Well I now wonder if the predictions have somewhat come true. Am I more liberal? Is Oregon to blame?
As a conservative, I used to characterize my approach to the problems of poverty with the well known phrase "tough love". I focused my thinking on one primary idea: the personal responsibility and/or culpability of the poor. Because of this, I was unconcerned about helping the poor with their physical needs, and less compassionate toward them in general, and more interested in their personal lives and decisions. Did they use drugs? Were they drunks? Did they quit school? Did they have children out of wedlock? Did they somehow choose to be poor? Of course they must have. It was their fault, and I would be a fool to let myself be taken advantage of by someone like that, by helping someone who was just going to use my money or gifts to subsidize their degenerate lifestyle. I thought that any help I might give them would be short-lived at best, and wasted at worst. I thought they needed tough love. Jesus commanded us to love the poor. There is no escaping that, even for a conservative. So "tough love" is the best love we can give the poor. Right?
But even in Indiana my heart had begun to change I began to see that Jesus was not someone who questioned the lifestyle choices of those in need. And he never commanded us to do that either. When he saw a need, he met it, with love. Rather, the people Jesus questioned were the rich and the powerful. It was their lifestyle that he examined, whose hypocrisy he decried, not that of the poor and broken. But somehow as a conservative I had gotten that backward.
But perhaps my biggest falling out with conservatives has been on the issue of abortion. And I say that because I feel duped, perhaps even lied to. You see, I was told that voting conservative would make a difference. I thought voting Republican would cause the number of abortions to be reduced, perhaps even dramatically so. I thought voting for a Democrat meant that abortion would be promoted and increased, which I definitely didn't want. That's what I had been led to believe.
But the statistics show just the opposite. During the 12 years of the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations, the number of abortions stayed constant at around 1.5 million annually, even reaching their highest annual figure ever recorded at just over 1.6 million in 1990. It was not until the Clinton administration that abortion figures began to significantly decline. During Clinton's eight years, abortions dropped from 1.5 million at the beginning to barely over 1.3 million at the end, a reduction of almost 300,000 per year.
In contrast, these reductions in annual abortions almost disappeared during the latest Bush administration. Even with the aide of significant conservative majorities in the House and Senate during this time, abortions flatlined at 1.2 million with only a slight downward trend of less than 90,000.
It doesn't look like voting conservative during the last 30 years has made any difference in the number of abortions. Yet I had believed that voting conservative was the ONLY way to make progress on the abortion issue. Because of abortion, I thought that voting for a democrat was morally wrong. In fact, I felt so strongly about abortion that I could be persuaded to support Republican candidates solely on that issue alone, even if I disagreed with them on a great many others.
Now I feel used. I feel like the abortion issue was a red herring, a wedge proffered by conservative politicians to woo me to their side. I wonder if they really care that much about it? They speak as though they do, but they sure haven't accomplished much. In fact, I wonder if they have made it worse?
Republicans speak so strongly about overturning Roe v. Wade and making abortion illegal that I think progressives are afraid of giving them ANY concessions. For example, enacting federal legislation banning partial birth abortion seems to make good sense. It is a brutal practice with questionable necessity, so why are so many progressives against it? I think because they see it as a battle against Republicans in the war over Roe v. Wade. If they agree to a partial birth abortion ban, that would be a win for Republicans, and who knows what might come next? So they vote against it, and no progress is made. I think if Republicans would refocus their efforts on reducing abortions rather than overturning Roe v. Wade, then perhaps the two sides could be more trusting of each other and the country could actually make some positive progress on the issue. Thus far, Republicans have made no progress at all on abortion. The increasing political gridlock seems to be diminishing their chances for success. And I am beginning to question whether they care more about the million dead babies each year or about getting my vote in the next election.
I find it interesting that my eight years in Oregon have almost identically matched the eight years of the Bush administration. A strong Christian man proudly proclaiming the name of Jesus has left his promises of compassionate conservatism and faith based initiatives largely unfulfilled. Instead we are left with a fearful nation, afraid of war and terror, and afraid of a failing economy. The policies and actions of our country have not been more conformed to the teachings of Jesus as I had hoped. Duped again.
So the predictions have somewhat come true. But no, I don't think it is Oregon that has made me more liberal.