Three Questions about “Doing Democracy”

Kathleen Parker, Progressives’ shaming of Trump supporters won’t work

There are three related questions on the table. Toward the end of the episode last Friday, David Brooks asked a good question, which I’ll paraphrase: Given that democracy requires civility and a working hypothesis that even your political enemies are mostly motivated by good intent, how do we “do democracy” between now and the 2020 election, given that the President is a depraved individual, and vast numbers of his supporters continue to enable his depravity?

Kathleen Parker, by contrast, poses what seems to me an inane question. She assumes that progressives are going about deliberately “shaming” Trump supporters, asks whether that tactic is likely to work, and declares that it will not.

Well, here’s the question I want to ask: Are we to refrain from pointing out that Trump is a deranged, narcissistic simpleton, bent on using white supremacy to win reelection, because telling the truth about who Trump implies that we think poorly of those who support Trump, which will make them feel defensive, which will in turn encourage them to go out and vote for him again in 2020?

In short, to keep Trump supporters from being riled up, should we pretend that Trump is someone other than who he is?

I will answer my own question. No. We should not pull our punches about Trump because telling the truth about Trump will make his supporters angry.

Nor, I believe, is it advisable to place special emphasis on what we think of Trump’s supporters as fine specimens of the human race. On that latter topic, I would advise we keep our bottom line views largely to ourselves.

If pressed by a Trump supporter on the matter, here is how I would respond.

First, it’s not up to me to make a final judgment on who is a good person and who is a bad person.

Two, it’s also not very useful to have a semantic debate about who is and isn’t a “racist,” because that word is used in many different ways.

All that said, three, your continued support of Trump is evidence that that your values are very different from my values.

And, four, in my opinion, your continued support of Trump indicates poor judgment on your part. Trump is such a doofus that he gives white supremacy a bad name. Wouldn’t your own goals—much as I object to them—be better advanced by a leader who is not a narcissistic jerk?

Now, Trump and politics aside, the world is full of people whose values are different from mine. And the world is full of people who exhibit bad judgment.

And, as a lawyer I say, thank God that the world is absolutely chock full of folks with poor judgment.

Oh, That Explains It!

fuzzy headed

Kathleen Parker has helpfully explained that Alabama and Georgia enacted their new abortion laws because of pro-abortion extremism in New York and Virginia. 

Georgia legislators apparently cannot think for themselves, while Alabama senators are devoid of any moral agency. This is helpful information.

Moreover, I am pleased to report, the above insight comes nowhere near exhausting Ms. Parker’s fountain of wisdom. She goes on to explain,

Where insight fails, facts are often helpful: Biologically, life begins at conception. Full stop. A fetus is not part of a woman’s body except as is umbilically necessary to sustain its life. Otherwise, it is a free-floating human being with its own unique DNA. If left to develop according to nature’s course, the little tadpole would become a fully formed human baby and, barring unforeseen circumstances, grow up to become a regular reader of this column.

I will pass over the fact that a sperm also has its own unique DNA, as does an unfertilized egg.

And the fact that, if it were literally true that “life begins at conception,” then conception would involve the union of two non-living substances, as if you were mixing salt and talcum powder, and voilà, a fertilized egg!

But I will pause to observe that, despite her certainty about when “life begins,” Ms. Parker nevertheless is comfortable calling the Alabama and Georgia position “extremist.” Should we therefore infer that Ms. Parker would be fine and dandy with infanticide, provided the infants in question were born of rape or incest? I think not. She just appears to be confused.

Seven Takeaways

1) The issue of how to regulate abortion will never be solved by competitive hurling of adjectives at 50 paces.

2) The issue will never be solved by scientific fact.

3) The issue will never be solved by showing pictures of a fetus in at some given stage of development and saying, “Looky! Looky! Looky! And, while you’re looking at the pictures, please emote at the maximum possible level.”

4) As a practical matter, the issue will never be solved except by recognition that regulating abortion is not a matter of moral absolutes but instead a matter of finding ways to reconcile competing valid considerations. That, together with an understanding that people who would draw the line differently than you are not necessarily a moral leper.

5) Even if everyone gets off their high horse—and that’s not likely to happen soon, but please indulge the hypothetical assumption—the various states, left to their own vices, would draw the line in very different places.

6) Congress could try to draw the line, but there would be many constitutional and other obstacles in the way.

7) As a practical matter, the only entity capable of drawing the line for the country as a whole is the Supreme Court. That’s exactly what they did in Roe. If they don’t like where Roe drew the line, then they can draw it someplace else, for example, at the “fetal heartbeat” stage.

I hope they don’t, but they certainly could.