I’m no longer feeling The Bern and feeling very, very disappointed (and somewhat embarrassed) about that.
In 2016, Bernie was my guy. I loved his in-your-face pride in being a democratic socialist, his integrity on sticking to his principles and calling bullshit on our socio-politico-economic establishment. I still like that about him.
But what I didn’t do was examine his economic program very closely. I was too excited by his social-political stands and discounted almost all of what establishment critics were saying because naturally I didn’t trust them. (Free college, for example, is no pipe dream. Trump just proposed raising the national security budget by more than enough money to pay for it.) I assumed they must be demonizing him because he was pulling their files for all of us to see. I’m certain that is still true today, however never did I think their charges might hold any water.
Full disclosure and apologies to those who might feel unfairly maligned but in my experience my brothers and sisters on the left tend to make very poor economic analyses of our economy and its institutions, especially when it comes to jobs and wages. And I expected not much different from Bernie. I did expect a bit of flexibility and realpolitik from his long years in office. On that score, I was wrong. He is an ideologue which is a strength when you’re leading the charge of some very angry people but it is a liability for governance. Recent events have given me serious pause on this point. Cringeworthy moral equivocations of Castro. Writing bills in an election year that tax startup employees on options they haven’t even sold yet. (WHY???!?!?) Making the rather dubious claim he wants to follow the Scandanavian or Nordic Model which has more billionaires per capita than here in the U.S. Billionaires that he says “shouldn’t exist.” People defending him with the kind of excuses we heard from morally sane but incredibly naive voters that were used for Trump in 2016. (Anyone remember “He’ll mature once he’s in office?”) When folks are telling me “Relax, he can’t actually do that. Congress will stop him.” It’s a red flag on the candidate.
Of course, none of this rises to the level that I would stay home on Election Day. It will be a cold day in hell before I abstain from casting a vote against Agent Orange and the GOP. But I have to say that I’m not rooting for Bernie anymore which is a very sad and disappointing realization. I really did believe in him.
With Hillary Clinton picking Tim Kaine for vice presidential candidate, abortion and how Kaine reconciles his faith with the law and enforcing it is back as a front burner issue. I think his balancing act highlights the real moral dilemmas at play and why both sides of the issue are intellectually dishonest to the degree they claim sole hold on the moral high road.
But first, I categorically dismiss the charges that Kaine is “pro-abortion.” Not only is the charge partisan and worldly, it is a lie. You don’t have to support a law to enforce it. And for an elected official or civil servant, it’s your job. Civil disobedience is for protestors, i.e. private citizens. If you can’t do your job, the honorable thing to do is resign.
Basically, Kaine’s position is similar to mine. We agree that making abortion illegal is wrong. If my reading of his support of the Hyde Amendment is correct, then he feels the government should be neutral about abortion. It neither supports it through funding nor does it act against it by criminalizing the practice. It makes neither side of the abortion debate happy (but I don’t think they deserve to be).
I feel the same way with one proviso. I can accept the premise of saving lives by banning abortion if we apply that brand of justice equally. But be warned there is no free lunch. It would require a serious degradation of personal liberty to make an abortion ban fair and just. In short, if the government can commandeer a woman’s body to save the life of her unborn child, it can do likewise to mine toward equivalent ends. For example, I have two health kidneys, I can live with one and there is no shortage of people dying of kidney failure. Extreme I know but that’s what it would take to ban abortion and actually be pro-life rather than merely pro-unborn. That’s why I object to abortion bans. Casual and unequal justice is no justice at all. Ends do not justify means.
So like Kaine, I’m “pro-life-choice.” Yes, women should be (and are) free to choose. But it is a fiction that that choice is without moral valence no matter what rationalizations of privacy we make or claims that the decision itself is deeply personal. Of course it is a private and personal decision. It changes nothing. Abortion at bottom is ending a life, and short of saving another life, I can think of no reason that would make such an act just. Having said that just because my faith teaches that an act is immoral, it doesn’t automatically follow that it should be illegal. My Catholic faith teaches marital infidelity is a grave sin. We could make infidelity illegal for all sorts of laudable goals but I doubt anyone agrees that it should be done.
So save the charges of being pro-abortion or the need to be “educated” into thinking one’s moral convictions are false. What’s required is wrestling with the moral dilemma as anyone of good conscience should.
Doug Thompson’s The Rant: Bush & Kerry: This is the Best We Can Do?
Doug does rant in this article, but he comes as close to expressing my general attitude about this election as anyone else has in print. It sucks to vote for someone you dislike less.