We knew even before he was shrewdly sandbagged by Chris Matthews that Donald Trump is opposed to, or (more likely) is pretending to oppose legal abortion, so there's no good reason for pro-choicers to suddenly act outraged simply because the candidate is supposedly a pro-lifer. Like many people who take a legal position (any legal position, not just abortion), Trump had failed to consider the punishment aspect. Matthews made him realize it's necessary to think about it lest the candidate really have no meaningful position at all concerning the legality or illegality of abortion. It was perfectly fair of Matthews to do so, but it's nonetheless worth noting that the unexpected interrogation is what's unusual here, not the anti-abortion stance, and not Trump's failure to have previously considered the punishment aspect. As soon as I saw a clip of the interview yesterday shortly after it first started circulating, I predicted Trump would soon retract what he had said. To me it was very obviously a bad answer that reflected a lack of forethought. Sure enough, Trump's position evolved within hours, and he now more reasonably says only doctors should be punished if abortion becomes illegal.
Two hot-button issues - Trump's candidacy and abortion - have come together to create a highly combustible situation. That's why the reaction has been so apoplectic. But there's really no rational reason to conclude Trump is a misogynist, unless one believes opposition to abortion is inherently misogynistic. Some people undoubtedly hold that belief, but the Matthews interview revealed no previously unknown disposition. I would challenge anyone who disagrees to try refuting my contention that Trump had apparently not previously contemplated the punishment aspect, and that he hemmed and hawed until Matthews ultimately pressed him into saying that banning abortion would necessitate punishing women.
I've been longing for someone to confront Bernie Sanders et al. about regulating what's spent on speech, in the same way Matthews confronted Trump about banning abortion. I think Sanders and others have failed to grapple with how unjust it is to imprison people for simply paying a fee to share information or opinions. It's not some tit for tat, politically-motivated thought that came to me only as a way to defend Trump. I really do think Americans in general are too often guilty of reaching knee-jerk conclusions about legal controversies. We owe it to each other to be very thoughtful and principled about who is imprisoned, and how punishable behavior is distinguishable from behavior that's objectionable but not punishable. Trump failed in that regard as too many of us do all the time.
This post was originally published by The Norman Report.