A ray of hope from the grassroots

Infidel753, A ray of hope from the grassroots, Infidel753 Blog

Mid-December commentary by Infidel753 as taken from his site as known by the same title.

Much of the intensity of political polarization in the US comes from a strangely mirror-image-like pair of personal-freedom issues — abortion rights and gun rights.  In each case one side, or rather its most militant exponents, is grimly determined to attack and destroy what the other side considers an absolutely vital freedom.

To those who value personal freedom across-the-board, and to much of the “exhausted majority” seeking to overcome the dead-end division of American society into two bitterly-opposed camps, the outlines of a political “grand bargain” seem obvious.  Let the right wing permanently and sincerely renounce its attacks on abortion rights, and let the left wing permanently and sincerely renounce its attacks on gun rights, and much of the intractability of our current divisions would start to ease.  Tens of millions on each side who now feel they must vote against the opposing side’s party to preserve an essential freedom, no matter what their misgivings about some of their own party’s extremist positions, would feel their options broaden.  Each party would gain a chance to be competitive in areas of the country from which it is now locked out.  Democracy itself would benefit.

In reality, of course, this seems impossible, because the zealots on each side will never stop crusading against the freedom so valued by the other.  They will always hold their own side’s party, and the majority of the population which might be more amenable to live-and-let-live, hostage to their determination to force everyone into conformity with their own taboos and visceral dislikes.

But two recent developments may give cause for hope.

The first, of course, is the wave of victories for abortion rights in referenda and elections across the country since Dobbs.  It’s striking that these have occurred even in red states such as Kansas and Ohio, and with unusually high voter turnout — which indicates that many Republican voters now support personal freedom on this issue.  Most recently, in Florida, at least 150,000 Republicans (mainly women, apparently) signed on to support putting a measure protecting abortion rights on next year’s ballot.  It’s clear that Dobbs was the catalyst — back when abortion was constitutionally protected, it was easy to vote for a party committed to banning it if you supported that party on other issues, because you knew that they wouldn’t have the power to actually implement such a ban.  Now, with abortion under real threat and a succession of horror stories like this in the news, preserving that freedom suddenly moves to the top of the priority list.

The second development first came to my attention here, though in reality it should have been obvious that this would happen.  Over the last few years gun ownership among urban liberals has risen sharply, driven by the explosion of crime in major cities, and in many cases the ineffectiveness of the police in dealing with it or even outright ideology-driven coddling of criminals* by local governments.  In my own city of Portland there have been case after case of things like random violent attacks on individuals, whole streets being taken over by street racers, “protesters” harassing innocent bystanders by blocking traffic, retailers abandoning downtown because of unsustainable losses from robbery, employers similarly leaving because their employees don’t feel safe, and on and on.  And I’ve seen plenty of other such stories from other big cities.  The latest wrinkle is the wave of violence and vandalism and murderous rhetoric directed against Jewish people and sites during the outbreak of open Nazism among “progressives” since the October 7 attack on Israel.  More and more people who always felt basically safe no longer do.  Red states have traditionally had higher crime rates than blue cities, which is part of why the residents of the former felt the need to be armed — but the same is becoming true of the cities.

Just as many Republican voters have become less willing to support abortion bans in the abstract when there is suddenly a real threat of such a ban actually taking effect, so many urban liberals find the ability to physically defend themselves a lot more vital when violence and chaos are escalating where they live.

As I noted above, the zealots of the right and left will never renounce their attacks on abortion rights and gun rights respectively.  But it seems the grassroots are rebelling against their intransigence.  If this can be sustained, with red-state abortion restrictions and blue-state gun restrictions dismantled by the voters themselves via referenda and protest campaigns, then the exhausted majority will finally have scored a win, sweeping the ideologists aside and perhaps opening the way for further steps toward a less polarized, more tolerant, freer future.

[*Another infuriatingly-coddled criminal is of course Donald Trump, who in a sane world would already have been tried, convicted, and executed for inciting an insurrection and trying to violently overturn an election result.  But that’s really a matter for another post.]