is ALEC and its influence on policy and legislation, both at the national and state level? Will you take up this topic in the near future? Again, thanks for the commentary, it is and I suspect will continue to be a pleasant and refreshing read. Larry

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