Commentary Politics

Making Sense of Herman Cain and Abortion

Amanda Marcotte

Hermain Cain doesn't think abortion should be legal, but he also thinks the government should "stay out of it," and that abortion should be criminal, but that you should have a choice to break the law. In a way, it all makes sense. 

On this week’s episode of Reality Cast, I have a segment about the situation with Herman Cain’s incoherent and inconsistent approach to abortion rights. Cain has been on at least two TV shows where he said in the same breath both that he doesn’t think abortion should be legal and that the government shouldn’t make that decision for you, without acknowledging in the slightest that these two positions inherently contradict each other. There’s been multiple attempts to understand why Cain is so daft about this. Some folks believe he’s trying to have it both ways, but hasn’t figured out any political trickery to allow himself to speak out of both sides of his mouth without getting caught. I theorized at XX Factor that Cain’s incoherent position reflects the incoherent position of roughly half the people who claim to be “pro-life”, but also want abortion to be legal in some or all cases.

But now we have a little bit more of a clarification from Cain on his position.

“I do not think abortion should be legal in this country,” Cain said on Fox today. “Abortion should not be legal. That is clear. But if a family made the decision to break the law, that’s that family’s decision.”

Of course, this contradicts his previous statements about how the government should stay out of it. Now he thinks the government should ban abortion, and he seems to have not considered in the slightest that breaking the law isn’t just a matter of “choice”, but that it can have very real consequences if you’re caught. Jeff Fecke has a theory as to why Cain hasn’t considered the consequences of a ban. In part, it’s because Cain is wealthy and his wealth would shield his family from the consequences of breaking such a law:

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If Herman Cain’s granddaughter was pregnant and didn’t want the kid, the law wouldn’t stop her if she wanted an abortion. Her grandfather is rich. If abortion was outlawed in Georgia tomorrow, her grandfather could, and probably would, buy her a plane ticket to New York, where she could have the procedure done legally. If it was outlawed nationwide, he could buy her airfare to Toronto. If Canada outlawed medical procedures for Americans, Cain could talk to his wealthy friends, inquiring discretely until he found someone with a connection to an ObGyn who would do him a favor. If you’re wealthy, you’ve never had a problem getting an abortion in this country, and you never will. 

No matter what Cain is thinking, I imagine this is a large part of it. What the mainstream discourse around abortion rights rarely takes into consideration is the class issues underpinning access to abortion. It’s treated more like a symbolic fight over “life” vs. “women’s rights,” when it should be treated as a battle over whether or not all women have equal access to a common and necessary medical procedure.  Even under our current system of technical legality, many women are prevented from accessing abortion because they don’t have the funds to pay for it. Making it illegal wouldn’t stop the women who can already afford abortion on demand from getting it, though it probably would mean they have to pay more for it and make a few more phone calls.

In addition to the class issues at stake, it’s always possible that Cain means that while there should be a ban on abortion written into law, the government should have no power to enforce it. Considering the mess of contradictions he’s coughed up so far, that could very well be what he means. Again, as wacky as that sounds, it may not be that far-fetched an idea. Many anti-choicers want there to be some official social consensus that abortion makes you a filthy slut, but they aren’t really willing to argue that the 1 in 3 American women who will have an abortion in their lifetimes should be thrown in jail.  A largely symbolic ban on abortion could very well be satisfying for the half of anti-choicers who think female sexuality is disgusting and shameful but that it falls short of being a criminal offense.

To really understand social conservatism, it helps to realize that they’re more interested in a world of “shoulds” than the reality-based world we live in. Talking to a conservative  about sex how it’s actually practiced in the real world is like trying to talk to someone who cannot accept that it’s raining because they believe the sun should be shining. You’d say, “It’s raining. You should bring your umbrella.” And they’ll look at you and say, “But I’d prefer it if it didn’t rain.” And no matter how much you insist that they need to worry less about controlling the sky and more about controlling whether or not their head gets wet, they go out in the rain without an umbrella. And when their heads get wet, they insist that the problem isn’t that they didn’t carry an umbrella, but that other people are lowering their standards by carrying umbrellas and simply accepting that the rain is going to fall.

It’s an imperfect analogy, I know. After all, unlike walking in the rain, having sex is fun and often good for you. However, it does shed light on how Cain is thinking. Law should be written, in his view, to establish some platonic ideal chosen for him by his religion. But of course, people are going to behave how they’re going to behave. But “sending a message”—no matter how much it’s rejected, no matter how illogical that message may be—is considered the main purpose of the law. “Sending a message,” in case that sex is wrong, matters so much that it cannot be abandoned in the face of widespread social destruction, misery, and even death. A conservative may not even fully agree with the message, but will still think it needs sending. After all, if the people who affirmed the belief that sex is wrong and the government should oppose it actually lived their beliefs, our society would look much, much different than it does now. But that’s how it is in conservative world: the fear is that if you actually come out and say something like, “Well, I wouldn’t personally have an abortion, but I think it should be legal,” people will judge you as some kind of sexual pervert who spends all their time going between orgies and the abortion clinic.  Political stances are less about reality, and more about striking a “moral” pose. And if you are wealthy enough to make sure that the rules chosen for religious idealism never really do affect you, it’s even easier to view the world in this way. 

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Republican National Convention Edition

Ally Boguhn

The Trump family's RNC claims about crime and the presidential candidate's record on gender equality have kept fact-checkers busy.

Republicans came together in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC), generating days of cringe-inducing falsehoods and misleading statements on crime, the nominee’s positions on gender equality, and LGBTQ people.

Trump’s Acceptance Speech Blasted for Making False Claims on Crime

Trump accepted the Republican nomination in a Thursday night speech at the RNC that drew harsh criticism for many of its misleading and outright false talking points.

Numerous fact-checkers took Trump to task, calling out many of his claims for being “wrong,” and “inflated or misleading.”

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 Among the most hotly contested of Trump’s claims was the assertion that crime has exploded across the country.

“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” Trump claimed, according to his prepared remarks, which were leaked ahead of his address. “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.”

Crime rates overall have been steadily declining for years.

“In 2015, there was an uptick in homicides in 36 of the 50 largest cities compared to the previous years. The rate did, indeed, increase nearly 17 percent, and it was the worst annual change since 1990. The homicide rate was up 54.3 percent in Washington, and 58.5 percent in Baltimore,” explained Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “But in the first months of 2016, homicide trends were about evenly split in the major cities. Out of 63 agencies reporting to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, 32 cities saw a decrease in homicides in first quarter 2016 and 31 saw an increase.”

Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said in a statement posted to the organization’s website that 2016 statistics aren’t sufficient in declaring crime rate trends. 

“Overall, crime rates remain at historic lows. Fear-inducing soundbites are counterproductive, and distract from nuanced, data-driven, and solution-oriented conversations on how to build a smarter criminal justice system in America,” Grawert said. “It’s true that some cities saw an increase in murder rates last year, and that can’t be ignored, but it’s too early to say if that’s part of a national trend.” 

When Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was confronted with the common Republican falsehoods on crime during a Thursday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he claimed that the FBI’s statistics were not to be trusted given that the organization recently advised against charges in connection with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

“According to FBI statistics, crime rates have been going down for decades,” Tapper told Manafort. “How can Republicans make the argument that it’s somehow more dangerous today when the facts don’t back that up?”

“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods,” said Manafort, going on to claim that “the FBI is certainly suspect these days after what they did with Hillary Clinton.”

There was at least one notable figure who wholeheartedly embraced Trump’s fearmongering: former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. “Great Trump Speech,” tweeted Duke on Thursday evening. “Couldn’t have said it better!”

Ben Carson Claims Transgender People Are Proof of “How Absurd We Have Become”

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson criticized the existence of transgender people while speaking at the Florida delegation breakfast on Tuesday in Cleveland.  

“You know, we look at this whole transgender thing, I’ve got to tell you: For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is. And now, all of a sudden we don’t know anymore,” said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. “Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa?”

“Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan. Look, I know I don’t look that way. My ancestors came from Sweden, or something, I don’t know. But I really am. And if you say I’m not, you’re a racist,’” Carson said. “This is how absurd we have become.”

When confronted with his comments during an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric, Carson doubled down on his claims.“There are biological markers that tell us whether we are a male or a female,” said Carson. “And just because you wake up one day and you say, ‘I think I’m the other one,’ that doesn’t change it. Just, a leopard can’t change its spots.”

“It’s not as if they woke up one day and decided, ‘I’m going to be a male or I’m going to be a female,’” Couric countered, pointing out that transgender people do not suddenly choose to change their gender identities on a whim.

Carson made several similar comments last year while on the campaign trail.

In December, Carson criticized the suggested that allowing transgender people into the military amounted to using the armed services “as a laboratory for social experimentation.”

Carson once suggested that allowing transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity amounted to granting them “extra rights.”

Ivanka Trump Claims Her Father Supports Equal Pay, Access to Child Care

Ivanka Trump, the nominee’s daughter, made a pitch during her speech Thursday night at the RNC for why women voters should support her father.

“There have always been men of all background and ethnicities on my father’s job sites. And long before it was commonplace, you also saw women,” Ivanka Trump said. “At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.” 

“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all,” she continued before pivoting to address the gender wage gap. 

“Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

However, Trump’s stated positions on the gender wage gap, pregnancy and mothers in the workplace, and child care don’t quite add up to the picture the Trumps tried to paint at the RNC.

In 2004, Trump called pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers. When a lawyer asked for a break during a deposition in 2011 to pump breast milk, Trump reportedly called her “disgusting.”

According to a June analysis conducted by the Boston Globe, the Trump campaign found that men who worked on Trump’s campaign “made nearly $6,100, or about 35 percent more [than women during the April payroll]. The disparity is slightly greater than the gender pay gap nationally.”

A former organizer for Trump also filed a discrimination complaint in January, alleging that she was paid less than her male counterparts.

When Trump was questioned about equal pay during a campaign stop last October, he did not outline his support for policies to address the issue. Instead, Trump suggested that, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Though he had previously stated that men and women who do the same job should be paid the same during an August 2015 interview on MSNBC, he also cautioned that determining whether people were doing the same jobs was “tricky.”

Trump has been all but completely silent on child care so far on the campaign trail. In contrast, Clinton released an agenda in May to address the soaring costs of child care in the United States.

Ivanka’s claims were not the only attempt that night by Trump’s inner circle to explain why women voters should turn to the Republican ticket. During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Manafort said that women would vote for the Republican nominee because they “can’t afford their lives anymore.”

“Many women in this country feel they can’t afford their lives, their husbands can’t afford to be paying for the family bills,” claimed Manafort. “Hillary Clinton is guilty of being part of the establishment that created that problem. They’re going to hear the message. And as they hear the message, that’s how we are going to appeal to them.”

What Else We’re Reading

Vox’s Dara Lind explained how “Trump’s RNC speech turned his white supporters’ fear into a weapon.”

Now that Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Republicans have faced “an intense, chaotic, awkward week of brazen lobbying at the breakfast buffet, in the hallways and on the elevators” at the convention as they grapple with who will run to replace the state’s governor, according to the New York Times.

“This is a party and a power structure that feels threatened with extinction, willing to do anything for survival,” wrote Rebecca Traister on Trump and the RNC for New York Magazine. “They may not love Trump, but he is leading them precisely because he embodies their grotesque dreams of the restoration of white, patriarchal power.”

Though Trump spent much of the primary season denouncing big money in politics, while at the RNC, he courted billionaires in hopes of having them donate to supporting super PACs.

Michael Kranish reported for the Washington Post that of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC, it is estimated that only 18 were Black.

Cosmopolitan highlighted nine of the most sexist things that could be found at the convention.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked, “Where are these contributions that have been made” by people of color to civilization?