December 16, 2004


Democrats, Abortion and 'Alfie' (Richard Cohen, December 14, 2004, Washington Post)

Dickens wrote "A Tale of Two Cities." Cohen will write "A Tale of Two Movies." The first is "Alfie," the 1966 film starring Michael Caine, and the second, as it happens, is also "Alfie," this year's remake of the original, with Jude Law in the title role. In the first "Alfie" a woman of his acquaintance gets an abortion. In the second she does not. Therein lies my tale.

The second "Alfie" was obviously made before folks such as me decided that moral values were what made George Bush the winner of this year's presidential contest. Still, very little about making films is an accident -- movies cost too much -- so I can posit that someone had sensed that the zeitgeist had shifted: Abortion is no longer seen as central to sexual liberation but rather as much more troubling and problematic. Over the years, the so-called right-to-life movement has changed some minds.

Mine among them, I am quick to say. This is especially the case with late-term abortion, which in some cases has been not too unfairly packaged for propaganda reasons as "partial-birth abortion." Whatever it is called, a description of it turns the stomach and makes you wonder whether the procedure should be authorized only under certain circumstances. For the record, I stated my qualms a long time ago.

But the Democratic Party still marches to the tune of "Alfie" ("What's it all about, Alfie?") as if nothing has changed in almost 40 years. Abortion remains a core party principle -- up there with civil rights and, more recently, gay rights. Gay rights is one thing. It is nothing more than an extension of the party's traditional -- and politically costly -- embrace of civil rights. But abortion is a different matter entirely. It is no longer what it was -- simply about women's rights and sexual freedom. It is, as its opponents say, about life -- arguably about the taking of it.

Arguably? It is arguably about whether the lives taken are worthless, but whether they are lives is inarguable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 16, 2004 1:22 PM

Give this to Richard -- he does torture himself about once a month with a column in which he wrestles with his liberal inner feelings versus conflicts his mind sees involving conservative arguments on issues like abortion. He can't make the full jump here, but he at least recgnizes there's another side to the issue, and that they have a strong case to make.

Of course, he also realizes that this column no doubt hacked off a lot of the liberal orthodoxy within the Washington Post and in the East Coast social circles in general, so he makes an effort to get back in their good graces today with his attack on President Bush's Medal of Freedom Awards.

Posted by: John at December 16, 2004 2:48 PM
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