Thursday, June 20, 2013

Perhaps they're trying to ease our sense of loss and separation

The Oregonian, the only state-wide daily we have here, recently announced they're cutting back to three issues per week delivery for their subscribers. The remaining three days will be available in slimmed-down form at the newsstand, and subscribers will also get a Saturday edition “as a bonus” – I like that touch.

The limited delivery comes on the heels of recent business maneuvering strongly suggesting that a three-day-a-week publishing schedule may not be far off.

I condole with the dedicated workers at the O who've managed to survive all the rounds of downsizing they've already faced. But editorials like this help me realize that the loss is a double-edged thing:
To those who accuse the Republican Party of inflexibility on social issues such as abortion, its leaders can always point to their ability to reach around and slap a "kick me" sign on their own backs. That will be the effect of Tuesday's vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on legislation that would bar most abortions after 20 weeks.

The bill passed the lower chamber easily, enjoying the support of six Democrats and all but six Republicans. But that's where its legislative journey, at least, will end. It's expected to go nowhere in the Senate, and the outcome would be the same if it did. The president would veto it.

The ban's symbolic and political journey will continue, however, both in ways House Republicans intend (many of their constituents support the proposal, even if it's hopeless) and ways they surely do not. Those who stand to gain politically by potshotting Republicans, absurdly, as misogynists engaged in a "war on women" have now added another projectile to a pile that includes former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin's notorious "legitimate rape" blunder.

Let's start with the low-hanging fruit: Rep. Akin's “blunder” was only a blunder in the Kinsleyan-gaffe sense: He came out publicly and said something foolish and uninformed that he fully believed – and still fully believes – to be true. He didn't “misspeak;” he didn't get “taken out of context.” He just holds some wildly-incorrect ideas about science and biology – ideas shared by many of his party caucus – and happened to mention them.

The “war on women” is not actually a war, of course, but only in the sense that the United States doesn't declare wars anymore except for marketing and branding purposes. Trust me on this: If the “war on drugs” had done even half as much damage to the use and trafficking of illegal drugs in America in the last forty years as the “war on women” has done to the rights of women in America to control their own body and health decisions during roughly the same time, there'd be a lot more former Justice and State Department officials with their very own Presidential Medal of Freedom.

And finally you gotta love this characterization: “Those who stand to gain politically by potshotting Republicans, absurdly, as misogynists engaged in a 'war on women.'” That's how the O's editorial board refers to the people who oppose the march to roll back women's rights in health care, in the economy, in the justice system, and so on. People who've actually noticed what the Republican party, both in Congress and in the states, have made no effort to hide. What they clearly and proudly and without significant dissent and at every opportunity put in their party platforms, promise to their base, and bring to a vote. It makes no sense to call Tuesday's anti-abortion vote in the House “symbolic.” They passed that bill because it's what they devoutly want. Maybe the Republicans knew that their abortion ban would not become the law of the land (or maybe not; their hold on reality can be about as rock-steady as Birnham Wood). But surely the O's editors understand how much they would like it to become law, and there's nothing remotely “absurd” – or caricaturish, to use another term from later in the editorial – to take them at their word on the subject.

The O's editors worry that the anti-choice extremists currently running the Republican party will harm the chances of "moderates" who decline to distance themselves from them  – which is sort of an odd interpretation of "moderate." On the other hand, if you're one of the ones calling the extremists on it  – in effect, pointing out what they make no secret of anyway – you're taking absurd political potshots for partisan advantage.

The caricature isn't the portrayal of the House Republicans as anti-choice extremists. It's the editors' own attempt to paint Republican Party, as it now stands, as a group of reasonable moderates (a Silent Majority?) who would sincerely like to do good, if only . . . .  Hell, I can't even finish that sentence without getting the giggles. You want absurd? There's your absurd.

If this is what we would be giving up if the Oregonian went to three days a week, I can feel some of the sting going away already.

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