The Disingenuous Nature of Conservative Politics

Anti-Choice Abortion Protesting ChildI’m very pleased that the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ anti-abortion law, HB2. It was a law that required that any abortion clinic have admitting rights to a hospital. Conservatives claimed this was for the health and safety of the patient. Of course, abortion is an incredibly safe procedure. No one was in any doubt that the law was enacted to limit access to abortions.

The numbers on the matter are really quite amazing. A total of 19 abortion clinics shut down as a result of the law — 11 of them on the very day the law took effect. And this isn’t the first such law. For years, conservative local and state governments have been coming up will all kinds of laws that just happened to make it harder to get an abortion.

I find this interesting because I don’t ever recall being in an argument with a libertarian in which they didn’t make the argument that local control was always better. But cases like this where individuals’ rights are limited are overwhelmingly done by state and local governments. I guess when libertarians talk about liberty, it is meant only to apply to rich white men.

Even Conservative Justices Know

Scott Lemieux wrote a good rundown of the decision, Why the Supreme Court Couldn’t Tolerate Texas’ Abortion Laws. What I thought was most interesting about it was what he said about the dissent:

Another striking indication of how specious Texas’ justifications for its law were is how little of the 60 pages of the dissenting opinions, written by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, actually defend the law as not constituting an “undue burden.” Rather, both Alito and Thomas focused on technical, jurisdictional arguments that would have prevented the Court from hearing the case.

They know. Everybody knows. Conservatives are disingenuous when it comes to abortion law. But the fact of the matter is that conservatives are disingenuous about everything. That’s especially true when it comes to economics. They say that we must cut the taxes of the rich so that we will have more economic growth. But because of conservative economic policies, there’s been no correlation between worker pay and productivity. Again, they know.

Above All, the Media Knows

Of course, I don’t blame the conservative politicians: they are getting rich by helping out other rich people. I blame the media. The media most definitely know. They knew that Texas passed HB2 to stop women from getting abortions. But they didn’t cover it that way. Instead, they said that the bill required that abortion clinics had admitting rights to hospitals. That did have the advantage of being true.

But when it came to the purpose of the bill, well, then it is just a matter of opinion. Everyone knew. If only HB2 started, “This bill is meant to stop women from getting abortions. You see, we can’t just outlaw abortions because of the Constitution. So we offer this bill to make running an abortion clinic so onerous that almost all of them will shut down.” In that case, then the press could have reported it. But no inductive argument — regardless of how strong — will ever do for American media.

That’s because our media is made up of a bunch of wimps who are far more worried about conservative ideologues calling them liberal than history calling them evil.

Everybody knows.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

20 thoughts on “The Disingenuous Nature of Conservative Politics

  1. I think it depends on what you mean by ‘know’. People, whether liberal or conservative, left or right, media-wired or alone, have an incredible capacity to see what flatters them, their heroes, and their preconceptions.

    No doubt some in the media are just careerist, and willing to stifle obvious questions and comments, when politicians play this sort of game (usually the conservatives). But most? I think people are remarkably inept at obvious inferences. It’s damned obvious that the solution to y’ = y, y(0) = 1 is e^x, but most people can’t see it or even understand the question.

    Does Donald Trump ‘know’ he is making up bullshit as he goes along? The rest of us know; it’s obvious. But does he? It isn’t clear to me.

    I’m really not criticising, and honestly I really don’t have a settled opinion (and do I want one?). But are you sure?

    One thing I am sure of, and that is my devotion to Leonard Cohen. Almost as good as old-school goth rock.

    • You’ve been reading me long enough to not ask that question. I am not sure of anything.

      I suspect that Trump thinks of himself as an ubermensch and that he creates his own reality. Most politicians understand that they need to finesse the truth.

      But I know much better about journalists. There are activists who do journalism. But journalism is no different in a political sense than plumbing. It just doesn’t matter: you file the story or you unclog the drain. Nothing else matters.

      • OK, forget ‘sure’. This is really what I’m wondering about.

        You say that journalists know that HB2 was designed to limit access while pretending to do otherwise. Well, it’s obvious to me that this is the reason for legislation like that. For me it’s “well, duh” like if someone asks if polynomials are continuous functions. But do journalists ‘know’ this?

        Let’s assume that journalists as a group are more pro-access than average. (This seems to agree with what I hear all the time.) Do they consciously say to themselves: “Well, this legislation is a dishonest piece of shit, but I don’t really care enough to write or say that as a journalist. That would threaten my career by inviting complaints from conservative readers/viewers or politicians. I’m willing to stand by as court-approved rights of women are arbitrarily abridged by HB2. So I won’t say HB2 is a dishonest piece of shit in my professional capacity.”?

        To me, that is what it means to know HB2’s purpose was to limit access. Do you really really think they can be like this? It strikes me as cold and frankly, evil. Maybe I’m just rationalizing to avoid evidence that humans are mostly evil assholes. But my experience seems to tell me that people don’t confront reality in this way; instead, they find ways of not knowing, of blocking their rational faculties.

        One way or the other, obviously, there is no comfort to be had for Texas women whose lawful access to abortion has been abridged. But does the mostly nice but slightly racist lady down the street really ‘know’ that Old Black Joe is still picking cotton? Or does she think, erroneously, that all past injustices have been reset and that enough is enough damnit?

        Owing to your posting, Lenny’s voice is in my head right now. All day, “Everybody Knows” has been having a duel with “The Sound of Music” (obviously the Joy Division song, not the famous musical).

        • Different journalists have different reasons. A lot of it is pure laziness. HB2 was written by Americans United for Life. Their stated purpose is to destroy Roe v Wade by chipping away at access. So it isn’t just that you and I are liberals and we know this. This is like some guy announcing that he’s going to kill the president and all the media pretending that he didn’t say that.

          But in addition to laziness, yes, there is a lot of careerism. For every Jeremy Scahill, there are dozens of journalists who work their asses off in the dark, barely scraping by. There is a big price to pay for speaking truth to power. And it’s deeper than that. I’ve written about my time in corporate America. The people who get ahead are not the brilliant ones; they are the ones who go along. I’ve been shocked at just how high total idiots can climb. Under most circumstances, no level of brilliance or value to a company will make up for you pushing against the corporate culture. If you are laughing at them behind their backs, they know it. Did those people know how screwed up things were? In my experience, the smarter ones certain knew it. But hey, everyone has bills to pay and a thousand other excuses for doing what just happens to benefit you personally.

          Let’s not forget that there are also editors who will stop a journalist who files a story saying what is a fact: HB2 was written for the singular purpose of depriving women of the right to abortion. The editor will say that isn’t proven and will never allow the journalist to publish the proof. And that journalist will either move on or go along like a whipped dog. But that journalist still knows.

          • FM — I finally did get around to writing a little again, you should be able to see it in your WP manager folder (or whatever it’s called). It’s about how institutions value the “right kind” of people over the ones who may ultimately be best. You’ll love the story of Yanosuke Hirai, and feel free to rewrite it your own way. I guarantee you you’ll be cheered up by this guy.

  2. >But cases like this where individuals’ rights are limited are overwhelmingly done by state and local governments.

    The libertarian argument to this is to move to someplace w/ fewer, better laws. Of course, this presupposes that you CAN just up and leave any time you wish.

    • Right! The local law is that you are a slave. What do you do?

      “Not to worry!” proclaims the libertarian, “That goes against my philosophy!” Slavery, of course, still goes on and it is against just about everyone’s philosophy.


  3. I am usually amused when the Republicans trip up and for get to act as if they are just doing it for altruistic reasons.

    In that case, then the press could have reported it. But no inductive argument — regardless of how strong — will ever do for American media.

    This is one of the many reasons that Trump upsets the Republicans-they can’t take advantage of the media’s willingness to accept them at face value anymore.

    • He does remove the mask. And maybe that will be permanent. But I’ve long held that the media will only call-out Trump as long as a decent number of Republicans are. As soon as they all get behind him, it will be “opinions on shape of Earth differ” reporting.

      • It is really really hard for them to admit that the Republicans are what they are. And reporters don’t want to believe it so they give the Republicans pass after pass. After all, when you talk to a Republican, they don’t seem crazy. They just seem a little off.

        • I don’t think it’s about giving them a pass. I think it is a lot of things. But mostly, in this case, it is institutionalized. If you are not willing to pretend that the Democrats and the Republicans are equal and opposite, then you aren’t a journalist. You are an “activist-journalist” or something like that. If you’re lucky, you become someone like Jeremy Scahill or Glenn Greenwald. If you don’t, you end up scraping by as a freelancer.

  4. Perhaps even the most venal media people eventually tire of being made to look like fools. I suppose there has been a greater willingness than in the past to call obvious nonsense ‘obvious nonsense’.

    • As I just wrote to Elizabeth, this is the outgrowth of a large number of Republicans attacking Trump. This gave the media cover. Will it hold? I doubt it.

      • Always a sunny day when someone on the Internet is even more pessimistic than me!

        Rational, perhaps. But I’m hoping it is not just Trump, and some non-negligible fraction of these journalists honestly care about America. Frankly, Trump seems no more ridiculous than many of the prominent elephants of the near past. You don’t need to be a leftist, but simply have a pulse, to understand that Gingrich is a crook and a hypocrite of the highest order. And he’s not that recent.

        Or maybe by now it is irrational to hope.

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