I've been fascinated for some time now by the radical swing to the right taken by Republicans over the past 30 years. I like to joke that, these days, even Barry Goldwater would be characterized as a RINO.
This is no longer a joke. Local candidates for governor have adopted a position on abortion that isn't conservative in any meaningful sense of that word. It is conceptually dissonant in ways that would make Arnold Schoenberg reach for the morphine.
Their positions are better characterized as puritanical -- an increasingly popular position.
And so it goes.
Neumann, Walker misguided on abortion issue
As a measure of how far today's so-called conservatives have drifted (or been stampeded) away from traditional conservative values, consider that Mark Neumann and Scott Walker hold positions on abortion that make Barry Goldwater look like a moderate or, these days, a socialist. Personally, I side with Sen. Goldwater. I suspect a lot of moderate Republicans still do. Goldwater believed abortion is a matter that belongs to the sphere of personal choice and not government intervention.
Digging through Neumann and Walker's campaign materials you'd guess they contain the usual promises about fighting for the rights of un-born people — since it's a promise they'll never actually have to keep once those people are post-born. What is surprising, however, is that both candidates have consistently introduced legislation to let government make moral and medical decisions for Americans.
What strikes me as most incongruous about this is that both Neumann and Walker claim they want government to stay out of public matters (like regulating economic hooliganism that could, for instance, crash the world's economy), and intervene in personal matters, like family planning.
Frankly, this isn't conservative, although it seems to be popular in some circles.
While in the Legislature, Scott Walker sponsored bills most moderates would characterize as whoppers in the anti-women's-health category. Four of his bills in 2002 (AB 55, 168, 360, and 831) stepped over the line. These bills would have denied women insurance coverage for birth control, allowed pharmacists to refuse to fill women's birth control prescriptions, allowed doctors to withhold medical information and refuse to provide routine prenatal tests to women, and last, but not least, eliminated prevention-based family planning health services for low income women. It's hard to imagine more effective ways to strip the rights of women in Wisconsin to have the kind of families they'd like. It's even stranger to see someone who claims to be a conservative putting government in the role of making those decisions for Wisconsin families.
These examples are bad enough, but weirder still is Walker's support of Scott Southworth, the Juneau County district attorney. Southworth is the DA who promised to go after teachers who complied with the Healthy Youth Act. Supporting a district attorney who threatens teachers when they obey the law is not the sort of thing you want in a governor — and for reasons that go way beyond the single issue of reproductive freedom.
So much for Walker, who tried to put women on a short leash here at home. Mark Neumann tried the same shenanigans back in the mid-1990s at the national level in the US Congress. Here are some highlights. He voted to restrict family planning programs in the world’s poorest countries, eliminate funding for family planning programs here in the U.S., and ban abortion procedures even when a woman's health was in danger.
Pro-Life Wisconsin, which opposed the Compassionate Care for Rape Victims Act and opposes not only abortions (under absolutely any circumstances) but even the use of birth control — which their test marketing has cleverly redefined as a kind of pre-emptive abortion (since, after all, it does prevent the conception of what might become a human being) — has endorsed both of these guys.
The easiest way to eliminate the issue of abortion is to eliminate unexpected pregnancies. The best way to do that is through adequate and well established birth control education programs. So why do people who want to stop abortion also want to avoid the very thing that would prevent abortions? Maybe because tugging on heart strings to win elections is more important than being ethically coherent.
And if straightforward ethical questions like these go unanswered by candidates for governor, do we really want to put them in command of a government they've demonstrated they'd use to intervene in our private lives to impose their own muddled answers? Sen. Goldwater thought this was a bad place for government to interfere with the freedom of Americans. What was good enough for the father of American conservatism is now being tossed under the bus by his misguided and morally challenged heirs.
To put it mildly.