Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Root Of Conservative Action: Prejudice

One of my most frequently-trotted-out attacks against conservatives is that they rarely understand their own history. They rarely understand that what they are arguing for today is the ideological legacy of maniacs who have come before them, the same maniacs who argued for things that no rational conservative would try to argue today for fear of appearing too much of a maniac. Thank God we have the distinctly irrational Tea Party to be used as an example.

For example, the early anti-abortion movement never had anything to do with protecting babies. Children and women were still frequently seen as, more or less, the property of the husband who could do with them as he pleased. You can still see this logic in much modern religious thought where the man is the absolute head of the household. The classic anti-abortion movement thus avoided the sticky problems that crusaders today have, such as all of the hilarious ramifications that come from declaring that the "person" is created at the point of insemination.

Back then, stopping abortions was all about stopping women from having control. The crusaders then didn't hide this. They wrote about it. They didn't rail against the immorality of killing babies. They railed against the immorality of women freely having sex without the "punishment" of children.

The anti-abortion movement is, and always has been, about misogyny.

But what about the large, modern anti-abortion movement? Where did it come from, and how did it achieve a position on the national stage?

Politico has an excellent article showing how, much like many social problems we face, the modern anti-abortion movement was rooted in something totally different: racism.

As the author, historian Randall Ballmer, says:
[T]he abortion myth quickly collapses under historical scrutiny. In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools. So much for the new abolitionism.
Also of interest is a good example of how fanaticism can propagate and transmogrify, having gravely deleterious effects on society, all the while trying to claim no connection to its past. It also just gives us another reason to hate Reagan.
The Bob Jones University case merits a postscript. When the school’s appeal finally reached the Supreme Court in 1982, the Reagan administration announced that it planned to argue in defense of Bob Jones University and its racial policies. A public outcry forced the administration to reconsider; Reagan backpedaled by saying that the legislature should determine such matters, not the courts. The Supreme Court’s decision in the case, handed down on May 24, 1983, ruled against Bob Jones University in an 8-to-1 decision. Three years later Reagan elevated the sole dissenter, William Rehnquist, to chief justice of the Supreme Court.
Src: The Real Origins of the Religious Right at

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