by Julie Locascio
Bitter political and social conflicts may not be new, but we may be seeing unprecedented levels of vitriol because of the ability of anonymous angry people to take their attitudes to extreme positions online. Even people posting in their own name find new courage to level cruel broadsides because they can find an enthusiastic echo chamber to “like” and pass along everything they say. So where do people of modest temperament find space to reflect on and calmly discuss public policy? For many of us, it is not in our preferred political party.
In a world of “competing” hashtags saying #blacklivesmatter, #bluelivesmatter, #migrantlivesmatter, #womenslivesmatter, #babieslivesmatter, etc., some of us keep wondering why any of these things need to be said. The answer, sadly, is that political parties in our country do not embrace a consistent ethic of life where #alllivesmatter. And the reason for that is that candidates who embrace a consistent ethic of life are attacked so viciously in the primaries that they rarely get a chance to present their platforms in a general election.
Republicans who go up against the Third Rail of Conservatism—namely, the Gun Lobby—are going to face a well-financed gauntlet of PAC advertising attacks they can rarely survive. And Democrats who go up against the Third Rail of Liberalism—namely, the Abortion Lobby—are also going to face a well-financed gauntlet of PAC advertisements. And when the moderate candidates are knocked out in the primaries, the Dems and GOP often lose seats they could have won in the general election (if Libertarian or Green candidates start polling higher, they will also discover it’s not easy to win on their principles against a well-financed and zealously extreme opponent).
Thus, despite the fact that public opinion polls show that the electorate would like common sense gun control AND no federal funding of abortion, we end up with political platforms ignoring the middle ground and running to the fringes. We have at one extreme Donald Trump pandering to Gun Lobby money to such an extent that he is exhorting the “Second Amendment People” to prevent (by assassination?) Hillary Clinton from making Supreme Court nominations (never mind that the Second Amendment calls for a well-regulated militia). We have at the other extreme Hillary Clinton pandering to Abortion Lobby money to such an extent that she has jettisoned her earlier “abortion should be safe, legal, and rare” stance for a pledge to bring back federal funding of abortion (never mind that “pro-choice” means pro-abortion if my taxes pay for it).
And so, once again, people who would like to see #alllivesmatter in public policy are asked to make a choice one way or another which we have trouble living with morally. Republicans horrified at unregulated gun show sales, gun accidents, and mass shootings are told to shut up. Democrats horrified that Planned Parenthood abortion doctors view unborn babies as organ donors are told to shut up. Citizens who feel American lives are being cannibalized from the right AND left are told to shut up.
PBS recently aired a 2015 BBC Science Series documentary called “Countdown To Life: The Extraordinary Making Of You” (known in the U.S. as “9 Months That Made You”). This scientific documentary is a mind-blowing, state-of-the-art depiction of the miracle of human life: how it’s set from the moment of conception to the first heart beat a month later, to the formation of the human face, all the way to birth. There may be billions of people on our planet, but the astonishingly complex journey to form a human life will always be a miracle.
The Gun Lobby likes to talk about the rights of “law-abiding citizens”, forgetting that every murderer was innocent of homicide until that first kill. The Abortion Lobby likes to talk about the rights of women to “control their own bodies”, but refuses to show women in crisis pregnancies what exactly is happening biologically inside their own bodies. Somehow we are told by both the Far Right and the Far Left to look away from all this death: we have to preserve our rights. But what happened to the Right to Life?
The Supreme Court once (in)famously wrote about when human life is viable outside of the womb. For #blacklivesmatter activists, #bluelivesmatter supporters, #migrantlivesmatter advocates, #womenslivesmatter campaigners, and #babieslivesmatter volunteers, what we should be telling our political leaders (even if it means going up against the Third Rail) is that we believe life is only viable when we are all willing to keep it so for everybody.
**Julie Locascio is a member of Democrats for Life of America. She is a writer and attorney living in Washington, DC.