Here in Tennessee, we’re watching a strange time in politics. It’s weird, because you don’t normally see politicians so completely out of step with their constituents, but here, on the ground, what people are talking about is jobs. End of discussion. How do we put people back to work? You might get some side discussion about whether there’s more state government crap we can cut, but when you point out that cutting government crap means more out of work people, you circle right back around to jobs.
I think there’s some good momentum for trying to do something about infant mortality, obvious desire to do something about animal welfare, and some strong emotions about protecting us from the worst excesses of the coal companies.
But the momentum for those things is nothing compared to the grueling anxiety people in the state feel about the state of employment.
I’ve said it before, but I’m going to repeat it, in the past, whenever the State’s problems have been so large that it was hard to tell what to do about it and we didn’t have any good or easy answers, there’s always been some thing we could distract ourselves with–a good abortion fight, an income tax fight, a fight over gay people, a fight over illegal immigrants, etc. I don’t have to list them all. You recognize it.
We’d all get riled up and everyone would shout “Hurray for our side” (as the song goes) and things would either improve or not, but at least it would seem like something had happened.
And now we’re at a point where things are bad, really bad, worse than we have seen in most of our lifetimes. And even if the economy in general turns around today, it’s going to be a long time before things pick up for most of us, if, indeed, they ever do. I’m not trying to be depressing. That’s just the truth of the matter.
But that’s what I hear people agonizing about–what will I do for work? What if I lose my job? Where will we live? What will happen to my kids? And sometimes the terror is so deep they can’t even talk about it.
And what is our state legislature doing? The truth is, there’s not much they can do. But holy cow, if they’re not pulling out all the same old tricks, waving the red meat in front of the base, putting up legislation that hits all the right talking points for all the same old distractions.
Only to find that few of their constituents’ hearts are really in it.
You can almost sense the confusion.
But you still see them do it. “I tie x into the argument we’re having. Y’all have our usual fight about x and, if you come down where you always come down about x in the numbers you usually come down about x in, I win my tangentially related argument.” And this is a bipartisan tactic. Don’t be mistaken about that.
Which brings me to GoldnI’s point about what happened last night, on a federal level.
Folks are used to being able to tie abortion in to any health care debate and to count on the same old responses from the same old players. And, if you read me, you know that a woman’s right to decide what happens to her body is a deal-breaker for me. I don’t believe that there are some times and some conditions in which the government has the right to step in and decide for me what happens to my body. But, for me, that’s a basic human right–bodily autonomy. It plays out in the health care realm, but it’s not a health care issue.
And, even if it was, abortion is not the only health care service women get and not the only health care concern we have.
Would I have liked to see a health care bill explicitly respectful of my right to govern my own body? Sure.
But do I get the reasons for taking the power out of the rhetoric of the anti-abortion folks? Yes.
And, frankly, I would expect that NOW and NARAL would, too. I don’t blame them for being disappointed and pissed off, but I want some nuance in that anger, you know? If the anti-choicers won some great victory yesterday, why were they shouting “baby killer” at Stupak? Clearly, the situation is a little more complicated than “We have been completely dicked over.”
I don’t know. At some point, you have to stop dancing the same old steps every time your opponents call the tune, you know? And I don’t say that as something I’ve moved beyond. Clearly, I haven’t. But I say that as something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to–how these entrenched political arguments become a way for us to feel like we’re doing something while providing cover for the fact that nothing is happening.
I think what happened yesterday was that cover was blown and something happened. Something huge.
That’s just something to think about.