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Good-Faith Argument

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Jeff Goldstein does a good job, I think, dissecting a typically dismissive Democratic statement (Kevin Drum, in this case) about spousal notification in the Pennsylvania abortion law. Drum calls it one of a list of “hot button conservative social issues that have at their core a desire to enforce traditional sex and gender roles,” and says notification laws “aren’t about notification, they’re about control.” That seems to be a popular position here, too.

But read Goldstein — if you can. He’s been infected with an annoying case of parenthesisitis. He says what Drum does:

is attempt to reduce a complex set of moral, ethical, social, and political beliefs�one that affects people of all political stripes (72% of Americans support some sort of spousal notification, including 66% of Democrats)�into an easy “progressive� populism for which Kevin hopes he’s rewarded by the bright lights on the left who actually do believe (at their “core�?) that conservatives are interested in nothing so much as rolling back women’s rights and establishing a firm and legally binding patriarchy. Drum is simply reaffirming a convenient caricature.

But what Kevin fails to take into consideration is the strong thread of egalitarianism that runs through much of today’s “conservative� thinking (in many instances better described as classical liberalism, which has itself become increasingly demonized by purveyors of identity politics to the point where nods to “color blindness� or “fairness� or “merit� are attacked and deconstructed by progressive partisans in ways that attempt to show that such concepts are themselves indicative of some calculated mode of control wielded by (mostly white) men).

Here, Kevin’s superficial analysis is long on ascribing motive and short on allowing for good faithâ€â€?and so represents a method of argumentation that is quickly becoming the standard tactic of many left-leaning political commentators (and some on the right, as well). In this case, the motive, Kevin says, is a desire on the part of … who, exactly?â€â€?conservatives? the Pennsylvania legislature? Alito?â€â€?for enforcement and “controlâ€Â? over women’s bodies, though notably he doesn’t explain how such an ironfisted rule would precisely work. Notification, after all, is not consent, and so would seem to imply a coequal interest in the fetus (or, for those more comfortable with less freighted language, with the clump of cells, from a property rights standpoint) moreso than a desire by the Pennsylvania legislature (or Alito, or those who defend Alito’s dissent) to control a woman’s body).

And of course it’s worth a reminder — since it always seems to be forgotten within 5 minutes — that Alito in Casey was dissenting not on the correctness of conservative social policies, but on the constitutionality of the Pennsylvania law.