A Coalition For Me, But Not For Thee

Morning’s Minion over at Vox Nova, recently argued that the pro-life movement should disentangle itself from the Republican party. I think a fairly good argument can be made for this position, although I don’t find it entirely convincing. As anyone familiar with the blogosphere is aware, however, the fact that a good argument can be made for a position does not mean that a good argument currently is being made. Here’s the post:

“November 10, 2008

[MM quotes Tom Delay:]

“Only under conservative government will groups like the National Rifle Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and National Right to Life Committee receive a fair hearing of their views; it’s time they started working together. “

[MM's Response] On the contrary, Tom, it is exactly alliances like this that are killing the pro-life movement. How is it justifiable that a movement based on life, on the consistent ethic of life, throw in its lot with big business and unregulated firearms? Unless it starts forsaking these cheap and tawdry alliances, the pro-life movement will continue to shortchange the unborn. After all, the man who wrote this is the very same man who opened the doors of power to Jack Abramoff, who wilfully pushed the agenda of a group involved in forced abortion and forced prostitution. This tells you everything you need to know, really.”

Really. That’s the argument. Notice, 1) the reader is provided with no evidence that support for Second Amendment rights or lower taxes is hurting the pro-life movement, and 2) the second part is a classic guilt-by-association fallacy (Tom DeLay is bad, therefore anything Tom DeLay says is wrong). Aside from the absence of any evidence supporting the conclusion and a gratuitous logical fallacy, it’s a wonderful piece of writing.

To provide context, Morning’s Minion is an avid supporter of President-elect Obama and the Democratic party generally. For months, he has championed Obama’s cause, despite Obama’s outspoken support for organizations like Planned Parenthood. It is rather surprising then, in light of his recent advocacy, that his response to the election is to call for Republican pro-lifers to embrace irrelevance in the name ideological purity. The argument appears to be that pro-lifers in the Democratic party should vote for Democratic politicians linked with Planned Parenthood (with minor regrets), whereas pro-life Republicans should run shrieking from politicians responsive to the NRA. Is it just me or is this partisan hypocrisy? Is the NRA worse than Planned Parenthood for the pro-life movement?

The response is particularly troubling given that the most immediate effects of pro-lifers leaving the Republican party en masse would be: 1) the pro-life movement would be ideologically pure but too small to impact national politics; 2) the ardently pro-choice Democratic party would dominate American politics. Both of these results are entirely foreseeable. I must confess that (in certain moods) it occurs to me that the animating force for this particular argument from some quarters may have more to do with concern for the Democratic party than the pro-life movement.

28 Responses to A Coalition For Me, But Not For Thee

  • “I must confess that (in certain moods) it occurs to me that the animating force for this particular argument from some quarters may have more to do with concern for the Democratic party than the pro-life movement.”

    Moods is the right word here.

  • The man who spouts opposition to the minimum wage and advocates unrestricted assault weapons possessions has always seemed the best poster boy for the pro-life movement.

    Such a credible spokesperson for the sanctity of life in all its stages.

  • Frankly, as I’ve commented before, the only reason that the minimum wage currently seems insufficient is because we Americans believe that everyone has to own their own home, live away from their families, and subsist without any local support. You’d be amazed what a couple of families sharing a single house can accomplish on minimum wage or even less. It is hard, yes, but it is livable. The Catholic Church calls for a livable wage, not a luxurious one.

    As for guns, it is the epitome of folly to believe that a gun automatically equates with an assault weapon. But I suppose it depends on what you see. When you live in the big city, surrounded by gangstas popping caps in some cracker cop, I’m sure you can’t see guns as anything but murder tools. But when you live in wide open spaces (with bears), and you gun hunting regularly for food (in bear country), a gun is not just handy tool, but a necessity.

    Perhaps, Mark, you’d care to make more that slogan-like comments, maybe provide us with a little meat as to why you would oppose gun rights? Perhaps you’d care to break things down across different gun categories, examine demographics, and point to where, either in the Bible or the Catechism, or some papal encyclical, that states that guns should be forbidden?

  • “You’d be amazed what a couple of families sharing a single house can accomplish on minimum wage or even less. It is hard, yes, but it is livable.”

    This is so preposterous that it doesn’t even deserve a further response.

  • Living simply has its rewards. To many people have fallen for the lie that they have a right to a ‘tv’, an ‘suv’, and starbucks coffee at every corner. We here in America don’t know how good we have it. We live not above our means, but waaay above our means. An unsustainable lifestyle.

    We are seeing the repurcusions of this with the collapse of the Big 3 automakers among many other failures.

  • After the Democrats have been in control of Washington for a few years, I think a great many Americans will be lucky to be earning the minimum wage. The Bush administration has done a poor job obviously in its economic policy, but every bad job-destroying idea possible is just waiting to be enacted by the Democrats. The American people are about to learn a very costly lesson in what happens when the people in charge of Washington really believe they can legislate prosperity by government fiat through more regulation and control over private enterprise. A moderate recession is about to be made much worse.

  • It is so easy to extol the virtues of frugal living by others, as we communicate via our $1000 computers, is it not?

  • Mark, why does it not deserve a response? You do realize, don’t you, that many illegal immigrants that come to the states do exactly what I just mentioned? That fact that there are people who do that makes my statement far from absurd. We Americans would be better off if we weren’t so consumed with such pride that we’d rather have the government mandate high wages so we can earn a “respectable” living instead of banding together to help each other out.

    On a different note, obviously it did deserve a response, because you responded to it. Frankly, Mark, I’d really like to get an actual conversation going instead of trying to deal with endless non-starters. Please, instead of simply trying to shut conversation down, why not take a few minutes and give a reasonable response as to why it is absurd to suggest several families live together to help ends meet?

  • Mark,

    I got my computer at half that price after hunting for the cheapest PC I could find all day. Plus, I need it for work. I saved up for it after holding on to my five year old Toshiba until it was incapable of accomplishing the work I do on it.

    Simple living is one of the treasures I discovered these past few years. I hope the American people won’t have to learn the hard way as I had, but with the Dems in power, like Donald said, they will suffer greatly.

  • It would be such a nice change to have rational discourse with Mark and his friends, but when every argument reduces to “guns are evil, business is evil, money is evil,” there really isn’t much left to say.

    Seriously, are you guys Catholics or animists?

  • Ryan – How many other families have you welcomed into your home?

    Tito – Glad to hear that living simply is something you value. It’s something we seem to have in common. Probably the result of fantastic catechesis, eh?

  • Still trying to unravel MM’s logic. First he notes that Pro-Life Movement hooking up with NRA and U.S. Chamber of Commerce is negative. Then go Obama go who has promised to sign FOCA quick fast and in a hurry. Being slightly befuddled I go wha… This intellectual stretching by Catholic Obamaites makes my own noggin hurt. Don’t plan to think about it further. Things to do, life to lead. Let MM live in DreamWorld. I prefer Reality.

  • Catholic social teaching puts forth as an ideal, just wage that one person’s earning which could support a family, it’s healthy leisure, and a savings for possible unforeseeable difficulties.

    But we have Catholic commentators here saying a lowering of the minimum wage in America, way below CST’s proposal, would be somehow beneficial.

    Please tell me how I am not reasoning well as a Catholic thinker, but others here are?

    The ignorance about one’s faith is astounding with those who fashion themselves as lay spokespersons for the Catholic faith.

  • Please tell me how I am not reasoning well as a Catholic thinker, but others here are?

    For one, you’re assuming that all minimum wage earners are heads of households. The data don’t bear this out. Is it not reasonable to assume that there should be a wage lower than this ideal, just wage proposed by CST which is in effect a “bridge” to higher wages? Can’t people who are low-skilled for a period of time (recent immigrants, students, etc.) earn a wage that is not supporting a family, etc.? Presumably they’re acquiring skills and experience that will enable them to earn a higher wage later. You can argue no, that there is no reason for a bridge wage for lower-skilled workers, but then be prepared for the consequences of all that unemployment.

    The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with a reasonable minimum wage. It seems reasonable to say that there is a lower limit below which society will not allow workers to work, even voluntarily, because it is scarcely worth their labor. The problem is accurately determining what that minimum should be. It seems that a lot of people interpret it a little too expansively, though, not taking into consideration these other factors. They also don’t seem to take into consideration the fact that a minimum wage set too high would do tremendous injustice and violence to the poor… not exactly a cornerstone of CST, right?

  • On MM’s argument: The reason why it makes sense, to a great extent, for the pro-life movement to ally itself with other conservative causes such as gun rights advocates and business advocates is in order to broaden the number of people who will actively vote pro-life. The idea being: If a business advocate is faced with two candidates who are both considered “pro business” by the Chamber of Commerce, but one of whom is pro-life and the other pro-choice, the business advocate will vote for the pro-lifer out of conservative solidarity and a general idea that that pro-life position makes that candidate “one of us”.

    I suppose the question would be: Is this successful? Does alliance with the “conservative movement” widen the number of people who are open to the pro-life message and who vote pro-life? My impression is that it does — in that I’ve seen a number of essentially secular conservative commentators become increasingly open to the pro-life message over the years.

    However, there is an opposite reaction, I am sure, among many progressives, who will be tempted to reflexively disagree with pro-life views because only “those conservatives” support that kind of thing.

    On Mark’s points:

    I’m not sure if anyone writing here necessarily wants to see the minimum wage abolished — and except in certain straw men I don’t believe that the Chamber of Commerce or any other major conservative organization MM could point to (except maybe some very libertarian ones) advocates that either.

    However, I for one don’t think that raising the minimum wage is very helpful to the poor in the long run, and I’m generally not in favor of raisting it.

    And I don’t think that your claim about CST requiring the US minimum wage, and indeed raising the US minimum wage, holds water when thought about calmly. Here’s why:

    The US is currently the richest country in the world. If you make the US minimum wage, you are far better off than most people in most places in the world. (Not that living minimum wage is great — but that living elsewhere in the world is really lousy.)

    I’d generally be against raising it even further because I’m more in favor of allowing increased immigration, including that of low-skill/no-skill workers, from countries with much lower wages. When we raise the minimum wage, we lower the demand for low-skill labor by increasing productivity, and in order to keep unemployment low, we’re heavily incented to keep low-skilled workers out.

    So I’d generally be much more in favor of keeping the minimum wage low and allowing low-skilled workers (for whom the US minimum would be a vast improvement) in rather than jacking up the minimum wage and leaving the rest of the world to take care of itself.

  • it occurs to me that the animating force for this particular argument from some quarters may have more to do with concern for the Democratic party than the pro-life movement.

    Obviously you’re right. The evidence that MM cares about the pro-life movement (which he never mentions except to ridicule) is zero. The evidence that his number one priority is electing Democrats is abundant; judging from what he writes about, he rarely thinks about anything else. His advice to the pro-life movement here — to join with him in taking a back seat to the “Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries” crowd — is clearly an example of the fox advising the hens that they’d be better off sleeping outside.

  • And again, to repeat a point made on Vox Nova but that MM could never even attempt to answer, MM and his ilk have absolutely no standing to complain that pro-lifers are sullying themselves by being part of the Republican political coalition, given that they have proven that they are willing to shill for the Democratic political coalition (which most certainly includes some elements that are actively hostile to Catholic teaching).

    Of course, if MM and his ilk had led the way in abandoning the existing political coalitions in America and forming an independent party that would (by their lights) be consistent with Catholic teaching across the board, that would have been a different matter. But they didn’t do anything of the sort.

  • Mark, I understand the specifications of support of family, healthy leisure, and some savings. I don’t think I’ve seen an exact dollar amount, or a percentage, or any figure that states exactly what that is. And perhaps you should consider healthy leisure. Is leisure anything you have to pay for, it can it simply be the statement that a man shouldn’t have to work 20 hours a day to scrape together a living? If it is something you pay for from your wages, how much money do you need for that? Are we talking plasma TV, or a deck of cards? What is astounding is not ignorance of what various papal encyclicals have said, but the belief that somehow leisure has to be defined as a bunch of activities that all cost a fair amount of money, or that leisure cannot be attained even at minimum wage.

    It kind of goes back to prejudices we have of what leisure is, what it is about, and living frugally.

    Perhaps you’d care to state what CST explicitly states for the minimum wage, perhaps in exact dollar amounts? Hmmm… I think exact dollar amounts don’t actually come into the picture, do they? It comes down to understanding what is reasonable for supporting a family, without working oneself to death, and still having a little left over. There’s a lot of ways to accomplish that other than raising the minimum wage (and I, for one, cannot see how raising the minimum wage helps matters when every time we’ve done so, it has hurt job growth), and a lot of it comes down to lowering leisure expectations.

    Michael, I fail to see how my “failure” to invite families into my apartment has anything to do with the discussion. My wife and I live quite comfortably on $1500 a month from our graduate stipends. We’re fortunate enough to have an opportunity to live above total squalor. But if we had to live off of $800 a month (roughly minimum wage with only one of us working), it would be fiscally prudent to find a place we could share with others so that we can make ends meet. Moreover, it would be a bit more prudent to pick up a second job part time. 60 hours a week still leaves time for leisure, and being responsible by teaming up with someone else (who is probably in just as dire straights) leaves a little money left over in case of emergency.

    So, are we worried that there must be some amount of hypocrisy involved when I say “poor families can band together to help each other out”, but haven’t banded together with some poor family myself? Or have we, instead, lost focus on the point that there are more options available than raising the minimum wage (and depriving even more people of jobs), but that we fail to notice them because of issues of pride?

    Frankly, I like the idea of, say, three or families (friends that know each other well enough so there aren’t issues of abuse) living together, with work hours staggered so that someone is always home for the kids or in case of emergency, and enough parents pooling together to keep the place well maintained. I’d be willing to try it with some of my friends. I’d be a little more cautious when it comes to strangers, because of particular issues.

  • Anyway, MM isn’t making these arguments seriously. By criticizing 1) pro-lifers, 2) Rove, 3) Delay, or any conservative who is out of power and irrelevant, he’s just trying to do anything to avoid talking about Obama’s initial priorities on assuming office.

  • And MM’s lashing out at me (on VN) is a sign that deep down he feels some shame for the way he’s behaving. For heaven’s sake, if I had recommended voting for McCain on the specific grounds that McCain was the better anti-war candidate, and if McCain had announced (right now) that his first plan on taking office was to attack Iran, I hope I’d have the honesty and decency to say, “As a McCain supporter, I’m deeply disappointed and hope that McCain backs down from such a bad decision.”

  • About leisure: Scroll down to the section of this BLS report on leisure activity in the U.S. Some interesting data points there.

    http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/atus.pdf

  • “Moods is the right word here.”

    Touche. However, unless I am mistaken, hypocrisy is also the right word.

    “The man who spouts opposition to the minimum wage and advocates unrestricted assault weapons possessions has always seemed the best poster boy for the pro-life movement.”

    Well, this raises questions about the common good and proportionality which the other commentators have ably addressed. Is it better for there to be less jobs paying a higher wage, or more jobs paying a lower wage? That, I think, is a complex question without a clear right or wrong answer. Similarly, ‘unrestricted assault weapons possession’ could be very bad depending on what the weapons were used for, but it hardly seems to threaten the common good in the same way as abortion.

    I can understand a principled position (e.g. Policraticus, Henry), holding that voting for either party involves unacceptable compromises. I can even understand (but disagree) with the idea that the Democrats are the lesser of two evils. What I find untenable is MM’s position that Republican pro-lifers must separate from their party because it has unacceptable coalition members, while he remains a card-carrying (or, less charitably, water-carrying) Democrat. IMO, the type of hypocritical partisanship on display in MM’s post is (or should be) embarrassing.

  • Well said. I’d be more impressed with MM’s gag-reflex post (because that’s essentially what it was–NRA bad, Chamber of Commerce bad) if he had something to offer on making the Democrats a more hospitable environment for pro-lifers. Yes, the GOP had Abramoff. And the Dems have George Tiller, lovingly tongue-bathed by Obama surrogate Kathleen Sebelius. Say what you will, but at least Abramoff’s in jail.

  • “Catholic social teaching puts forth as an ideal, just wage that one person’s earning which could support a family, it’s healthy leisure, and a savings for possible unforeseeable difficulties.

    But we have Catholic commentators here saying a lowering of the minimum wage in America, way below CST’s proposal, would be somehow beneficial.

    Please tell me how I am not reasoning well as a Catholic thinker, but others here are?

    The ignorance about one’s faith is astounding with those who fashion themselves as lay spokespersons for the Catholic faith.”

    Mark is absolutely right on this count. As an ideal, we should indeed strive to provide everyone with the opportunity for a life of leisure. Such a lifestyle fosters the kind of contemplation that is vital to both a renewal of civilization and the attainment of individual salvation.

    Having read the Church’s compendium on social doctrine, I too have concerns that associating with organizations such as the NRA, which in all honesty support a few things inconsistent with unabridged Christianity.

    In my personal experience, I have seen a lot of passive-aggressiveness and even flat-out bitterness and rage among both Democrats and Republicans.

    I suspect the reality is that all these warring ideologies we keep hearing from don’t really have the simple solutions to our problems they’re always claiming to have.

    Everybody knows the wheels are coming off the buggy, so to speak, but nobody honestly has the slightest idea why. Sure, some people say it is because we turned away from God. Very well then, why did we turn away, how do we turn back, and how do we prevent our children from making the same mistakes?

  • -It is so easy to extol the virtues of frugal living by others, as we communicate via our $1000 computers, is it not?-

    Please. Even my dirt-poor in-laws in Honduras have a computer. (And it’s better than mine, which kind of pisses me off…)

  • …which kind of ticks me off…

    Remember to sanitize your comments my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

  • Re Mark DeFrancisis’ remark on co-family living:
    You do realize that multiple generations of a family sharing a house is commonplace throughout much of the world? It can be an extremely practical arrangement not only for fiscal reasons but because there is almost always someone at home (often grandparents) to mind the children if both parents work. I grew up in a multi-gen household, and was half raised by my grandparents.

    For the record, my computer’s a Dell that retailed, if memory serves, at about $300 for the works. Not all Americans are spendthrifts.

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