Thursday, February 03, 2011

Silence Equals Death

I'm still non-plussed over finding out that Minnesota tax payers are legally required to pay for abortions. Thousands of abortions per year, costing millions of dollars. Since 1995, this has been the law of the Land of 10,000 Lakes. It's possible I've simply missed the constant protests from our political and religious leadership on this issue over the past 15 years, but I doubt it. It seems most have chosen to ignore or had already forgotten about this issue.

Until now. The Minnesota Legislature is taking up a bill, sponsored by freshman Senator Dave Thompson. (Yes, THAT Dave Thompson, former talk show host and Fraters Libertas contributor.) And it looks like it will skate through committee and gain passage in both chambers. Why the sudden, dramatic change?

The answer is obvious, but it bears amplifying. This is the first time since then Republicans have been in charge. This past November, they took control of the both chambers for the first time in 38 years. Up until then, no challenge was possible. So beholden are they to the abortion special interest groups, the DFL hierarchy would never allow it. And look what happens now that they are out the door.

For the past 15 years the calculus was as simple as this: voting for Democrats meant voting for tax payer funded abortions. Voting for Republicans meant ending it. Abortion itself ain't that popular, and I'm sure that forced government funding of it is anathema to a strong majority of citizens. You'd think a statewide candidate might be able to win an election by reminding voters who stands on either side of this divide. Yet the most recent GOP standard bearer studiously avoided talking about it. For example, this exchange from a pre-election debate in September:

An interesting moment at the gubernatorial debate in Duluth today. A woman who identified herself as Elizabeth asked a question about abortion: "I would like to ask these gentlemen what their philosophy is on abortion and specifically what your policy is on taxpayer funded abortion in Minnesota?"

While Tom Horner and Mark Dayton left the door wide open by expressing their tacit approval of it (mostly by spouting inanities about sex education and keeping individual choice for abortion safe, legal, and rare), Tom Emmer chose to tap dance away from the threshold entirely:

"You know what, I appreciate the question, and, you know, Jacquie and I, we believe in life. But I've got to tell you, this election; it has to be about what is hurting the state of Minnesota--the loss of jobs. It's got to be, the economics are front and center.

I have to believe there were a lot more than 9,000 voters in the state for whom a sharp contrast on this issue might have proven decisive. Even in a deep recession, voting is about more than the all mighty dollar.

That's all water under the bridge now. Despite electing Republican majorities in the legislature, voting for a DFL governor almost ensures that tax payer abortions will continue unabated for 4 more years. But good for the Republicans in the legislature for forging ahead and doing the right thing anyway.

It's interesting to note the media backlash against this effort. Again I think its clear a strong majority of voters would agree with the Republicans on this issue. So, how can it still be defeated in the public forum? By demonizing the attempt to even discuss the issue.

Check out the remarkable Journ-o-list-like consistency of this messaging effort by a wide variety of local media outlets:

On January 21, in a news item from Eric Roper in the Star Tribune:

Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, one of the bill's sponsors, said in an interview last m
onth that the fixing the state's budget problems would supercede all other issues.

Also on January 21, from Minnesota Public Radio:

After the election in November, legislative leaders discouraged talk about what social
issues the new Republican majority would pursue.

"If it doesn't have anything to do with business and jobs, it shouldn't be our first priority.
If you don't have a job, it's hard to be involved in an abortion rally," Rep. Kurt Zellers,
the speaker of the Minnesota House, told MPR's Gary Eichten.

"There's a lot of important issues and we will get to them. But the priority now is the
budget, jobs, and the economy," Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch added.

Today, a bill restricting funding for abortion was submitted to the Minnesota Senate co-sponsored by Koch. The bill, Senate file 103, is the first anti-abortion bill of the session.
From the Minnesota Independent on January 24.

Members of the Republican leadership in the Minnesota Senate have introduced legislation to ban state funding for abortions, just weeks after saying that creating jobs and fixing the budget deficit would be the party’s top priorities.

On January 26, from liberal blog MNPACT:

Remember the good old days when the House and Senate GOP were going to make the budget and JOBS issue number one?

Actually you should was three weeks ago. But that was then, this is now .... priorities seem to have changed.

On January 29, from the liberal blog, the Minnesota Progressive Project:

The 'all about jobs' GOP has set its sites on imposing further restrictions on abortion access, this time to rape victims.

And bringing things full circle, back to the Star Tribune in this February 1 editorial by John Tevlin:

Legislators introduced a bill to block public funding for abortions for low-
income women. (You can never have too many poor people.)

I thought it was all about jobs?

(Side note, separated at birth. John Tevlin, for supporting abortion to reduce the number of poor people, and Ebenezer Scrooge: "If they would rather die,'' said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.")

So, regardless of the merits of the bill that would end tax-payer funded abortions, there's something wrong if Republicans bring it up at all. And the full force of the local media is brought to bear in attempting to shame them into silence.

Not the first time we've seen this tactic. In the past few years, it has also used by liberals to:

Stop Republican candidates from talking about any social issues (or "the sideshows of guns, gays, and gynecology" as the Star Tribune called it)

The commonality of all of these issues is that they are losers for the Democratic party. Issues on which the party is on the opposite side of public opinion. Therefore, the only strategy is to stop the conversation from happening in the first place.

Tip to Republican candidates, on any issue you see this tactic used, it's the biggest tell in the world that your opponents are afraid of it. Or, more precisely, afraid that the voters might find out exactly what they're up to.