Have Republicans Finally Had Enough?

I was very interested to see the reaction of many Republicans to the over-the-top behavior of the extreme right in the wake of the assassination of abortion doctor George Tiller earlier this week. On The Next Right they quickly removed an offensive article and comments had loudly condemned the author. On Little Green Footballs they posted a substantial article condemning commenters and posters on several other right-leaning blogs for their comments about Tiller. These reactions give a clear impression that more and more mainstream Republicans are fed up with the fanaticism of the religious right, sickened over their behavior over the Tiller issue and just about ready to give them the boot.

Is it possible that this incident is the straw which finally broke the camel’s back and has created an unhealable rift between rational conservatives and the extremists of the religious right? Even Republicans who are socially conservative seem to have had enough of the extremist rhetoric and support for violence coming from people like Fred Phelps and Randall Terry. They seem to have worken up to the fact that the fanaticism and terrorism they oppose in the Islamic world is not much different from the beliefs held by some they considered allies.

As Barry Goldwater pointed out many years ago, the one thing which Republicans ought to be extreme about is liberty and on all other issues they ought to be rational and pragmatic. Maybe that lesson which he spent decades trying to teach with his own actions, is finally sinking in.

The obsession with legislating morality and with opposition to abortion and gay rights is really not part of the core Republican agenda. These ideas and the fanaticism they inspire were brought into the party through its alliance in the post-Reagan era with religious conservatives. Historically, Republicans have had a laissez faire attitude, not just to the economy, but also on moral issues. Republicans used to be dispassionate, leaving moral decisions in the hands of individuals and keeping government out of the picture. It seems like the pendulum might be swinging back in that direction.

As Abraham Lincoln said many years ago, our nation and by extension the Republican Party, was “conceived in liberty” and that idea of individual liberty ought to be the basis of every policy and every decision which Republicans make. There is very little question that abortion is a sin, but shouldn’t that sin be a matter of personal responsibility to be resolved between the individual and his or her soul and church and god? Once you get government involved, a change in policy or administration could as easily mean forced abortion and sterilization as you have in China as it could mean protecting unborn fetuses. Putting such personal decisions in the hands of government can only work out badly when there is the potential to go to either extreme.

This change in attitude in the GOP seems real and very significant. It has been building for years, starting with uneasiness with many Bush administration policies and perhaps culminating with the Tiller incident. That doesn’t mean that I expect a wholesale casting out of the religious right, but it does seem as if the more reasonable elements of the religious wing of the party are finally realizing that they have to distance themselves from the exrtremists, and perhaps put broader priorities first if they want to continue to play a role in the party and if they want that party to be successful. Extremism has been like an anchor dragging the GOP down and if the party cannot cast itself free of that extremism and chart a better course for itself it will never be successful.

Fanaticism and extremism breed violence and terror and are the enemies of liberty. If we are determined to fight them in the War on Terror how can we be less vigilant in opposing them at home? If we are to have a Republican party which makes liberty its first priority, then it must reject extremism and intolerance in every form. We can still embrace conservative and moral values, but we must accept that these are personal values and that only evil and oppression can come from giving government the power to dictate morality and institutionalize the prejudices of religious fanatics.

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About Dave 536 Articles
Dave Nalle has worked as a magazine editor, a freelance writer, a capitol hill staffer, a game designer and taught college history for many years. He now designs fonts for a living and lives with his family in a small town just outside Austin where he is ex-president of the local Lions Club. He is on the board of the Republican Liberty Caucus and Politics Editor of Blogcritics Magazine. You can find his writings about fonts, art and graphic design at The Scriptorium. He also runs a conspiracy debunking site at IdiotWars.com.

11 Comments

  1. You (Dave Nalle) write:
    “There is very little question that abortion is a sin, but shouldn’t that sin be a matter of personal responsibility to be resolved between the individual and his or her soul and church and god?”

    Some sins are legal. Some sins are illegal. Therefore, simply labeling abortion as a “sin” does not seem to contribute anything to the debate. In fact, doing so can actually be a distraction:

    You write, “There is very little question that abortion is a sin”, instead of “While I personally believe that abortion is a sin”. This choice of phrasing means that you are begging the question, forcing the reader to agree with you that “sin” exists, that abortion is clearly a “sin”, that everyone has both a “soul” and a “church” and that everyone does believe (or should believe?) in some kind of “god”.

    But even I am getting distracted from my main point, which is:

    Ideally, we create government to secure our rights. Answering the question of who (what) qualifies as a person is therefore an essential task of government. Government has to decide who is a person, and who (what) is not a person. Government needs to know whose rights it is supposed to protect.

    The question of who is (and who is not) a person is likely to always be controversial, as our country’s history of slavery and civil rights clearly shows. Government sponsored dehumanization of enemies is often a precursor to war, as it is easier to fight and kill others when you believe they are not human. For example, I have recently seen multiple commentators on Fox News say that (alleged) terrorists are not people, and are not human.

    Back to the subject of abortion: Some argue that human rights should be bestowed or protected beginning at conception. Some argue beginning at birth. The existence of government necessitates some answer to this question.

    You go on to write:
    “Once you get government involved, a change in policy or administration could as easily mean forced abortion and sterilization as you have in China as it could mean protecting unborn fetuses.”

    In other words, you argue that any government answer to the question of when people are created will result in a slippery slope that can “easily” end with “forced abortion and sterilization as you have in China”. But this is a invalid argument. As I have pointed out above, government is necessarily involved, for government cannot exist without being able to answer the question, “Who is a person?”

    You write:
    “Putting such personal decisions in the hands of government can only work out badly when there is the potential to go to either extreme.”

    Again, you beg the question (by calling abortion “a personal decision”) and you attempt to use the false fear of “either extreme” to advance your personal view (i.e., that abortion must be “a personal decision”). Forced abortion and sterilization are risks that come with government itself, not with every answer to the question of “who is a person?” Some logical and rational readers will therefore not be persuaded by your above argument.

    I think the point you are trying to make can be made much more simply, without all the distractions provided by “sin” and “forced sterilization”. Simply say: Bestowing rights prior to birth would allow the government to regulate what goes on inside your body and is therefore a serious threat to your personal liberty. At the same time, recognize that birth, like conception, is at least in some ways an arbitrary boundary.

  2. “… extremist rhetoric and support for violence …”

    Rhetoric is primarily about framing an issue for best advantage in a debate. But, it isn’t mere rhetoric when the meaning of words is perverted, not merely as euphemism, but as literal falsehood.
    It’s reasonable to condemn the killing of a fetus, on whatever grounds you please. But, to refer to it as “murdering babies” is not just false, it is intentionally incendiary.
    A baby is and always has been a born person. It is and always has been illegal to kill any person, newborn or not. If the killing of a person is intentional, it is proper to call it murder and to seek capital punishment for that crime.
    Alleging that a person has “murdered babies” is a call for forceful, even violent, retaliation. It pretends to justify “taking the law into your own hands” in pursuit of any subjective sense of justice. Merely using those false terms goes beyond slander to outright incitement to violence.
    That isn’t just “extreme rhetoric”, it is a crime in many states, as is advocating violence against the alleged perpetrator. I don’t agree with labeling speech (of any kind) as criminal, but I do think it is morally reprehensible to intentionally misrepresent facts and thereby endorse a violent response.
    My intent is not to suggest in any way that the issue ought not be debated in a civil fashion, using correct terminology. But, why is an argument against killing a fetus not simply made using proper terms? I have to conclude that the argument cannot be made without invoking those falsehoods, solely to stimulate an emotional response, which can easily lead to violence. That, to my mind, is sick.

  3. Some sins are legal. Some sins are illegal. Therefore, simply labeling abortion as a “sin” does not seem to contribute anything to the debate. In fact, doing so can actually be a distraction:

    Not at all. My issue would be with things which are made illegal solely because one set of religious criteria defines them as sinful when they are actually harmless.

    You write, “There is very little question that abortion is a sin”, instead of “While I personally believe that abortion is a sin”. This choice of phrasing means that you are begging the question, forcing the reader to agree with you that “sin” exists, that abortion is clearly a “sin”, that everyone has both a “soul” and a “church” and that everyone does believe (or should believe?) in some kind of “god”.

    Hardly what I intended. I was using the concept of sin very broadly. In the sense of something morally undesirable. I didn’t even mention god or a church.

    Ideally, we create government to secure our rights. Answering the question of who (what) qualifies as a person is therefore an essential task of government. Government has to decide who is a person, and who (what) is not a person. Government needs to know whose rights it is supposed to protect.

    On what basis does government make that decision? My argument would be that it should not be on the basis of religion. In fact, I’d argue that the government really has no role at all. The government didn’t create the fetus, doesn’t keep it alive and doesn’t control it. The mother does.

    Back to the subject of abortion: Some argue that human rights should be bestowed or protected beginning at conception. Some argue beginning at birth. The existence of government necessitates some answer to this question.

    I think it’s simpler than that. So long as a fetus is inside the mother its personhood is subordinate to that of the mother. The law recognizes this concept, in giving parents certain rights over children and that concept certainly applies even more to fetuses. They cannot exist without their mother, therefore decisions as to their existence should be made by the mother, not the state. Why does the state need to get involved in what is a personal and individual decision?

    In other words, you argue that any government answer to the question of when people are created will result in a slippery slope that can “easily” end with “forced abortion and sterilization as you have in China”. But this is a invalid argument. As I have pointed out above, government is necessarily involved, for government cannot exist without being able to answer the question, “Who is a person?”

    And I would argue that this is not a relevant question so long as the fetus depends on the mother — not the government — for its survival.

    Forced abortion and sterilization are risks that come with government itself, not with every answer to the question of “who is a person?” Some logical and rational readers will therefore not be persuaded by your above argument.

    Since the question of “who is a person” is already answered by the inability of the fetus to live as a person outside of the womb, the only question which matters is who controls that potential life, the mother or the government. Why do you think it’s a good idea to give that power to the government?

    I think the point you are trying to make can be made much more simply, without all the distractions provided by “sin” and “forced sterilization”. Simply say: Bestowing rights prior to birth would allow the government to regulate what goes on inside your body and is therefore a serious threat to your personal liberty. At the same time, recognize that birth, like conception, is at least in some ways an arbitrary boundary.

    Sure, I’ll go with that. But you do realize that this entire discussion has absolutely nothing to do with the article, right?

    Dave

  4. You (Dave Nalle) wrote:
    My issue would be with things which are made illegal solely because one set of religious criteria defines them as sinful when they are actually harmless.”

    I can imagine (and I think you can, too) that there are non-religious arguments against abortion. Also, do you really wish to argue that abortion is “harmless”?

    I was using the concept of sin very broadly. In the sense of something morally undesirable.

    Look up “sin” in the dictionary, and you have to go to the fourth definition to find that meaning: Transgression of the law of God; disobedience of the divine command; any violation of God’s will, either in purpose or conduct; moral deficiency in the character; iniquity; as, sins of omission and sins of commission. [1913 Webster]

    I didn’t even mention god or a church.

    You wrote: “Shouldn’t that sin be a matter of personal responsibility to be resolved between the individual and his or her soul and church and god?”

    In fact, I’d argue that the government really has no role at all. The government didn’t create the fetus, doesn’t keep it alive and doesn’t control it. The mother does.

    Government did not create the murder victim, nor keep the murder victim alive, nor does government control the murder victim. Yet government defines illegal killing and prosecutes those who commit illegal killings. (I do not mean to equate abortion with illegal killing; at present abortion is legal. I mean point out the weaknesses of your argument.)

    I think it’s simpler than that. So long as a fetus is inside the mother its personhood is subordinate to that of the mother. The law recognizes this concept, in giving parents certain rights over children and that concept certainly applies even more to fetuses.

    You use circular logic. We created the law. Some argue the law is incorrect. Just because it is the law today does not mean it is morally correct, nor that the law should not be changed.

    Also: children (after birth) are not inside the mother; and: children’s subordination to their parents does not make it legal for the parents to kill the children. But I agree that parents (and not government) should raise children, and that children’s independence from their parents increases with age.

    They cannot exist without their mother, therefore decisions as to their existence should be made by the mother, not the state.

    Some premature babies survive. Some mothers die in childbirth, yet the baby survives. I think reality is more complicated than the examples you base your argument on.

    Why does the state need to get involved in what is a personal and individual decision?

    The state should get involved if the rights of a third party are threatened. Whether there is a third party depends on how the laws are written. Laws are imperfect and subject to change. The people should decide (somehow) what the laws are.

    And I would argue that [how the government answers the question of who is a person] is not a relevant so long as the fetus depends on the mother — not the government — for its survival.

    So then the right to life should be granted at the point in time when the unborn fetus becomes viable outside the womb? How should the government determine when this point is reached? It could be weeks before birth.

    Since the question of “who is a person” is already answered by the inability of the fetus to live as a person outside of the womb, the only question which matters is who controls that potential life, the mother or the government.

    Some unborn fetuses may be able to survive outside the womb.

    Additionally, (after birth) babies cannot survive without the support of some third party, often the mother. Does the fact that their survival depends on a third party mean they should have no right to life?

    Why do you think it’s a good idea to give that power to the government?

    Where did I say I thought it would be a good idea to give that power to the government? I am merely critiquing your argument by pointing out that there are rational and non-religious arguments against abortion.

    But you do realize that this entire discussion has absolutely nothing to do with the article, right?

    It is tangential to the main point of your article, yes. But I think your article would be stronger if it did not contain a controversial thread that will alienate some readers who might otherwise agree. It is possible to oppose abortion without being “fanatical and extremist”.

    (I hope I have used the italics correctly. If not, please feel free to fix them.)

  5. It is not possible to oppose abortion without being “fanatical and extremist”. If you “oppose abortion” then you want total government control over your life nine months before you are even born. Go for it! Be pro-life and pro government control over every aspect of your life. Soon the government will have total control of your testicles and ovaries. It will be for the protection of babies, of course.

  6. Re: Westmiller

    A woman I know is expecting. She refers to her unborn child as a “baby.” Only in situations where the woman doesn’t want the child – or in situations where it is advantageous politically to refer to it as something other than “baby” – is it referred to by the scientific term “fetus.”

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/baby

    Google dictionary yields the same result.

    Would referring to it as “killing babies” be OK with you? It is a baby, and it is being deprived of its inalienable right to life – it is being killed (here I assume that you agree with the Declaration that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights – I may be mistaken; in your opinion where do rights come from?).

    I might suggest that the premeditated nature of abortion gives serious weight to the argument that “murder” is an acceptable description of the act of abortion; inconvenient as it might be for people who affirm “choice.”

    I’ve always marveled at how people who claim to be libertarian fail to see the abominable violation of rights at work when an abortion is performed.

    Mike

  7. Where did I say I thought it would be a good idea to give that power to the government? I am merely critiquing your argument by pointing out that there are rational and non-religious arguments against abortion.

    I agree. It’s on those non-religious bases that I oppose “partial birth” abortion, because it’s clearly muder to kill a fetus which would be viable with minimal intervention.

    It is tangential to the main point of your article, yes. But I think your article would be stronger if it did not contain a controversial thread that will alienate some readers who might otherwise agree. It is possible to oppose abortion without being “fanatical and extremist”.

    I do think I made that fairly clear in the article. I certainly made clear that opposition to extremism is not the same as opposition to religion or to the participation of religious folks in the party.

    Dave

  8. It is not possible to oppose abortion without being “fanatical and extremist”.

    Of course it is. The fanaticism and extremism apply to the methods of opposition, not the belief. You can oppose abortion and choose not to murder abortion doctors.

    If you “oppose abortion” then you want total government control over your life nine months before you are even born.

    I tend to agree.

    Go for it! Be pro-life and pro government control over every aspect of your life. Soon the government will have total control of your testicles and ovaries. It will be for the protection of babies, of course.

    Again this brings me back to the argument that we value life too highly. IMO there are much worse problems in this world than a few aborted fetuses, and government control of the womb just seems like a terrible idea.

    Dave

  9. Mike: “She refers to her unborn child as a ‘baby.’ “

    It’s a euphemism: she hopes and expects that the fetus will be born, becoming a baby. In the same way “with child” is a more optimistic and pleasing phrase than “pregnant”.

    “Google dictionary yields the same result.”

    Google retrieves definitions from many sites, including “free” or “modern” dictionaries that simply report the emergence of novel usage, whether or not it is consistent with the primary, root, and historic meaning of a word. There is not and has never been such a thing as an “unborn person.”

    Would referring to it as “killing babies” be OK with you?

    IF a person were actually killing infants, then it should be called murder. But, they aren’t. Pretending that they do is beyond hyperbole, it’s making a malicious and grossly false criminal allegation.

    “It is a baby, and it is being deprived of its inalienable right to life”

    IF it were a baby … a newborn person … then it would have a right to life. Only persons have individual rights. Until the advent of recent perversions, there was no law whatever that considered a fetus to be a person. Not in America, not in the Declaration, not anywhere in the world, not even in the Bible.

    “I might suggest that the premeditated nature of abortion gives serious weight to the argument that ‘murder’ is an acceptable description of the act of abortion… “

    In which case, you are obliged to advocate capital punishment for any woman who consents to, solicits, aids or abets, her own abortion. The physician is just an accomplice. But, I don’t know any “pro-life” advocates who are willing to advocate the only legitimate penalty for premeditated murder. Do you?

    “I’ve always marveled at how people who claim to be libertarian fail to see the abominable violation of rights at work when an abortion is performed.”

    Rights are the proper and just claims of people. There is no doubt whatsoever that the pregnant woman is a person. She has an absolute and total right to her own body. Denying that is only a step away from endorsing slavery. In this case, coerced (if temporary) slavery of the woman to an organism that is not a person. One step further and you’d be banning cancer surgery, which is the intentional killing of undesireable – but quite human – cells.

  10. The GOP has completely lost its way and it has nothing to do with the abortion issue.

    The mainstream Republican position is pro-torture, pro-empire, and pro-murder when it comes to Iraqis, Afghanis, Pakistanis, or anyone else who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the US war machine rolls through the neighborhood.

    At least there is a case to be made that killing “Dr.” Tiller was actually done to save innocent lives. The imperial mercenaries of Uncle Sam’s military who have killed millions in recent decades cannot make the case that they are protecting any innocent person from any actual threat even approaching the infanticide being carried out by Tiller and others like him.

    The PC wing of the GOP is now making the case that “Dr.” Tiller has more rights and deserves better treatment than women and babies in Iraq or the “suspected terrorists” swept up and renditioned away to Gitmo.

    And this is the party that is supposed to keep the socialist gun-grabbers of the Democrat party from destroying whatever remnants of freedom exist in America? God help us.

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