Saturday, June 25, 2022


Ross Douthat believes that right-wingers might not be able to consolidate their gains after the Dobbs decision.
While the pro-life movement has won the right to legislate against abortion, it has not yet proven that it can do so in a way that can command durable majority support. Its weaknesses will not disappear in victory. Its foes and critics have been radicalized by its judicial success.
I guess whenever liberals are doing anything more than sending money to organizations we hope will sustain our civil rights, that's "radicalization" in Douthat's eyes. Yes, we're angry, and we're in the streets. But why does Douthat believe the anti-abortion movement will need "durable majority support"? Universal background checks and an assault weapons ban have "durable majority support." Higher minimum wages have "durable majority support." Roe itself had "durable majority support." The right doesn't care. The right knows how to hold on to power without having any popular positions, and the right also knows how to gum up the works when it temporarily loses power so it will regain power quickly. The right doesn't need a popular stance on abortion, any more than it needs a popular stance in guns or wages. It just needs to cling to power by any means necessary.

Douthat continues:
And the vicissitudes of politics and its own compromises have linked the anti-abortion cause to various toxic forces on the right — some libertine and hyperindividualist, others simply hostile to synthesis, conciliation and majoritarian politics.
The people on the right who are "hostile to synthesis, conciliation and majoritarian politics" aren't "forces," they're the entire right. Even the ones who drew the line at returning an unelected president to office believe that the right should do whatever it can get away with, national consensus be damned.

Perhaps you can guess where this is heading:
To win the long-term battle, to persuade the country’s vast disquieted middle, abortion opponents ... need to show how abortion restrictions are compatible with the goods that abortion advocates accuse them of compromising — the health of the poorest women, the flourishing of their children, the dignity of motherhood even when it comes unexpectedly or amid great difficulty.
Yes, once again Douthat is digging in the dung pile of the contemporary right, convinced that there must be a compassionate-conservative pony in there somewhere.
You can imagine a future in which anti-abortion laws are permanently linked to a punitive and stingy politics, in which women in difficulties can face police scrutiny for a suspicious miscarriage but receive little in the way of prenatal guidance or postnatal support.
I can't imagine any other future as long as the right is in charge.
In that world, serious abortion restrictions would be sustainable in the most conservative parts of the country, but probably nowhere else, and the long-term prospects for national abortion rights legislation would be bright.
Serious abortion restrictions will be sustainable wherever the right wields power, and that will probably be coast to coast fairly soon.
But there are other possible futures. The pro-life impulse could control and improve conservative governance rather than being undermined by it, making the G.O.P. more serious about family policy and public health. Well-governed conservative states like Utah could model new approaches to family policy; states in the Deep South could be prodded into more generous policy by pro-life activists; big red states like Texas could remain magnets for internal migration even with restrictive abortion laws.
Stop snickering. He really believes this. He thinks it's actually possible that a movement almost monomaniacally devoted to punitive acts will do a 180 and empathetically expand aid to poor parents in the name of conservatism.

There is a part of the right that talks about morality, but it's not this kind of morality. The National Conservatives -- including Christopher Rufo and Douthat's buddy Rod Dreher -- have some ideas about morals, as embodied in their recent manifesto.
We recommend the federalist principle, which prescribes a delegation of power to the respective states or subdivisions of the nation so as to allow greater variation, experimentation, and freedom. However, in those states or subdivisions in which law and justice have been manifestly corrupted, or in which lawlessness, immorality, and dissolution reign, national government must intervene energetically to restore order.
Cathy Young, who's no liberal, has a pretty good idea of what that means.
We can safely bet that when the authors and signatories of this document refer to places where “law and justice have been manifestly corrupted,” they are thinking about what they see in blue states and Democrat-controlled municipalities. But what really raised my eyebrow is the call for the national government to intervene (“energetically,” no less!) to stop not only lawlessness—itself a vague word that could encompass anything from vagrancy to riots—but “immorality” and “dissolution.”

Let’s ... ask what it would mean in practice. Federal marshals shutting down Drag Queen Story Hour? A national ban on school lessons that deal with sexual orientation and gender identity, or on “immoral” books in school libraries? The National Guard swooping down on cities that permit too many homeless encampments or let too many criminal defendants out on bail? Would Satanic churches be considered dissolute or immoral enough to warrant federal intervention? How about public festivals that celebrate non-normative sexual behavior such as BDSM, or nontraditional sexual or gender identities? For that matter, in the NatCons’ ideal society— presumably one with no constitutional protections for same-sex marriage—would federal morality cops be empowered to take action when a state is too permissive about divorce, homosexuality, or single parenthood?
That's far more plausible than the right-wing expansion of the social safety net Douthat seriously imagines is possible.

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