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Scott Swenson

Scott Swenson

Posted: October 16, 2008 05:06 PM

Debate Analysis: Objective Indicators Suggest Education, Prevention, Pro-Choice Values Win


The Culture War is over.

By every objective, measurable analysis, from CNN's dial tests, to MSNBC's focus group in Kansas City, to the CBS and Fox News flash polls -- to RH Reality Check's own server-crashing high traffic volume following the final presidential debate -- Americans are embracing the pro-education, pro-prevention, and pro-choice values RH Reality Check writes about every day.

Senator John McCain gave far-right social conservatives in the anti-choice community everything they asked for, perhaps more.  Instead of picking a pro-choice running mate in Sen. Joe Lieberman or Gov. Tom Ridge, he chose Gov. Sarah Palin who rallied the base.  In the final presidential debate, McCain went so far as to mock "health" threats to mothers as a reasonable exemption for women with crisis pregnancies, a position he once challenged George W. Bush on in a GOP primary debate in 2000. 

Late-term abortions are rare, less than two percent of all abortions, and are always medically necessary, by law.

McCain even adopted the anti-choice lexicon using politicized phrases like "pro-abortion" and "partial-birth abortion" which is not actually a medical term. After saying he would not use a litmus test to select judicial nominees, McCain seemed to contradict himself saying, "I would consider anyone in their qualifications. I do not believe that someone (swallows hard) that has supported Roe v. Wade, that would be part of those qualifications." McCain went even further though, repeating charges debunked since 2004 by many independent sources, that Obama supports infanticide

To McCain's credit he made the strongest possible case for people who genuinely believe that the government should be able to force women to give birth. The far-right of the anti-choice movement could not have asked for more.  If McCain wins, they may get credit for saving his campaign, but their messages seemed to flop in objective analysis.

During McCain's discussion of social conservative cultural values, some undecided male voters moved slightly positive while undecided women voters in CNN's dial test trended steadily more negative.

In sharp contrast, Sen. Barack Obama called for more understanding and less partisan division on abortion, and articulated his clear pro-education, pro-prevention and pro-choice values that saw both men and women in the dial tests giving him the highest possible positive ratings.  Focus groups and instant polls by a variety of networks all indicated Obama won the debate and saw more movement in his direction by undecided voters, further indicating that Americans are embracing pro-choice values as one important aspect of his candidacy.

Obama said, "abortion is a very difficult issue and a moral issue, and one that good people on both sides can disagree on. But what ultimately I believe is that women, in consultation with their families, doctors, their religious advisers, are in the best position to make this decision. I think the Constitution has a right to privacy in it, that shouldn't be subject to state referendum, any more than our first amendment rights are subject to state referendum."

Obama later said that abortion is an issue that divides us, "but surely there is some common ground where people who believe in choice and those who oppose abortion can come together and say we can prevent unintended pregnancies, by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity and provide options for adoption and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby. Those are all things we put in the Democratic platform for the first time this year, and that's where we can find some common ground because nobody is pro-abortion."

With such a clear articulation of pro-education, pro-prevention and pro-choice values, juxtaposed to the McCain-Palin ticket's full throat-ed support for a "Culture of Life" -- including all the sharpest and most cutting attacks on late term abortion and infanticide -- there is no doubt that this election is a referendum on the far-right. Social conservatism more generally, and the results of their generational Culture War waged against other American citizens is getting a thorough vetting from the voters.

If McCain wins, the far-right will be in total control and should be given credit within the Republican Party for saving John McCain's candidacy.  If McCain loses, given all that he has done for the far-right, I suspect the Republican Party will take a few years to sort out just what happened, and exactly where they lost touch with the values of most Americans.

I'd suggest they look back to Terri Schiavo, consider their abstinence-only-until marriage failures, and the war on contraception and medically accurate information as a starting point.  What the heck, for good measure, maybe they should consider their failed response to HIV/AIDS for 25 years, and their damnation of gay Americans and their families too. Most likely they will come to learn that while crisis pregnancies are rare, the families involved genuinely believe the health of the mother is pretty important, and that government should get out of legislating private medical decisions.

There is still time, if the far-right really does represent the family values of most Americans, we should see it in the polls soon, and on election day with a McCain victory.

Originally published at RH Reality Check.