The Results Are In: Nader Won

Ira Carmen, a professor at the University of Illinois, has theorized that political preference is genetic–not that there’s a genetic disposition towards liberalism or conservatism, but rather that there’s a genetic disposition towards moderation or extremism. As he noted, “a substantial number of ex-communists sat on the editorial board of the National Review. Can there be genetic antecedents linking hard-core conservatism and hard-core liberalism?” (17)

I can’t speak to the scientific soundness of his hypothesis, but I do know that in developing my own political beliefs, I passed from extreme leftism to extreme conservatism with very little time–perhaps a year or two–spent as an apolitical moderate. Several other right-wing bloggers, such as Daniel and Proph, report the same progression from one extreme to another.

I offer this observation in order to preface a statement that may seem surprising to anyone who’s been reading this blog: in the year 2000, I was a passionate supporter of Ralph Nader and a Green Party volunteer (though I didn’t actually vote Green, because I wasn’t old enough to vote). And, although much of my erstwhile support for socialism and feminism is repugnant to me now, I still do sympathize with that youthful refusal to compromise with what I thought to be intrinsically evil. That same refusal led me to write in a candidate in yesterday’s presidential election, because I simply couldn’t support Romney’s lukewarm stance on pro-life and pro-marriage issues.

As I reflect on what’s transpired between the 2000 and 2012 presidential elections, I can’t help but feel that such extremism is sometimes tactically beneficial. In the long run, didn’t Ralph Nader ultimately get much of what he supported? Sure, he had the immediate effect of aiding Bush’s election, but Bush’s reign was probably a boon to the Left. Nader himself predicted in 2000 that ”a bumbling Texas governor would galvanize the environmental community as never before.” In reality, Bush radicalized not just the environmentalists but also the feminists, the civil libertarians, the LGBT activists, etc. Hatred of Bush poured money into their coffers and provoked a lot of formerly listless supporters into action.

Meanwhile, the Naderites and their supporters, many of them now disillusioned by the Green Party, brought grassroots organizing tactics and idealistic rhetoric into the Democratic Party. They began to experiment with grassroots social media tactics, especially during Howard Dean’s ill-fated campaign. Democratic politicians who protested Bush gained powerful positions in the party–among them Barack Obama, who in 2004 was invited to speak at the Democratic National Convention because of the publicity he was gaining by speaking at antiwar rallies during his Senate campaign. The end result is that we now have a “community organizer” president who has instituted universal health care, tacitly allowed for the legalization of marijuana, promoted green energy, abolished “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and financially subsidized the sexual revolution by giving free contraception to all. Sure, he hasn’t always lived up to Nader’s ideals of participatory democracy–he prefers to make his own laws through executive orders, rather than abide by the normal constitutional channels–but not many progressives seem to mind a benevolent dictator, as long as he’s on their side.

Obama’s victory in 2008 could always be attributed to factors beyond his control, like McCain’s disastrous choice of Sarah Palin as VP and the poor state of the economy at the end of Bush’s last term. But in 2012, he won despite a persistently bad economy, despite his own lackluster debate performances, and despite savvy and well-funded opponents. Moreover, progressives prevailed in the ballot initiatives on same-sex marriage and drug legalization. It seems clear that his victory reflects genuine support for the progressive agenda.

I’m not saying there’s a direct causal connection between Ralph Nader’s presidential run in 2000 and Barack Obama’s in 2008 and 2012. Our country has been on a leftward trajectory since the 1960s, after all. But after Bush’s win in 2000, it looked like the leftward trajectory might at least be on pause. It was the Naderites and progressives who helped get it started again.

I am, it seems, perpetually out of step with the times. To be a Nader supporter in 2000 and a Rick Santorum supporter in 2012 seem like equally hopeless positions. But at least my experience as the former shows that perhaps there is hope for the latter.


A Clarification

I realized today that my post about Akin was insensitive towards rape victims. I don’t disavow my conclusions from the post, but I didn’t make enough of an effort to see the situation from their point of view.

So let me clarify something. I acknowledge that getting pregnant and giving birth after rape must be a terrible experience–more terrible than I could possibly imagine, since it hasn’t happened to me. I know that pregnancy and childbirth can be difficult even when you’re bearing children with a man you love. Doing so against your will, with an evil man, must feel like a second rape–one that goes on for 9 months of pregnancy and for the long, painful duration of labor.

So if I could wave a magic wand and ensure that no woman got pregnant via rape–or, better yet, that nobody got raped in the first place–I most certainly would. And I think that’s what many people are trying to do when they allow for abortion in the case of rape. They want to make this horrible situation go away and spare the rape victim from further pain.

The problem is . . . does abortion actually accomplish this?

Based on what I’ve read and heard about abortion, I have my doubts. Abortion is a mechanical or chemical invasion of the body, with serious physical side effects. As I said in my last post, “even by feminists’ own admission, then, abortion is a violent and painful act perpetuated against the natural integrity of a woman’s body.”

Then there is the possibility of regret. Yes, being pregnant for 9 months is a long time to live with the consequences of someone else’s sin. But a lifetime of regret and guilt over taking an innocent life–which is what many post-abortive women feel, even after rape–is even longer.

Let me be clear–I do not judge women who turn to abortion during the desperate and difficult period following rape. My objection is to the pro-choicers who won’t allow for an honest discussion of the issue.


Did Akin Have a Point?

I considered writing a post when Congressman Todd Akin’s infamous remarks became a scandal. But I thought the furor would die down as soon as some other politician made another dumb remark (which happens with some frequency), and I didn’t see the point in writing about a news story so ephemeral. Months afterwards, however, I still read editorials arguing that Akin’s remarks discredits the entire pro-life and conservative movement. It seems the subject still requires some attention from pro-lifers, so I am going to add my opinion, as unpopular as it may be.

Akin was incorrect and insensitive when he claimed that the female body can magically reject a rapist’s sperm. I think everybody–even Akin himself–acknowledges that his comments were wrong. Somewhere in his remarks, however, lies a kernel of truth, which is that abortion in cases of rape is very rare–not impossible, but rare. A survey from the Guttmacher Institute–a pro-choice research institution affiliated with Planned Parenthood–found that only 1% of women seeking abortion in the United States were doing so because of rape. Since the data was self-reported and didn’t require respondents to show evidence that they had been raped, it is unlikely that rape was under-reported in this survey. Therefore, the 1% statistic seems valid.

The rarity of pregnancy-by-rape makes sense when you consider the fact that women are infertile more often than not. Post-menopausal women, women on birth control, women who are already pregnant, breastfeeding women, girls who are too young to be menstruating regularly, women with fertility problems, plus women who don’t happen to be in their monthly “fertile window” (which consists of only a few days), are not going to get pregnant even if raped.  Since rape tends to be a random and one-time occurrence, the odds of a rapist (as opposed to a long-term partner) catching one of these fertile windows are probably low.

Hence I am not surprised that 99% of abortions in this country are the outcome of consensual sex. And yet, pro-choice rhetoric implies that nearly all women seeking abortion are doing so because of rape, and that restricting their access to abortion in any way is tantamount to raping them all over again.

By pointing out the small numbers of pregnant rape victims, I am in no way trying to belittle their experiences. Every single person is infinitely precious, and therefore her suffering matters regardless of its statistical frequency. But, in order to find the most compassionate attitude towards pregnant rape victims, we must first stop exploiting them for political gain, which is what pro-choicers do every time they use sympathy for rape victims in order to claim political privileges for non-rape-victims. In order to find the most compassionate treatment for rape victims, we need to confront the realities of abortion. We can only advise rape victims on the best path if we are honest about what abortion actually is.

Surprisingly, one of the best descriptions of the abortion experience can be found in a feminist anthology called Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation. The author, Inga Muscio, opens the piece by radically declaring that “abortion sucks”:

“Abortion Sucks” is a literal statement, made in reference to the machine employed in ridding a woman of her unwanted pregnancy. This machine is a vacuum cleaner . . . . Vacuum cleaners are useful for cleaning up messes, and in our society, a pile of kitty litter on the floor is treated much in the same way as an undesired embryo. The main difference, though hardly recognizable to Western science, is that kitty litter is sucked from cold linoleum and an embryo is sucked from a warm-blooded living being’s womb. (112)

Her jaundiced views of abortion stem from personal experience. This is her description of the abortions she received at Planned Parenthood:

The lady [nurse] told me to recite my ABCs.

“A, B, C, D, E . . . ” Something entered my vagina, deeper, deeper, deeper than I imagined anything could go.

“F, G, H, I, O, W . . . ” The walls of my uterus were being sucked, felt like they were gonna cave in. I screamed “O, P, X, X, VOWELS, WHAT ARE THE VOWELS? R? K? A! A’s A VOWEL!” And then my organs were surely being mowed down by a tiny battalion of Lawn-Boys.

“S, did I say S?” My boyfriend was crying too and didn’t tell me whether I had said S or not.

There was a two-inch thick pad between my legs, and blood gushing out of me. The motor had stopped whirring. I felt delirious. I asked, “What do you guys do with all the fetuses? Where do they go? Do you bury them?” The lady ignored me, which was fine; I had to puke. She led me into a bathroom, and I vomited bilious green foam.

For two weeks, there was a gaping wound in my body. I could hardly walk for five days. (113-114)

As a good feminist, Muscio cannot bring herself to question the principles behind the pro-choice movement. She merely disagrees with the methods of clinical abortion, the unpleasantness of which she attributes to the patriarchal dynamics of Western medicine. For her third abortion, she seeks out herbal and natural methods, which she portrays as a beautiful and even spiritual experience. However, some of her comments imply that even these methods are not without their flaws:

I looked at the bathroom floor and there, between my feet, was some blood and a little round thing. It was clear but felt like one of those unshiny Super Balls. It was the neatest thing I ever did see. An orb of life and energy, in my hand.

So strange.

So real. (116)

An orb of life . . . except that it was dead. Because she killed it. Which, based on her next statement, seems to be a fact that haunted her even as she claimed to feel relief: “I wore black for a week and had a little funeral in my head” (116).

Even by feminists’ own admission, then, abortion is a violent and painful act perpetuated against the natural integrity of a woman’s body (as well as the natural integrity of the fetus, an orb of life and energy). If that’s how the true feminist believers describe their abortions, then how much more would an average woman, with no prior stake in the pro-choice movement, suffer from regret and guilt about having taken a life?

I don’t deny the painful realities of pregnancy and childbirth. I gave birth with no pain relief and in some rather unpleasant circumstances–and yet, I would rather endure childbirth ten times over then experience any of the abortions described by Muscio, even the supposedly pain-free herbal one. At least childbirth is natural to the design of our bodies–unlike a vacuum cleaner or poisonous herbs, which sound like they would merely be an additional violation of a woman’s body after she had already been raped.

In all the furor over Akin’s comments, then, we’ve lost sight of some more subtle truths: for instance, that pregnancy after rape is an unfortunate but rare experience; that exploiting rape for political gain is despicable; and, most importantly, that pretending abortion can erase the pain of rape is not the most compassionate way to treat rape victims.