We’ve all suffered from the hyper partisanship that has become our politics in 2013. We used to expect politics to recognize that we didn’t agree on things, but attempt to organize society in a compromise that all could live with, at best anyway. Now polarization is the order of the day, and politics is just blood sport: endless conflict with little compromise. How did this happen??
I think we can trace some of it to the rise of abortion as an issue. This single issue has proved beyond compromise in any meaningful sense; but pro-choice has carried the day so far. Pro-life advocates have none the less pushed an agenda of ending choice. Little discussion has focused choice perhaps in the early months, but protection of the fetus there after.
The state of the pro-life pro-choice fight came I think at least in part from the imposition of ‘choice’ by supreme court ruling. That happened of course in 1973. Abortion rights were emerging before that. California under the governor ship of Ronal Reagan signed expanded abortion rights into law before the court ruling. Had stated moved ahead with different laws and the political process moved toward a more organically derived abortion result: I think our politics today would be less polarized. the political process should drive to avoid splitting the nation into armed or nearly armed camps.
Now I think we potentially face a similar cross roads in 2013. There is talk of executive action to limit gun rights. Many would proclaim it a great thing if gun rights were so curtailed. I can see why. We have a gun cult in the United States, and an obsession with guns and weapons in general. Dear reader: I am no fan of guns. If I had God like power to make them all go away, I would.
If executive order is used to curtail guns I think this will enflame a huge gun rights movement that will further split and enflame our body politics. David Frum says it pretty well:
If the president — any president — inserts himself into the gun debate, he will inevitably polarize it. Supporters of the president will rally, but opponents of the president will become more obdurate. Because the president has many items on his agenda, and often needs the votes of Democrats from districts where pro-gun feeling runs strong, his opponents will probably outlast him. …
Instead, progress to more rational gun laws must be led from outside the political system. Look at the success of the campaign against drunken driving.In 1980, 13-year-old Cari Lightner was struck and killed by a drunken driver. That driver had recently been arrested for another driving under the influence offense, but he remained on the road to kill again. Cari’s mother, Candice, threw herself into the cause of stopping drunken driving. A powerful organizer, she founded a group, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, that not only changed laws at the federal and state level, but also changed the larger cultural context.
My sense is that this issue especially will rise with Obama.