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Dear Liberals, Stop Wonking And Save Lives
Don't Be A Lisa Simpson In A World Of Homers
I thoroughly understand the liberal impulse to factually unravel conservative arguments and policy proposals. How could you not? For years the right has offered up ideas based on fake mathematics, made up history, poor interpretations of logic and human nature and a host of other intentionally faulty premises. Why not then pick these things apart and lay bare for the public at large the intellectual rot that is the conservative movement? What could be the harm?
Well, one reason could be that it doesn’t work. By often focusing on the minutiae of conservative nonsense, liberals leave perfectly useful rhetorical weaponry lying unused on the field of intellectual battle. The right, which has never seen a hammer that it didn’t use, is then given a free hand, unopposed in their concerted efforts to smear, distort, deceive and ultimately win far too many policy battles.
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Far too often the liberal obsession with playing political games based on a set of rules only they play by leads to conservative wins and a worse off life for millions of people, both within the United States and around the world.
Thankfully this has not happened so far with the nationwide federal abortion ban recently proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham.
All the ingredients were certainly present for the usual shenanigans to occur. Graham tried to present his legislation as a moderate proposal, even absurdly comparing it to European birth control laws (as if Republicans suddenly had any interest in replicating European health care systems and their universal coverage).
He and other Republicans were surely expecting Democrats to do the thing they usually do, taking issue with the legislation’s time parameters for when a woman can be allowed to have an abortion, getting into the weeds about how many weeks of viability is acceptable, discussing made-up circumstances like “late term abortion” and the like. This is the battle the right wants on these issues and so many others, for liberals to emulate Lisa Simpson, bringing logic and reason to a political fight.
But surprisingly, this did not happen.
The Biden administration clearly labeled the proposal accurately in a statement, referring to it as the “proposed national abortion ban.” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wrote, “Senator Graham introduced a national ban on abortion which would strip away women’s rights in all 50 states.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the bill a “nationwide abortion ban proposal” in a statement. At a White House event, Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized Republicans for “introducing national bans on abortion.”
For a change, Democrats did not do what comes naturally to liberals.
Instead, they framed the issue in a manner that does not speak to policy wonks who are knee-deep in the topic, but in a way that hits most Americans in the gut where they truly care about the issue of abortion.
Americans do not want abortion bans. The conservative Supreme Court decision to kill Roe vs. Wade is unpopular. Attempts by Republican state legislatures to criminalize abortion, putting women and doctors in jail, are not popular. The public does not want a federal law in place restricting abortion rights.
This isn’t an issue of viability or the policy guts of Graham’s proposal — which is bad — this is about the core of the issue: The right to have an abortion.
Sometimes it feels bad that the world is this way. The thought process goes that people should care enough about these issues that they are motivated by the dissection of policy, that they should innately understand the inner workings of government and be offended and motivated by conservative efforts to subvert that.
But that isn’t the world we inhabit. People are busy, with their families and with work. Unlike politicians, political activists, and political journalists and commentators, this stuff is not in the front of their minds at all times. They know what they like and what they don’t like, and like Homer Simpson they don’t want it to be too complex for them to understand.
Conservatives have understood this for a long time and have made far too many political advances by framing issues in simplistic terms, deceiving the public into supporting leadership that has made their lives worse off. As they have done this, liberals have made cogent debate points, exposing logical fallacies and inconsistencies. But the public has not cared. They are not debate judges and there are no impartial third parties who will award liberals a political win for getting all their facts right. It certainly isn’t a function of the mainstream media, which has been the right’s most reliable transmitter of its nonsense (not Fox News, who’s reach is limited, but the mainstream press - the broadcast networks, newspapers, newswires, etc.).
This playing field is far too important for liberals to concede it completely to the right. “Dumbing” things down just means getting a strong message out to the most people so they can be motivated to do the right thing politically, helping out everyone in the long tun.
It’s actually the smartest thing to do.
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