Let's Make a Deal
American Prospect Online - ViewWeb
Most liberals don’t want to hear the message that these voters and others in the red states are sending. But in a democracy, you can only make so many enemies until you can no longer do any good for the people who depend on you. Liberals need to decide what is central to the great moral achievements of the past half-century—and what isn’t. Going down to perpetual defeat isn’t a moral choice.
Ok, Utilitarians--let's get down to brass tacks. Here are some trade-offs I propose:
(1) Compromise on abortion. No late term abortions and parental notification for minors. This is all that most Americans want (check the statistics, please). They are not interested in keeping all women barefoot and pregnant, they are not steamed up about the rights of stem-cells and they are not hoping to use restrictions on abortion to push down the slippery slope to a total ban. They don't like late term abortions because they're think late term fetuses are enough like infants (or for that matter dogs and cats) to be objects of serious moral concern. They want parental notification requirements for minors because they want control over their adolescent daughters. I don't personally want a parental notification requirement but I have a daughter in high school and can understand their motivation.
Let us trade off unrestricted access to abortion for strict enforcement of equal opportunity regulations, affirmative action for women and support for affordable child care so that women, particularly working class women, can get decent jobs at decent pay. The number of women who would be affected by restrictions on abortion is miniscule compared to the number of women who do lousy, underpaid, dead-end pink-collar work because they cannot get the kinds of jobs that similarly (un)qualified men can get and because they can't get their kids looked after so that they can work full time and have the flexibility to maintain the work schedules their employers want.
(2) Drop gay rights as a political agenda and never, never mention it in the same breath as equal treatment for women and minorities. There's a really big difference: gays can pass. Going into the closet even temporarily may not be much fun, but women, blacks and members of other visible minorities would just love to have closets to get into when they apply for jobs, mortgages and car loans.
Public attitudes are changing fast and, if gay marriage hadn't been promoted as a political issue and generated massive backlash, domestic partnership arrangements would have quietly been legally recognized in most places within a decade or less. As the trade-off, promote legislation recognizing domestic partnership contracts for any adults who want to set up housekeeping together on a long-term basis, including not only gay couples but elderly people and their caregivers, unmarried siblings living together, and friends of either sex. Same sex partners could buy into these contracts and get all the material benefits of marriage. Of course, that wouldn't provide the symbolic benefits of having their relationships recognized as comparable to heterosexual marriage, but that's tough.
(3) Support the externals of religion in the public sphere--Bible reading and prayer in the public schools, "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, creches in parks at Christmas, invocations by clergy at public events, two-ton boulders with the 10 commandments inscribed in county courthouses, Buddha statues, Hindu idols and any other religious paraphernalia locals want where appropriate. Support religion practices and the display of religious symbols so long as they are external and trivial, and real substantive issues are not at stake.
But do not give an inch on substantive issues: exclude any mention of bogus pseudo-scientific theories like "scientific creationism" and "intelligent design" from the classroom and see to it that teachers make it clear that evolution is not "just a theory."
Some Jews will object to the public school prayer and creches and militant atheists will be mad as hell about the whole program but that's tough. Most conservative evangelical Christians will be thrilled with all the religion and not worry about what goes on in biology classes--after all, they can just tell their kids that the stuff they're learning there is false. Parents do that all the time: I had to tell my kids that their 3rd grade teacher was wrong when she told them that Italian, French and Spanish were called "Romance languages" because they were the languages of love and that the anti-drug "DARE" program, which promoted the idea that social drinking was all of a piece with using illegal hard drugs ("don't start") was BS. If fundamentalist parents don't even want their children to hear about evolution at all they can pull them out of biology classes (undermining their chances of college admission) or kick in the bucks to send them to private Christian schools. Life is full of tough choices.
So that's my proposal. Comments and addenda welcome--I am zipping up my asbestos suit.