Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | February 15, 2012

Why Rick Santorum doesn’t owe us a “contraception speech”

… but could do a lot of good with a “nature of government” speech

Time has called out Rick Santorum for “wanting to ‘fight the dangers of contraception’.”  Matt Lewis at The Daily Caller sees electoral danger for Santorum in his insistence on discussing social issues and registering committed opinions on them, rather than parrying such questions with a kind of unifying boilerplate.

Lewis isn’t necessarily wrong on the point about electability.  But I see much more danger for America’s future in the fact that so many Americans are now apparently unable to make important distinctions about the operation and functions of government.

Consider the method by which Michael Scherer presents the video of Santorum’s interview with the evangelical blog Caffeinated Thoughts in October 2011.  Scherer includes in his article a transcript of the comments he wants to discuss, and helpfully tells readers to start watching the video at the 17:55 mark.

I decided to watch from the beginning (in spite of the awful audio quality).  Out of context, Santorum’s remarks sound like he might have a plan to “fight contraception” the way Democrats always want to fight something: that is, outlaw it, impose fees and penalties on it, sue the bejeebers out of it in court, sic the IRS and all the other federal agencies and commissions on it, demonize it in the media, teach children in the public schools that it is associated with hate, racism, violence, and fascism, and make movies in which the left’s point of view about it is validated by George Clooney.

But in context, it turns out that Santorum has no plan to do anything with federal law other than ensure that ObamaCare is repealed and that federal money is not used for contraception or abortion.  (Federal money is currently used to fund both.)  Santorum was speaking in October in the Caffeinated Thoughts video, before the contretemps over the ObamaCare insurance mandate for contraceptive services; otherwise, he would presumably have referred to that as well.

To appreciate the context in which his remarks were made, it is necessary to start no later than the 10:00 hack.  The overall discussion is about various social issues (e.g., fatherlessness), and the theme Santorum emphasizes is that a president can shape a national debate on these topics, which profoundly affect the social health of our communities.  He repeats the word “debate” quite a few times.  His examples of positive intervention in such issues come from the local level and involve community groups and local governments.

He says explicitly in the 16:00-17:30 timeframe that laws in Congress are just a small part of what he’s talking about, and his examples of working through federal law – there are only two – are ensuring that no federal funds are going to abortion, and repealing ObamaCare.   He is also explicit, if fleeting, about the federal government not being the right level at which to actually deal with social issues by adopting government policies.

Santorum isn’t coming after your contraception.  He does consider it an issue that affects the health of society, and his hope is to foster a debate on that and other social topics, a rhetorical power he ascribes – along with millions of other observant Americans – to the president.

Many readers will think it’s misguided of Santorum to want to use the bully pulpit of the Oval Office to spark a national discussion on contraception.  But let’s make the minimal effort required to at least understand what Santorum’s position actually is, and oppose it for what it is, instead of taking cherry-picked soundbites from him and reading into them the themes of governmentalism popularized by the left over the last century. The left doesn’t own the idea of “government” and what it’s supposed to do to and for us.

Regarding contraception itself, as it happens, I hold the fairly typical Protestant view that our virtue does not depend on things like contraception being proscribed to us, and that while the unborn child is a human being, his or her human status before conception falls in the category of what Paul calls “disputable matters” (see Romans 14).  Protestants frame the argument about contraception a bit differently from Catholics, although I have sympathy for the Catholic Church’s viewpoint on the larger issue of sex, procreation, and human life.

Ultimately, I don’t know how much social good a national debate on contraception would do, if it were promoted by the president.  I view the federal government, including the presidency, as too compromised and suspect an entity to honestly broker such a debate under current conditions.  (I am very happy for the churches to foster the debate, and indeed, to see the Catholics sticking to their guns.)

But what I do believe is that the government – and the federal government in particular – should have no policy on ensuring the distribution of contraception.  Santorum is right that the federal government should neither fund contraception nor subsidize its advocates’ prowling the land in various guises, encouraging young women to resort to it.  It should not be the policy of the state to subsidize or promote the avoidance of pregnancy, any more than it should be the policy of the state to prohibit contraception.  A government that interests itself in this matter is too big.  It needs to be slapped down hard.

The more things government subsidizes – and therefore promotes – the more likely it is that the actions of government will become topics of religious and moral dispute.  Americans can handle this one of two ways.  We can take the bait every time, getting into knock-down-drag-out fights over the issues as if the only solution is for one side to end up with the weight of government and the taxpayers’ money behind it.

Or we can take the issues out of government’s purview, and let reality, nature, and people’s consciences decide.  We can also reduce the weight of government, so that the cost when government decides to endorse a position – an act that should be rare, and exceedingly so in the case of the federal government – is not unacceptable to those who may lose the argument.  “Tolerance” does not mean “obligation to subsidize,” for example, nor does “unwillingness to endorse” mean “intolerance”; these creeping inversions only make sense to the narrow mind in the context of an all-encompassing government – a context that is unnecessary and avoidable.

I would like to hear from Rick Santorum what his philosophy of government is.  I don’t disagree that the executive has a hortatory function, although I would define the scope of it pretty narrowly.  The problem with wanting to engage the people from the Oval Office on the topic of contraception is that there is so much water under the bridge now:  the mode in which government approaches social issues has been established as overweening “big-governmentism,” on the model exemplified by FDR, Lyndon Johnson’s social legislation, decades of judicial activism, and the geometrically expanding activism of the executive agencies created by both parties since 1952.

What we chiefly need is to disestablish that very convention.  It distorts, often decisively, all our public dialogue on contentious topics.  Can Rick Santorum articulate a philosophy of government that defies this model, to which so many Republicans and conservatives are justly opposed?  Does he want to?

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.


Responses

  1. If I were Rick Santorum, I would have the warning label for every major brand of birth control pills posted on my campaign website. Same for the warning labels for all of the IUD and injected chemical birth control methods.

    I would have a fact sheet ready for the inevitable sex maniac moron trap question, and when asked.. read the brand and warning off of the sheet.

    Then ask the reporter: “Do you meant to tell me that those risks are not a serious health risk, when the alternative is to abstain – which has exactly ZERO negative effects?”

    Then if the idiot question continues, ask them what the exact benefits have been, aside from prurient sexual gratification, to society that birth control has brought to the world; STD’s, objectification of women, rampant narcissistic self-destructive behavior, failure to form lasting marriages? Which one of those symptoms was made less likely by birth control?

    Then end… “This election is not about birth control. It is about economic success, future prosperity, the whole first amendment… in fact the WHOLE Bill of Rights – and Constitution which seems to have been set aside by this Regime. It looks to impose its Leftist Utilitarian social and political structure on the United States. We are aiming to stop it in its tracks.”

    r/TMF

  2. I am not so much opposed to contraception as a personal choice as I am against the government’s insistence on supporting it, financing it and, to a degree, mandating it.

    I also propose this: If it is so cool to “need” contraception and to have the government support it actively and financially, why is it so terrible to oppose the government’s involvement in this ultimately personal choice?

    Also, if to some people contraception is about “health” and they bend over backwards to point out any opposition to it as extreme, religious zealotry and more, why should not others come out and say that contraception is NOT about health or about religion but about having access to sex without consequences? Let’s face it, contraception, the term is quite clear, is all about preventing pregnancy after sex and the only health issue comes if and when you willingly (or conveniently, selfishly, etc.) place pregnancy on an equal plane with being ill.

    I also ask, how many women demand contraception for real health issues and how many because they are unmarried, pursuing careers, watching their figures AND having sex?

    If the government has the “right” to determine what is and what is not a health issue, what else can they point to in order to cloak it behind the “health” smoke screen? A few examples: Making less than $XX.00 per hour, owning guns (they’ve already tried this, by the way), driving a gas engine car, having more than two children, etc.

    The “health” argument, like global warming, a woman’s right to privacy, etc. are fairly easy to make and also easy to hang on just about anything. So, since politics and dishonesty walk hand in hand, we are having this debate instead of talking about other pressing issues that are a tad more unrelated to sex?

    rafa

    • I’m guessing you know the answers to your questions, rafa.

      “When the poll numbers are trending the wrong way, bring up contraception and make the Republicans talk about it.”

      But what I want to talk about the nature of government, and why it should be limited, constitutional, and federal.

      • “I’m guessing you know the answers to your questions, rafa.”

        Indeed.

        The hypocrisy of those in charge of the propaganda machine of the left knows no limits. Nor does their penchant for lying, making things up or being dishonest. It seems that the new effort is in making the dumb, self involved idiots that vote socialists into office believe that Santorum and others wants to abolish and/or make contraception illegal. Yet, no one, specially Santorum, has said anything that could even be construed as hinting at this charge. The sad thing is that, in today’s political environment, many, many useful idiots will think that it is true.

        Doesn’t say much about the state of the nation, the quality of the people that elect our handlers or of our democratic process.

        rafa

  3. One might just call him clueless, or vindictive, but wise isn’t his gig;

    http://bigjournalism.com/amarlow/2010/07/21/journolist-liberal-journalists-suggest-government-shut-down-fox-news/

    • Liberal and left wing “journalists” are afraid of FoxNews because this is one of the few media outlets remaining that can actually offer an instructional, educational alternative to the BS that emanates from them. Propaganda requires that no disenting views be tolerated or else they have a much harder row to plow. That is why every hard line big government socialist (or worse) government like Chavez, Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Castro, etc. quickly moved to shut down any and all dissenting voices.

      What these leftist barking dogs are saying (in so many other words) is that America is now ready for a final push into all-out, hard core socialism. Hence, that democracy or, actually, that basic democratic principles have served their purpose and, therefore, are no longer required or needed. So, they seem to be thinking, we can now safely put aside those lofty dreams and get on with the real business of ruling.

      rafa

  4. If this election boils down to who is going to give away free contraception and abortions, we are in more trouble than anyone has yet acknowledged.

    • Indeed. But it is far more reaching than that. Contraception is just one of the elements. But, when you combine all that with abortion, entitlements, years of unemployment benefits, one fourth of the population receiving governmental hand outs of some kind, the almost complete abolishment of religious expression, etc. what is left is a clear picture of the engineering of a society that has no need for sacrifice of any kind, no personal accountability, no alternative leadership and no faith in anything but government’s “charitable and forgiving” hand.

      The road to serfdom continues to be paved with all that.

      rafa

      • “. what is left is a clear picture of the engineering of a society that has no need for sacrifice of any kind, no personal accountability, no alternative leadership and no faith in anything but government’s “charitable and forgiving” hand.”
        _______________________

        Sure, you can engineer a society like that, maybe. But the question isn’t if that society’s members will accept or even approve of it. Some of us believe that it won’t work at all, that the whole concept is bogus and that its probably temporary implementation will produce the kind of economic and social disaster that will set the country back for years, perhaps
        decades, before there’s a return to sanity. You could make the case that the general population is going to have to undergo some serious trauma before they quit buying into the Hegelian statist-mercantilist philosophy as presented by Ivy League
        politicos and their corporate buddies. In fact, that’s a case I’ll make right now.

        • “Some of us believe that it won’t work at all, that the whole concept is bogus and that its probably temporary implementation will produce the kind of economic and social disaster that will set the country back for years, perhaps decades, before there’s a return to sanity”

          Yes. I believe that too. In fact, it’s already happening here and in Europe.

          But, that belief notwithstanding, the liberal social engineers will continue to plod along buying votes and changing the hearts and minds of an increasingly uncaring and selfish populace that is proving to be quite vulnerable to having its basic social concepts redefined for them. That’s happened before as well and we shouldn’t ignore historic precedents.

          Aluding to something as cataclismic as what happened to cause the demise of the dinosaurs, a friend recently said to me that what it will probably take is something like a huge asteroid striking North America in order to produce a significant change in the course we are on. Of course, he wasn’t really being literal about that…

          rafa

          • You might say the skids are Greeced.

  5. This is priceless stuff.

    The vast blovatory rightwing commentariat has spent the past week attempting (unsuccessfully) to confuse the spheres of private conscience and legislation so as to insinuate an attack on freedom of religion because the Roman Catholic Hierarchy were being denied the right to dictate the terms of the health insurance for their (Catholic and non-Catholic) employees.

    Of course, the vast majority of American Roman Catholics, no less than the vast majority of their non-Catholic fellow-citizens, are very well aware of this distinction and don’t believe that Priests, Pastors, Mullahs, or Rabbis, have a right to legislate for the people whom they claim as their “flock”. For Roman Catholic Americans “freedom” is the rule of law under the Constitution. And religious freedom is their right to opt (or not) to avail of procedures which are legal under the civil law.

    The red-herring of the RC hierarchy paying for abortion and contraception is just that- a red herring. We all pay our taxes for things we don’t much like. Things like “wars of choice”, welfare for people we hate, executions of criminals, come to mind. The Vatican came out explicitly against the Iraq war and opposes the death penalty. Should Catholics be invited to withold a percentage of their taxes as a result? I can tell you that the vast majority of American Catholics would say “no” precisely because they understand the distinction between the spheres of conscience and the state.

    The wonderful irony is that having set what they thought was a trap, the right-wing media and its megabuck paymasters have only managed to ensnare the hapless Santorum. The latest great hope of the right has announced to the American people that he is one of the tiny minority of Americans who doesn’t understand one of the fundamentals of our system of governance.

    Delicious!

    • So the only freedom we should be concerned about is that under the Patirot Act the NSA might listen in when we call Ahmed’s Pizza in Kabul for home delivery?

    • A straw man of Bunyanesque proportions. Santorum, the Roman Catholic hierarchy, my cousin Mabel, nobody is trying to outlaw contraception. The issue is the continuing lefty fixation on justifying every cockamamie scheme that the elitist statists come up with on “health” grounds. And those schemes must have a federal framework and financial structure as well. The pseudo-liberals can’t allow the population of South Dakota to make up their own mind about affairs left to the states by the constitution. Can’t have an individual state decide what the blood alcohol level of a driver should be. Wouldn’t want the folks in Wyoming deciding if they need to wear seat belts. That has too much of a fragrance of freedom. And they don’t have the guts to go for a constitutional amendment, either. They saw what happened with the so-called equal rights amendment and don’t want to go through that again. So stick to what works, let the mastodon media carry the water, elect intellectual non-entities to national office, wait for lefty federal judges to retire so they can be replaced by doofi that are even further outside the third-base foul line, and when an election doesn’t go your way, contest the results, sue the winner or
      failing that, initiate a recall. No public expense is too great when a democratic concept or legislative position is at stake.

      The constant lefty gobbling about religious fundamentalists taking over the country is actually very revealing. When they fervently object to any traditional religious influence on government or rule of
      law, they are, in fact, rejecting morality as it’s accepted by pretty much everyone from the polar Eskimos to the New Guinea highlanders in exchange for a transitory moral code based on the results of either the last election or the most recent editorial in the New York Times. Democracy can’t determine morality. And neither can Jill Abramson.

      • chuck—- are contraceptive pills and devices for women mostly available only by prescription of a licensed physician?

        hasn’t the state already deemed them to be part of healthcare?

        why should they be excluded from health care insurance plans?

    • “And religious freedom is their right to opt (or not) to avail of procedures which are legal under the civil law.”
      _______________________

      Interesting definition of religious freedom. On the odd chance that you’ve paid for any of your education, try and get your money back.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: