Sunday, February 12, 2006

Tossing red meat to the party faithful

The editorial for today's Oregonian offers up a breathless scolding of the 2 party primary system, lambasting the gubernatorial candidates for "tossing red meat to the party faithful":

In a time-honored practice, the candidates for governor start their campaigns by tossing red meat to the party faithful

F ormer state treasurer Jim Hill captured perfectly the spirit of Oregon's primary elections when he launched his campaign against Gov. Ted Kulongoski by declaring, "Ted has not been a good Democrat."

After all, party fealty -- being a "good Democrat" or a "good Republican" -- is what really matters in Oregon's party primaries.

That explains why one of Republican Ron Saxton's first moves was throwing a chunk of red meat -- an attack on illegal immigrants -- to a GOP base hungry for victory in a statewide election.

That's why Hill criticized Kulongoski not for his half-hearted leadership on health care and education but for daring to reduce benefits in Oregon's runaway public pension system.

Valid point. The party faithful are the activists who work to get a candidate elected in the primary. Revving up their engines helps move campaigns forward.

But the whiney tone of this piece is laughable in the context of columnist David Reinhard's screed on the next page of the paper:

O h, this was going to be good. Not only was Janet Folger coming to Oregon, but America's liveliest pro-life champion would be at college campuses in a state that uniquely embraces the culture of death from pre-cradle to pre-grave, with its wide-open abortion laws and doctor-assisted suicide. I'd seen the then-legislative director of Ohio Right to Life in front of a friendly crowd years ago. She was the spunky life of the pro-life movement. But the crowd wouldn't be any too friendly at Reed College, Oregon State University, Portland State University and the University of Portland. There was a chance for real fireworks. Yes, this would be good.

And it was -- but not in the way I expected.

I caught her last week at Reed and PSU. She was everything I recalled -- fast-talking, well-informed, passionate -- and more. The president of Faith2Action and author -- "True to Life," "What's a Girl to Do?" -- is still a great storyteller and public-policy comedienne. She tells of being at a table with a fetal model and being harangued by an abortion-rights advocate over her use of the term "unborn" baby. While the woman was telling her "fetus" would be a better term and Folger was noting it means "unborn child" or "young one," the woman's 3-year-old ran up and said, "Look, Mommy, babies."

What other issue divides this country more than abortion? And there it is..splayed forth on the pages of the Oregonian.

Its not just that Reinhard advocates for the anti-abortion side like an old crone looking to ship her daughter off to a rich, eligible bachelor. He revels in it completely...gloating that captive audiences at liberal Portland colleges sat through something clearly meant to indoctrinate and misinform:

She told of one legislator who recognized a model 8-week-old fetus sucking its thumb from an ultra-sound but felt we should get "government out of the issue." On the legislator's desk was a framed Jefferson quotation that read, "The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government."

Folger believes human life begins at conception. She challenges the students to go to their libraries and find embryology textbooks that say otherwise. It's a baby. She reads statements of abortion-rights fans who now acknowledge this (they just don't care, says Folger) on her way to setting out her mantra: "Live baby, good. Dead baby, bad."

Red the party faithful.

Eight week old fetuses sucking thumbs during ultra sounds might tug at the heartstrings of many. But how do those same people feel about a young girl being required to carry that fetus when its a product of a violent rape? Or from a woman whose trying to get out of a bad relationship or marriage and doesn't want a child? Why does a thumb sucking fetus force a woman to give up her ability to make a decision about whether or not she wants to give birth?

If Mr. Reinhard and Ms Folger believe that abortion is bad and shouldn't happen then they should work as hard as they possibly can to ensure that birth control is taught as part of sex education classes in school.

Somehow I doubt a column containing such an idea will be forthcoming from Reinhard.

Instead its all about women being bad for not wanting to carry a fetus to term. We must guilt the young liberals into having kids cuz it makes the thumbsucker, heartstring tugged Republicans feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The real irony in this entire episode is the admittedly polite reception given to Ms Folger by the students at Reed and Portland State:

Also striking were the students themselves. At Reed and PSU -- and, I'm told, the other campuses -- they were respectful and interested. Folger appealed to their sense of tolerance, and they responded. They listened, often quietly, as she described the often unknown facts of fetal development and the brutality of abortion. They laughed at her stage capers and wisecracks.

How likely is it that a prochoice advocate would be allowed to visit a conservative campus to educate young women? How tolerant would such a stridently conservative campus be to the opinions of a hard core liberal prochoicer?

The world will likely never know. But if it does happen, we won't be reading it in Reinhard's column. No red meat there.