Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Not Voting When the Supreme Court Hangs in the Balance? Not Morally Defensible — A Response to Anderson Cooper and Others Who Choose Not to Vote

Out gay journalist Anderson Cooper stated yesterday that  he does not vote, and that journalists should not vote because taking sides compromises their integrity.

I cannot respect this position. This is a position grounded in Cooper's privilege as an affluent white male, privilege that is not shared by millions of other human beings whom Cooper's refusal to vote affects in radically deleterious ways. Only those with privilege can pretend to be above the fray. And those who claim they have no commitments, viewpoints, etc. are deluding themselves and pretending: we all have commitments and viewpoints, and good journalism involves sorting truth from fiction, not pretending that "both sides" are equally correct or equally wrong.

As if he were writing in direct response to Anderson Cooper, Charles Pierce wrote the following yesterday:

And, finally, your vote affects me and millions of other people
Like baseball, an election is a collective statement made up of many individual actions. Therefore, if your binky gets knocked in the dirt, and you throw a tantrum and stay home, we all have to live with those consequences, including a lot of people who don't share your privilege or your income. If you want to stay home, we can't stop you. (They can in Australia, but never mind.) But please don't brag about how you are too fine a person to vote. The blood of Viola Liuzzo and Medgar Evers cries out from the earth in opposition to your prideful vanity (emphasis in original).

Why does voting matter? Well, what Susan B. Anthony struggled to achieve — autonomy for women, freedom for women to live their lives on a playing field equal to that afforded to human beings born with penises — is far from complete at this point of American history, and is threatened by new and ever-increasing attempts of the political and religious right to curb women's rights and place women back into the subordinate position dictated by God and nature's God for women, in the view of religious and political conservatives. 

As Elizabeth G. Taylor and Elizabeth Reiner Platt noted yesterday, the U.S. Catholic bishops, hiding behind the habits of the Little Sisters of the Poor (it's I who am using that image as I summarize Taylor and Platt's argument, not either of those writers), are continuing to argue that their religious belief gives them the right to restrict your right to quality healthcare. Simply because they say so. Zubik v. Burwell, which has made its way — unbelievably, but entirely believably, given the bloc of Supreme Catholic men sitting on that bench — to the Supreme Court, is about the bishops and sisters' supposed "right" to dictate law and healthcare decisions to the entire society and to deny rights to others on the basis of their religious convictions. Because they say so . . . .

As Platt points out, the Little Sisters and the U.S. Catholic bishops want to turn the Religious Freedom Restoration Act "into a trump card for religious believers": the "religious freedom" position they are defending holds that, because they say that they believe XYZ sincerely, the government should bow to their "sincerely held" religious belief, even when it requires that they trample on the rights of other citizens. As she notes, this is precisely the argument that the Supreme Catholic men (the phrase is mine, not hers) allowed Hobby Lobby to get away with in the Hobby Lobby decision.

If this argument prevails again in Zubik, here are some imaginable consequences, she maintains:

Let's say, for example, a company like Hobby Lobby had a religious objection to minimum wage laws. Under the petitioner's argument, a less restrictive way for the government to achieve its goal of guaranteeing a living wage would be to allow the company to pay subpar wages and pass a new law allocating funds to pick up the remaining tab. A religious objection to environmental regulations? Pollute away and suggest that the government to create, fund, and administer a new program to clean up the mess. A religious objection to posting OSHA notifications? Tell the government to hire workers to chase down the company's employees and warn them about environmental hazards they may face at work.

Not voting when the Supreme Court hangs in the balance with this national election? 

Not morally defensible.

I'm grateful to the Maddow Blog for including Adam Blickstein's tweet of Susan B. Anthony's tombstone yesterday in its news feed this morning.

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