Ultimately the left is powerless against the religious right, because the left has no coherent philosophy of its own. This point is illustrated perfectly by a September 7 article in The New York Times.
What is remarkable is that, of the four people currently running for president or vice president, three of the four believe, for reasons of religious faith, that a fertilized egg has the status of a person. “…I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception,” Joseph Biden told “Meet the Press.” The difference, the Times summarizes, is that Biden “would not impose his personal views on others, and had indeed voted against curtailing abortion rights and against criminalizing abortion.”
And Obama’s view? “…I don’t presume to be able to answer these kinds of theological questions.”
In other words, all four candidates believe the matter is to be decided by religious faith. Two of the candidates take their views to their logical conclusions and call for a total ban on abortion. (Regardless of whether McCain voted to fund abortions in cases of rape and incest, his official, ultimate goal is “ending abortion.”)
Biden says the Catholic Church is correct on the matter but then refuses to enact this view in law. Ultimately, who’s going to win this contest: one side says outright that abortion is murder and should be banned, while the other side implies abortion is murder yet should not be banned.
Of course the faith-based view depends on obfuscation; as Diana Hsieh and I have pointed out, technically life precedes conception, and regardless that is not the standard for personhood. But Biden lacks the integrity to talk in anything but code on the matter.
The religious right will fare even better against Obama’s line. When both sides claim the matter is properly theological in nature, and one side claims to know the theological answer while the other side claims ignorance, the first side will maintain the upper hand.
The left’s powerlessness against the religious right mirrors the right’s powerlessness against the welfare-statist left. When McCain talks about sacrifice and serving something “greater than yourself,” he cannot withstand calls to sacrifice people to the “greater” cause of the national “welfare.”
While McCain would sacrifice the interests of couples to fertilized eggs, Obama would sacrifice producers to others’ “welfare.” What neither left nor right upholds today is the principle that each individual has the right to his own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.