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, RINOcracy.com 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?
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[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 RINOcracy.com 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 RINOcracy.com was created to provide some (albeit small) counter-balance. The road is not an easy one, but Sisyphean tasks are not for sissies.