Posts tagged democrats

Republican morality v. Democratic morality

Many people think the two major political parties in the United States are all but the same. George Lakoff disagrees. In fact, Lakoff argues that Republicans and Democrats approach politics and law from categorically different moral bases:

Democrats tend to see democracy as having this moral basis: Citizens care about one another and act on that care through their government, creating a “public” — a system of public provisions to protect and empower everybody equally. From the beginning, Americans have provided public roads and bridges, public schools, public hospitals, municipal sewers, public records, a judiciary, police, a patent office.

And since then, Americans have come to need and have provided much more — agencies to protect public health, public safety, advance scientific research for the public good, public parks and beaches, public art and so on.

These public provisions free us — it is a freedom issue — to have decent lives and start businesses that use what the Public provides. All of this is what President Obama was referring to, when he said, “If you built a business, you didn’t build that” — “that” being, namely, the roads, the schools, the Internet, GPS, and so on. The role of the Public is a moral issue and a freedom issue. Individualism can flourish only with the prior practical freedoms provided by the Public.

Conservatives see democracy through a different moral lens. They see democracy as providing the liberty to pursue your own self-interest and well-being without responsibility for the interests or well-being of others. This is the Romney-Ryan view. They don’t believe there should be a robust Public. They want to dismantle and destroy it, step by step, and the mechanism is the Ryan budget. They want to change the moral basis of American life by budgetary force.

In other words: either you tend to think that we’re all in this together (which makes you a Democrat), or that we’re all in this separately (which makes you a Republican). 

I think there’s a good deal of truth in what Lakoff says, but I also think there’s reasonable middle ground between these two positions. For instance, you might argue that the idea of the Public is largely beneficial, while also remaining wary of its power to, at times, restrict individual freedoms. Or you might defend the centrality and importance of individual freedoms, while also remaining aware unfettered individual freedom can can harm the Public. If you hold either of those positions, you might not find a home in the Republican or Democratic parties. But would you be unreasonable? 

Should doctors who oppose ultrasound laws engage in “civil disobedience”?

This anonymous doctor says “yes.”

It is our responsibility, as always, to protect our patients from things that would harm them. Therefore, as physicians, it is our duty to refuse to perform a medical procedure that is not medically indicated. Any medical procedure. Whatever the pseudo-justification.

Amanda Marcotte says “no.”

The anon doctor suggests that abortion providers reject the mandatory ultrasound law by refusing to do it, and doctoring patient files to make it look it was done, if necessary. This is characterized as “civil disobedience”, but it’s really not in the same way that getting arrested at protests for moral but illegal trespassing is. Civil disobedience works best if it has a public component, to draw attention to your issues in hopes of changing the law. Privately doctoring files doesn’t accomplish that.

What do you say?

Moral decline or moral shift?

You’ve probably heard conservative and religious leaders — including most of the Republican president candidates — lament the recent “moral decline” of the United States.

Yet is America truly in moral decline, or is the country just shifting away from traditional, religious morality? That’s the question taken up in a new article in the Economist, which finds little evidence to support the former position.

In summary:

[The aforementioned issues lead] to a debate over what “moral” really means. If “immoral” means “causing avoidable harm to other people” then gay marriage, pornography, sex, reality TV, soft-drug use and euthanasia are hardly immoral, even if distasteful to some.  

But as we grind through the Republican primary process, it seems like the debate over morality in America has less to do with moral outcomes and more to do with a vision of how society should look based on idealistic remembrances of how things were. So people like Mr Munro and the Republican candidates believe America is in a moral slump. The odd thing is, people on the left might actually agree, though for very different reasons. They are upset by the perceived greed of the 1%, and the broad acceptance of torture and war as foreign-policy tools. In the end, the debate over morality more closely resembles two distinct monologues.

Mississippi votes on personhood today

UPDATE: the so-called “personhood amendment” has been voted down.

Mississippi residents will vote today on a constitutional amendment to change the legal definition of personhood to include fertilized human eggs. The amendment would outlaw all abortions (including those resulting from rape or incest), many forms of birth control (including IUDs and morning-after pills), and embryonic research.

As previously discussed, the amendment is absurd both philosophically and legally. But as detailed by bioethicist Art Caplan, considering fertilized eggs as “persons” also flies in the face of what we know about medicine and science: 

This is what we know: During the period of embryonic development that begins with fertilization and ends with successful implantation, about 50 percent of human conceptions fail to survive. The main reason for this high failure rate is the inability of huge numbers of fertilized eggs to implant.  

What science has found is that around half of all conceptions don’t make it to implantation. Calling a fertilized egg a person flies in the face of this cruel biological reality. Half of all fertilized eggs cannot even become an embryo, much less a person.

Indeed, given the grim odds that face fertilized eggs, no one in science or medicine refers to a fertilized egg as an embryo unless it manages to implant. By talking about embryos and fertilized eggs as equivalent, supporters of Initiative 26 are not even using the correct scientific definition of an embryo.

If the rest of the story of human reproduction — as medicine and science know the facts to be — is brought to bear, things only get worse for Initiative 26.

Sadly, all too many couples know about the high rate of spontaneous abortion and stillbirth that haunts embryonic and fetal development. Roughly, one in six embryos will spontaneously abort or produce fetuses that do not develop properly and die in utero. 

There are a huge number of embryos that are not properly genetically programmed for life. Nearly all of these completely lack the biological ability to develop into anything resembling a viable baby.  Legislation — like that about to be voted on in Mississippi — that declares fertilized eggs to be persons from the moment of conception simply ignores that the failure rate of human embryos is very high.  A considerable number of embryos and fetuses never have any chance of producing a baby. 

Medicine and science know very well what many millions of heart-broken would be parents around the world know first-hand: To call all embryos “persons” flies in the face of spontaneous abortion, stillbirth and fetal death.

The Mississippi amendment is likely to pass, but it is unlikely to survive a court challenge. Yet don’t get complacent: several other states are already considering similar amendments, and the “personhood” movement is just one small part of a larger battle being waged by reproductive rights foes.

US House set to vote on abortion bill

The US House of Representatives is expected to vote Thursday on a bill that would allow federally funded hospitals that oppose abortion to refuse to perform the procedure — even when a woman would die without it.

From Laura Basset on The Huffington Post:

Under current law, every hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid money is legally required to provide emergency care to any patient in need, regardless of his or her financial situation. If a hospital is unable to provide what the patient needs — including a life-saving abortion — it has to transfer the patient to a hospital that can.

Under H.R. 358, dubbed the “Protect Life Act” and sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), hospitals that don’t want to provide abortions could refuse to do so, even for a pregnant woman with a life-threatening complication that requires a doctor terminate her pregnancy. This provision would apply to the more than 600 Catholic hospitals governed by the Catholic Health Association, which are regulated by bishops and prohibited from performing abortions.

(Quick aside: how ironic that a bill that could lead to the death of women is named the “Protect Life Act.”)

As Basset notes, H.R. 358 would also ban federal funding for health care plans that merely include abortion coverage. This would go a step beyond existing law, which disallows federal dollars from being spent directly on abortions.

If you want to tell your House representative to vote no on this proposed legislation, check out these already formatted action alerts from the American Civil Liberties Union, National Women’s Law Center, or the American Humanist Association. Or, click here to find your local representative and send your own message.

Morally indefensible budget cuts

As I’ve written before, you don’t often hear liberals base their economic arguments on moral concepts. For instance, consider the recent battle between Republicans and Democrats over taxes and the federal deficit. President Barack Obama has proposed normalizing taxes on the wealthy. Republicans have charged that Obama is promoting “class warfare.” Obama’s answer: my proposals are "just math."

Turns out I’m not alone in thinking this sort of response is a major problem. Here’s Robert Reich writing in the Christian Science Monitor:

We’re in the worst economy since the Great Depression — with lower-income families and kids are bearing the worst of it — and what are Republicans doing? Cutting programs Americans desperately need to get through it. …

[Obama’s deficit reduction plan is] more than math. It’s a matter of morality.

Republicans have posed the deepest moral question of any society: whether we’re all in it together. Their answer is we’re not.

President Obama should proclaim, loudly and clearly, we are.

You can read the rest here.

The misguided debate on regulations

As you probably already know, American politicians are in the midst of an intense debate on how to create domestic jobs. One argument repeatedly made by Republicans is to cut workplace and environmental regulations, which they charge are job killers.

Factually, the Republicans’ claim does not seem to hold up.

However, imagine for a moment that the Republicans’ claim is true. The most obvious question would be, “Is cutting regulations the only, or even the best, way to create jobs?” Yet I think there is a more important question that Democrats continue to not ask:

"Would it be ethical to cut regulations that protect worker safety and the environment to create jobs?"

I think you know how I would answer this: absolutely not.