January 22, 2013

An interesting symmetry

If I still had posting privileges to the Green Room, I'd have put this there. But I no longer have any kind of political mikan box to stand on, so I guess I'll put it here. (I thought of asking Ace if he wanted it, but then I decided that would have been pretentious.) So politics, for a change.

Work with me here: there's a highly controversial right, with people on one side of the political fence deeply committed to defending it and people on the other side equally deeply committed to outright eliminating it. The latter deny that it is a right; they think it should be a crime, heavily punished, because it leads to a lot of unnecessary and unjust deaths.

The issue is a major controversy in Congress and in the states, and over the course of decades no consensus emerges. It is deeply contentious. Laws are passed, and new laws override old ones. It is a major factor in election campaigns all over the country every two years. Finally, defenders of this right take to the courts, and after years of effort and loads of appeals, finally get the Supreme Court to issue a landmark opinion declaring that it is indeed a right, protected by the Constitution.

But the opponents won't accept this. Now no longer able to outright outlaw this thing, they instead fiddle around the edges and try to pass laws which have the effect of making it inaccessible, even though it is nominally legal. As an issue it refuses to go away; it still figures in elections all over the country, and shows no sign of any consensus ever appearing.

What am I talking about? Well, actually two things: abortion and gun rights.

Without considering the merits of the issues themselves, it occurred to me the other day that the way the two issues have been handled by proponents and opponents have been surprisingly symmetrical. Understand that I'm not saying the various points of view are equally valid. But in terms of strategy and tactics, the issues are almost mirror images. (Yes, the word "abortion" never appears in the Constitution, and the Second Amendment explicitly is about gun ownership; you don't have to mention that. Also it is irrelevant to the point I am making.)

And, of course, the sides are opposite on each. Defense of abortion is a left-wing position, whereas defense of gun rights is generally considered to be right-wing. (And of course, there are loads of exceptions in both cases.) Even so, it's almost like each side in one issue has been studying what worked for the other side on the other issue, and copying it.

Did the people behind District of Columbia v. Heller study the litigation history of Roe v. Wade?

UPDATE: Ace links.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Weird World at 10:00 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
Post contains 469 words, total size 3 kb.


I'm going to leave comments enabled for the moment. Don't make me regret it. We won't be discussing the merits of the issues here, please.

I'm curious to know: when I was talking in vague terms before I identified which issues I was talking about, did you realize what I was talking about, and if so, which did you think I was discussing?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 22, 2013 10:08 PM (+rSRq)

2 Well since gun rights has been all the rage nowadays, that was my first thought, but I did noticed you were being vague and so I wondered if it was intentional and what else, if so, could you be referring to, and the only idea that came to my mind was abortion.

Posted by: Jaked at January 22, 2013 10:15 PM (i72px)


With the post title "symmetry" and the obvious-intentional vagueness, I had it figured it was both of those... about the time I hit the word "crime".

Posted by: Mikeski at January 22, 2013 10:32 PM (DU6Ja)

4 I had those two picked by the end of paragraph 2. Symmetry implies at least 2, and as Jaked mentioned, since guns have been in the news recently, that was an obvious choice. Symmetry also implies opposites in some sense, so abortion quickly came to mind. Further reading of the piece was spent making sure the paragraphs fit both candidates.

Also, deliberate vagueness about what is actually being discussed is usually a huge tip-off that the reveal will not be the most obvious answer. This would be an example, except Glenn Reynolds tips his hand right at the start.

But to the topic, another similarity is that both sides know what the other side is up to, and protest even the small snips around the edges of the law with far more vigor than would be justified in isolation. Also, publishing names and addresses of doctors who perform abortions versus publishing names and addresses of gun permit holders.

For a third, how about the abolitionists versus those who would have maintained slavery (court decision being Dred Scott)? I suppose we can call it progress that so far the opposition has resulting in legal sniping instead of actual sniping.

[2nd attempt to post, so please excuse me if this ends up as a duplicate]

Posted by: benzeen at January 22, 2013 11:08 PM (w1Fue)

5 I guess I did give it away with the post title. Oh, well.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 22, 2013 11:36 PM (+rSRq)

6 The same parallels were brought up in various discussions over at the Volokh Conspiracy. And at least two of them were heavily involved in the case, so yes, it's fair to say that they did indeed study the litigation history of Roe v Wade. (Then again, they're mostly professors of constitutional law over there, so they'd have studied that anyway...)

The converse isn't true, just because of the dates involved. Most of the abortion-rights discussion took place before 2000. Most of the modern gun rights movement came after that (not saying that the NRA didn't do good work in Congress, but some of the scholarship done in the early 2000s on the issue really shifted the entire discussion, almost completely discrediting the collective-rights orthodoxy.)

All that said, here's another parallel - the party that opposes the right in question mostly loses by backing their position in public. There's a good number of pro-abortion-rights Republicans these days, but saying "I want to overturn Roe v Wade" is code for "hey, I want lots of women to turn up to vote for my Democratic opponent!" Likewise, a lot of the rank-and-file Democratic membership are happy with their gun rights, thankyewverymuch, while the Dems avoided the gun rights issue in the past two elections as if it were their own third rail. We'll see what happens now that they stepped on it...

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at January 23, 2013 01:33 AM (GJQTS)

7 OK, now I'm going to close this.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 23, 2013 05:58 AM (+rSRq)

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