Thursday 30 June 2022

Let’s Not Make 2023 About Abortion.

No Common Ground: The destructive and punitive impulses aroused by the abortion issue make a rational, let alone a civil, debate virtually impossible. Indeed, the very idea that those on both sides of the abortion issue might be decent and caring individuals, whose opposing positions are based on reasonable and eminently defensible philosophical propositions, religious principles, medical facts and socio-economic realities, will be rejected as dangerous nonsense.

WHETHER OR NOT ABORTION emerges as a major issue following next year’s elections depends on National’s candidate selections. National lost 13 seats in 2020, and on current polling can be reasonably confident about reclaiming most of them in 2023. Much then depends on the beliefs – pro-choice or pro-life – of the candidates selected over the next few months. If National replenishes its caucus with pro-life MPs, and ACT emerges with a reasonable number of pro-lifers in its own, then the debate may, once again, be set alight.

The reignition of the Abortion Debate will become a dead certainty, however, if Brian Tamaki is successful at bringing together the fractious Far-Right political parties under a single banner. Should his new conservative coalition crest the 5 percent MMP threshold, the outbreak of an American-style culture war will be very hard to prevent. Moreover, if Labour and the Greens sustain significant losses in 2023, as current polling suggest they will, then that war will be very hard to win. Certainly, a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion will be among the first casualties.

This state of affairs will not be attributable entirely to the electoral success of the Far Right. In both Labour and the Greens a defeat of sufficient magnitude to bring the likes of Tamaki’s Christian soldiers into Parliament will likely generate a particularly vicious backlash against the social-radicalism which conservative leftists will be quick to blame for their party’s punishment at the polls.

After all, it’s not as if Labour’s te Tiriti-driven, feminist and LGBTQI factions will be able to point to a proud collection of policy successes in relation to poverty, housing, health and education – quite the reverse. Working-class party members (if any remain) will have every reason to demand a thorough-going purge of middle-class social-radicals from Labour’s ranks. A similar purge, mutatis mutandis, will sweep away the identarian Greens.

If such purges do not eventuate, and the two left-wing parties remain in the grip of identity politicians, social-radicals and ethno-nationalists, then it is difficult to see them making a swift recovery at the polls. At least initially, the voting public is likely to cast about for a political movement less alienating, and more encouraging, of “mainstream” electoral support. If the rightward tendencies within Labour and the Greens do not succeed in providing these conservative left-wing voters with such a vehicle, then they will call forth somebody better equipped to offer them a ride.

Historically, the damage inflicted by such right-wing re-settings of left-wing parties’ ideological compasses has been enormous. Convinced that a Labour Party as left-wing as Norman Kirk’s could never be re-elected, the rightward elements that would eventually give New Zealand “Rogernomics” spent fifteen years destroying Labour as a party of economic redistribution. After years of bitter factional strife, the party’s left-wingers were finally driven from its ranks. Labour only survived to reclaim the Treasury Benches in 1999 on account of being restrained from veering too far from its electoral base by the competitive presence of Jim Anderton’s Alliance and Jeanette Fitzsimons’ and Rod Donald’s Greens.

The New Zealand of the 2020s is not, however, the New Zealand of the 1990s. Our thoroughly digitalised society no longer possesses the human resources capable of creating new political parties dedicated to the nation-building and/or nation-restoring missions of the Alliance and NZ First. Corny though it may sound, at the heart of these two essentially patriotic electoral projects lay an undeniable love of country.

Thirty years on, the creation of political movements is driven much more by the voters’ intense hatred of what their enemies: neoliberals, colonisers, patriarchs, heterosexuals – take your pick – have done to Aotearoa-New Zealand. Where once the urge was to build and/or restore, today’s activists seek only to attack, punish and destroy.

In relation to the issue of abortion, these destructive and punitive impulses will make it virtually impossible for the debate to proceed on a rational, let alone a civil, basis. Indeed, the very idea that those on both sides of the abortion issue might be decent and caring individuals, whose opposing positions are based on reasonable and eminently defensible philosophical propositions, religious principles, medical facts and socio-economic realities, will be rejected as dangerous nonsense. Pro-lifers are no such thing, they are simply misogynistic religious bigots. Pro-choicers stand condemned as monsters for whom human life matters less than personal convenience.

In these circumstances, simply to raise the issue of abortion is to set up the conditions for the most reckless expressions of hatred and loathing. In the Age of Twitter, Tik-Tok and Instagram, which is to say, in the Age of Declarative Solipsism, extremism will always arrive on the battlefield firstest, with the mostest. Small wonder, then, that Christopher Luxon is so determined to make sure that the battle never takes place.

Sometimes, as the US Supreme Court may yet discover, doing nothing is the only sensible thing to do.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 30 June 2022.


Unknown said...

Clear headed analysis. Thanks.

Max Ritchie said...

Not too sure what the Supreme Court will think but I am sure that many Republicans agree with you. Overturning Roe will galvanise the Democratic base and the Republican but much more the former. The midterms just became very interesting.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I hesitate to make predictions given that my recent records not been that good – particularly on the USA – but I really can't see a religious party getting over the 5% threshold. Now of course "Bishop" Tamaki will go ahead and prove me wrong. :)

Odysseus said...

I doubt very much if any of the main political parties wishes to reopen the abortion debate. It's a quicksand. And there are far more pressing matters at stake, fundamental to whether this country remains a democracy. These include free speech and equal suffrage which are now under grave threat from the Left. The shabby fact is the Supreme Court's ruling, which has absolutely no bearing on this country and simply returns abortion to US legislators to deal with, is clearly being manipulated by Labour and the partisan media as a means to attack Luxon and shore up the female demographic that has been deserting Ardern in recent polls.

Barry said...

Chris, calm down. Youre getting over excited about this whole issue. Take a chill pill.
The divisions in the US society started getting deeper years ago. In recent years weve had BLM and then MeToo.
Theyve gone off the radar as another divisive subject comes along. Today its abortion - but when the protestors match things like the BLM protesters in Portland when they rioted in the streets for 100 nights in a row then we can say that its upset some people.

Abortion in the US has been handed back to the 52 states to make a democratic decision on. Abortion is not "outlawed in the US" as many in NZ are claiming. Some states will allow it, others will not. NZ like a US state - abortion is legal.
Within weeks another issue will arise as the mid term elections approch - and my guess is that it could well be the fact that the Democratic party is failing to bring in a federal abortion law. What the Supreme court did will be forgotten history

Archduke Piccolo said...

A penetrating article. I have been for years 'telling them at the office': identity politics is a luxury we can no longer afford. But I am reminded of a comment of my wife's, politicians often do things in order to be seen to be doing something. The actual effectuality of the thing being done seems immaterial.

Politics, quoth the wiseacre, is the art of the possible. But judging by the track record of our politicians, at least since 1975, our politicians have not yet progressed beyond crayons and stick figures. The art of the easy, the simple, the simple minded. Jacinda's government really ought to have pushed capital gains tax (to choose just one issue) for all it was worth - really gone for the 'possible' - shown the quality of their cojones and/or ovarijones.

The result could hardly have been worse than what it is facing now.
Ion A. Dowman

Anonymous said...

Please, please, please be right!!

Barry said...

Its already happened Chris. The US Supreme court has cut back the power of the EPA to limit CO2 emissions from coal powered power plants.
Forget abortion protests - the world is going to burn to a cinder so now its time for the extintion rebellion idiots to block roads across the US. The abortion protesters wont be able to get to their protests so they will have something else to wail about.
I wonder what the Court will rule on next week.......

Barry said...

I missed this one while I was out of the room getting in more beer.
The court has thrown out bans on all sorts of guns, such as assault rifles , and put it back to the federal and state courts and federal and state governments - WHERE SUCH DECISIONS BELONG.
The trouble with smart lawyers going to the court with convoluted arguements is that the arguement can overturned by another arguement.
Such decisions should be put to the vote.

Anonymous said...

How we miss the Greens in the days of Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald and the driving force then of love for our country. Not corny or simplistic but true. Where do we go now?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

This on social media.

I meet Simon O'Connor today at my daughter's school fun run. I approached him to talk about his post celebrating taking away woman's reproductive rights in USA.

Simon was clear that it didn't matter what any of his constituents said that he was never going to change his mind.

In his mind there is no exceptions - I asked him if my 10year daughter was raped tonight and became pregnant would he like to be able to make her give birth- yes was his answer.

It's not my job to tell my neighbours what to think I just thought I'd share what happened.

Barry said...

I know its nothing to do with abortion but it is a big change.
The greens in Finland have voted to support nuclear power.

The world is seeing some BIG changes. In my mind these changes are all for the good for a range of reasons.