Bottum Line on U.S. Political Divides

In his article “The New Fusionism,” in the current edition of First Things, Joseph Bottum considers the great variety of positions that now go under the rubric of conservatism, and notes a “curious fact”:

“Those who believe the murderousness of abortion to be the fundamental moral issue of our times and those who see the forceful defeat of global, anti-Western Islamicism as the most pressing political concern we facepro-life social conservatives and the foreign-policy neoconservatives, in other words—seem to be increasingly voting together, meeting together, and thinking together. If you want to advance the pro-life cause, you will quickly find yourself seated beside those who support an activist, interventionist, and moralist foreign policy for the United States. And, conversely, if you are serious about the war on terror, you will soon discover that you are mingling with those fighting against abortion.”

While acknowledging that there is no obvious direct connection between the two issues, Bottum identifies an underlying commonality of purpose that seems a very plausible explanation of why the positions against abortion and for preemptive U.S. actions in the international arena have come together in recent years:

“. . . at the level of political theory, there’s a reasonable connection between what we do at home and what we do abroad—or, at least, between the attitudes that cause us to enact certain domestic agendas and the attitudes that drive our foreign policy. A nation that cannot summon the political will to ban even one particularly gruesome form of abortion is unlikely to persevere in the grueling work of building international democracy simply because it seems the moral thing to do. And a nation that cannot bring itself to believe its founding ideals are true for others will probably prove unable to hold those ideals for itself.

“The abolition of abortion and the active advance of democracy have more in common, I believe, than is usually thought. But even if they are utterly separate philosophically, this much is true: They both require reversing the failure of nerve that has lingered in America since at least the 1970s, and success in one may well feed success in the other.

“The goal in either case is to restore confidence in—well, what, exactly? Not our own infallible rightness, surely. But neither can we live any longer with the notion of our own infallible wrongness. We need to restore belief in the possibility of being right. . . .

“In the new fusionism of the pro-life social conservatives and the foreign-policy neoconservatives, a number of traditional issues seem, if not to have disappeared, then at least to have gotten muted along the way.”

There is much more to Dr. Bottum’s argument, and I highly recommend it as a provocative and well-reasoned look at current political alliances.

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6 thoughts on “Bottum Line on U.S. Political Divides

  1. Indeed there is a similarity between those who feel empowered to force their moral views on everyone and…those who feel empowered to force their moral views on everyone.

  2. In response to Tlaloc:

    If people that fight against abortion in the legislatures and the courts are using “force” to impose “their moral views on everyone” (more specifically, on the women wishing to have abortions), then the same can be said of those who fight for abortion in the legislatures and the courts. They are also trying to use the power of the state to impose their views on everyone (more specifically, on the children wanted to be aborted).

    And if advocating war against another country is an attempt to impose “moral views on everyone” (more specifically, on those who oppose the war), then the same can be said of those who advocate against said war. They are also trying to use the power of the state to impose their views on everyone (specifically, on those that feel war is necessary for the nation’s protection).

    It is self-contradictory to complain of being imposed upon by a viewpoint at the same time one is trying to impose a viewpoint.

  3. If people that fight against abortion in the legislatures and the courts are using “force” to impose “their moral views on everyone” (more specifically, on the women wishing to have abortions), then the same can be said of those who fight for abortion in the legislatures and the courts. They are also trying to use the power of the state to impose their views on everyone (more specifically, on the children wanted to be aborted).

    Are you seriously claiming that inaction by a state is the same as an exercise of the state’s power?

    And if advocating war against another country is an attempt to impose “moral views on everyone” (more specifically, on those who oppose the war), then the same can be said of those who advocate against said war. They are also trying to use the power of the state to impose their views on everyone (specifically, on those that feel war is necessary for the nation’s protection).

    I’m pretty sure that the people who tlaloc is referring to are the citizens of the nations we attack, not the anti-war Americans.

  4. Anonymous said: “Are you seriously claiming that inaction by a state is the same as an exercise of the state’s power?”

    Roe v. Wade was hardly an instance of inaction by the state and the decision is upheld by the power of the state (as any anti-abortion protestor would tell you). The power of the state guarantees that abortions may proceed afoot and the people imposed upon by this point of view are the unborn children. They may not be able to protest, but they are still being victimized by an (im)moral point of view.

    “I’m pretty sure that the people who tlaloc is referring to are the citizens of the nations we attack, not the anti-war Americans.”

    You may be right. I thought of that possibility myself. But either way it is still an imposition of an opposing point of view on those who believe that their nation is under attack and needs to respond with force.

  5. Roe v. Wade was hardly an instance of inaction by the state

    If you stretch out the definition of state action to include the process leading to the decision not to act or regulate, then indeed, your position becomes true. However, it also becomes meaningless.

    But either way it is still an imposition of an opposing point of view on those who believe that their nation is under attack and needs to respond with force.

    The Iraqis attacked us?

  6. “If people that fight against abortion in the legislatures and the courts are using “force” to impose “their moral views on everyone” (more specifically, on the women wishing to have abortions), then the same can be said of those who fight for abortion in the legislatures and the courts.”

    Uh no. Not even close but good try. See the difference is between forcing someone not to do a thing or allowing them the choice of doing the thing. Were the “pro-choice” people trying to force you to have an abortion that’d be similar, but of course they aren’t.

    “And if advocating war against another country is an attempt to impose “moral views on everyone” (more specifically, on those who oppose the war), then the same can be said of those who advocate against said war.”

    Again: no. Declaring war on “Islamo-fascism” is an attempt to force our “ideals” on others. Deciding to respect those people enough to let them find their own path then is not forcing our views on them. This isn’t rocket science, I’m not sure how you managed to get it all backwards. The “Islamo-fascists” themselves are indeed often guilty of pushing their views on others but I thought we agreed that was a bad thing and not a behavior to emulate.

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