So incoherent is this fauxtrage that Jonathan Chait and Dave Weigel felt conscientiously obliged to defend Perry on it. I don’t think there’s any logic to the attacks per se; I think it’s a pure reflex reaction among Davis fans to paint her as a victim of a brutish pro-life conservative male pol, however hard they need to strain to make that happen. In victimhood lies Absolute Moral Authority, so let’s try to scrounge some up.
“No life is trivial in God’s eyes. The fact is — who are we to say that children born into the worst of circumstances can’t live successful lives?” Perry asked at the National Right to Life convention in Dallas.
“In fact, even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances,” he continued. “She was the daughter of as single woman; she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas senate. It is just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters.”
Perfectly straightforward: Wendy Davis herself proves that motherhood is no bar to becoming a successful prominent person. Too bad she hasn’t used her own experience to make that point. The bit about not learning from her own example hasn’t sat well with the left, though, because it’s “without dignity” and “condescending” and — whatever. The point here, to paraphrase Joe Biden’s famous line about Rudy Giuliani, is simply to string together a noun, a verb, and “war on women” and club Perry with it. They’re offended because it helps Davis and the cause of rallying support for abortion for them to be offended.
Weigel counters that Perry’s hurting his own cause here because obviously he’s not referring only to late-term abortions. He’s denouncing all of them, at whatever point of pregnancy, which is one of the core points made by Davis and company — that the regulations being pushed by Texas Republicans will end up forcing many clinics to close altogether, not just exclude women who are more than 20 weeks along. And poll after poll shows that, although Americans support banning late-term abortion, they also support keeping it legal for the first trimester. Won’t Perry face a backlash from the OK-early-but-not-OK-late abortion constituents? To which I say: Do Texans really not know that Perry and the GOP want to reduce abortion far earlier than the 20-week mark? Do they not know that far, far too many Democrats want to keep abortion legal up to the moment of birth, if not a bit beyond, even if they’re too cowardly to say so forthrightly? Even low-information voters, I think, know the basic contours of the party’s intentions.
Look at it this way: How much good has it done Obama to pretend that he wouldn’t ban all guns, or at least all semiautomatics, if he could? Background checks and assault-weapons bans aren’t going to do much to reduce shootings, by the White House’s own admission, but it’s a foot in the door towards their greater goal of limiting handgun sales more comprehensively. And gun-rights supporters know it, which is why they oppose even minor regulations bitterly. The fear of a slippery slope is justified because the logic of the opposition necessarily demands further regulations. The question for Texans is whether they’re willing to try an abortion regime in the state that might, at least in the short term, mean far fewer clinics generally. If they discover that they’re not willing, then Texas will turn a bit bluer, a bit faster, and the GOP will pay the price. Seems like they’re willing to make that gamble. But I don’t think the Perry snippet matters either way. Look no further than the fact that the abortion warriors who are fake-outraged about what he said about Davis are too busy sputtering about the condescension and the w-w-w-war on women to seize on Weigel’s point about Perry’s true intentions.