Thursday, 21 August 2008

Obama, America and abortion

It's easy in Europe to assume Obama is just going to walk the election in November. He's young, good looking, charismatic,  seems more rock star than politico, and he's up against an old bloke who...well, yes, was a PoW, well done, but apart from that appears to represent more of the same. It's difficult to spot the "maverick" now in this former enviro-friendly man who now claims off shore drilling is the answer to America's energy difficulties (yeh, right).

But the dread issue of abortion has never fully gone away, and this week it has come alive again as rightwing media like National Review have been plugging away at what seem to be misleading comments by Obama about his voting record on the Illinois Born Alive Act. And the latest polls show him and McCain neck and neck, or McCain in the lead by a few points.

It's easy to say that abortion is such a live issue in America because it is stil such a religious country. But that's only a partial answer. The other part is, surely, that unlike in the UK, the law in the US (as set out by Roe v Wade) does not reflect the will of the people. It is a law imposed from on high, not as a result of democratic debate. It smacks of liberal elitism, which is also one of Obama's gravest presentational weaknesses, and one with great potential traction for the attack dogs of Fox et al. 


JG said...

In a representative democracy, laws don't always reflect the will of the people. (For example, the oft-cited statistic that a majority of people in the UK would support bringing back capital punishment.) This is just representative democracy, not 'liberal elitism'. And the only alternative is true direct democracy - i.e. holding a referendum on every law passed.

Jonny Mac said...

jg - it's true, of course, that laws don't always reflect the will of the people. The interesting part is what such laws tell us about our representatives. In this country, as to a lesser extent in the States, I would say that where our laws don't represent the will of the people they tend to differ from that will by being to the left of it, as in your capital punishment example. That's because lawmakers tend to overrepresent a certain section of our society - the university educated and middle class - who might also, I would suggest, be described as a 'liberal elite'.

kg-b said...

Surely you're not actually saying that being middle class and in possession of a degree makes you part of the 'liberal elite.' Your picture of a law making elite forcing their liberal ideals on the reactionary masses is, I think, also quite suspect.
Back to Amercia...As any faithful West Wing viewer knows, the President makes Supreme Court appointments. It is a highly political and partisan process and the opportunity to leave their legacy. Roe v Wade is one of the SC's most well-known and controversial decisions (more widely accepted is Brown v Board of Education, the beginning of the end of segregation). However the Supreme Court is not an institution packed with liberals (one of the senior judges is a Reagan-appointed right winger), nor is it as far removed from democracy as you suggest.