Abortion: Red versus Blue? Not So Much
July 8, 2012
“Ohio Abortion Foes Fail:
“An anti-abortion group fell short on Tuesday in its attempt to gather signatures to change the Ohio Constitution to declare that life begins when an egg is fertilized. Backers of the proposed constitutional amendment in Ohio and elsewhere hope to prompt a legal challenge to the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that gave women a legal right to abortion. The group had collected only about 30,000 of the roughly 385,000 signatures required to qualify for November ballots, said Patrick Johnston, the director of Personhood Ohio. Supporters have also fallen short of the signatures needed to qualify for the November ballots in California and Nevada. And in Oklahoma, the state’s highest court halted an amendment effort to grant personhood rights to human embryos, saying the measure was unconstitutional.” NY Times, July 8, 2012.
This news should surprise no one, as it remains a fairly well established fact that the American people are not especially divided when it comes to their thinking about abortion, for better and worse. For the past several decades, at least, the American people support a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy but only under certain conditions. They disagree most about which conditions justify such a termination but an overwhelming margin support “choice.” And, of course, an amendment like the one proposed in Ohio would deny women and men that choice, to say nothing of doing other things that Americans think should be done.
One question is: Why don’t we know this? That is, why is it so commonly thought and said that Americans are divided on the issue of abortion? Well, I don’t know exactly why but I do know that because we have been persuaded to think and talk this way, someone or some groups want us to think and talk this way, meaning that someone or some groups want us to think we are more divided politically than we actually are. And then the question becomes: Who wants us divided? That is, how does this manufactured divide serve the interests of some?
A fellow named Noam Chomsky wrote a book entitled The Manufacture of Consent, which is about, of course, “manufacturing consent.” It is often taken to mean that politicians and others in the ruling class work to produce consensus, which is often thought to mean bringing people together on particular policies like the war on terror or the war on drugs or the war on crime. No doubt this is part of the phenomenon that Chomsky has observed. But there are other, less visible examples of consensus that politicians work at and one of these is, for me, the idea that the American people are divided “red” and “blue” and live in “red states” and “blue states” and hold “red values” and “blue values” and never the twain shall meet. And, of course, this is just illustration of the very old maxim, “divide and conquer” although in this case it ought to be “divide and govern.”
Of course, to the extent that this analysis is correct, it means that we do in fact have a “ruling class,” that is, politicians whose first concern is to protect the power and privileges of their class even at the expense of “solving problems.” So, I do not expect most to agree with this analysis as we Americans do not like to think that there is here a ruling class and that it looks after its own interests before it tends to ours. That this is one of the most common or the most common political phenomenon [it is the meaning of Plato’s and Aristotle’s concept of “regimes” and how each political order is some kind of “regime”] known to human beings deters us not a bit. And so to avoid confronting the fact that the United States is, like every other political/social order ever created by human beings, governed by a select few – and we do have some say in the “selection process” but not as much as we think – we buy into the idea that we are in fact a people divided over issues like abortion. And so to avoid thinking we have a ruling class, we allow that class to convince us of things that serve their interest and power in ruling us. And we come to believe that our government is D.C. is “broken,” that is, it does not work because the two parties cannot agree or work together when in fact we are left dissatisfied because the ruling class governs for its own benefit rather than ours.