Missouri Voters Overwhelmingly Reject ‘Right To Work’ Law

In a rare red-state victory for labor unions, Missouri voters rejected a right to work initiative by an overwhelming margin.

In what amounts to a surprising win in an increasingly red state, pro-union forces in Missouri scored a victory last night with the defeat of an initiative that would have made Missouri the latest state to adopt a right-to-work law that would have applied a recent Supreme Court decision to private-sector unions:

After a succession of political setbacks in onetime strongholds and a landmark defeat in the Supreme Court, organized labor has notched a hard-won victory as Missouri voters overrode a legislative move to curb union power.

A measure on the ballot on Tuesday asked voters to pass judgment on a prospective law barring private-sector unions from collecting mandatory fees from workers who choose not to become members. The law was rejected by a 2-to-1 margin.

The Supreme Court in June struck down such fees for public-sector employees, achieving a longstanding goal of conservative groups and overruling a four-decade precedent.

Labor leaders argued that the rare opportunity for voters to weigh in directly on a so-called right-to-work measure — which several states have passed in recent years — revealed how little public support the policy has, at least once voters get beyond the anodyne branding.

“It shows how out of touch those institutions are,” said Richard Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. “How out of touch the Republican legislature in Missouri is, how out of touch the Supreme Court is.”

But Jake Rosenfeld, a sociologist who studies unions at Washington University in St. Louis, cautioned against overstating the victory. A mere 8.7 percent of workers in Missouri were union members last year, below the national average and down from more than 13 percent a decade-and-a-half ago.

“A ‘win’ just returns the situation to the status quo,” Mr. Rosenfeld said by email, though he acknowledged that it was “a huge morale boost to a beleaguered movement.”

The victory in Missouri aligns with other tentative signs of a labor revival. Among them are polls showing rising popular support for unions and an uptick in membership in teachers’ unions after walkouts in several states during the past school year.

The examples of Michigan and Indiana, where right-to-work laws took effect earlier this decade, suggest that the legislation could have cost unions thousands of members and millions in revenue.

One question is the extent to which the victory could reverberate beyond Missouri.

“I think this will build momentum and send a message to all legislators,” Mr. Trumka said, “that if you vote against the people, go against the will of the vast majority of working Americans, it’s going to cost you.”

But it was not immediately clear that the forces driving the impressive showing for labor in Missouri could be reproduced elsewhere.

One reason is that Republican voters who buck their party on a ballot measure, as many appeared to do in Missouri, may be unwilling to vote against Republican candidates in a general election, even when those candidates are hostile to labor.

“There’s a big difference between overturning the law itself and defeating legislators who supported it,” said Jonathon Prouty, a Missouri political consultant and former executive director of the state’s Republican Party. “It’s a lot easier for unions to energize their base around the issue, which is right to work, rather than against candidates.”

T. J. Berry, a Republican state representative whose district includes some outer suburbs of Kansas City, said that many of his constituents were proud union members who opposed right to work but nonetheless voted Republican because they were conservative on issues like abortion and guns.

“I have four guys who are Ford workers in my Sunday school class,” Mr. Berry said. “And they fit exactly what I’ve told you: Pro-life, pro-gun and pro-worker. All of them voted for Trump.”

(…)

[Former Governor Eric] Greitens had signed a right-to-work bill into law after the legislature passed it in early 2017.

Supporters argued that the measure was essential to the state’s economic competitiveness.

“Companies that have a choice of expanding or choosing where they locate to begin with, they will generally choose — especially in the manufacturing sector — a right-to-work state,” said Daniel Mehan, president and chief executive of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He cited the manufacturing boom in the South in recent decades as a key data point.

But shortly after the law’s passage, unions and their allies in the state started a campaign to keep it from taking effect. They submitted about three times the roughly 100,000 required signatures by last August, setting up the statewide ballot vote, then began aggressively campaigning this spring for a “no” vote — that is, a reversal of the legislative move.

“I’ve been out knocking on doors, walking, since the middle of May,” said Mark Staffne, an electrical construction mechanic and union member, who lives in St. Charles County, which is heavily Republican.

“I met both Republican voters who voted for Trump and labor Democrats who voted for Trump,” he said. “By a vast majority, a huge amount of people I talked to said they’re voting no.”

Labor groups characterized right-to-work laws as an attack on workers’ livelihoods, because, they said, they undermine unions’ ability to negotiate wages and benefits. A 2015 report by the liberal Economic Policy Institute found that the typical full-time worker, not just the typical union member, earned about $1,500 per year more in states where mandatory union fees are allowed than in right-to-work states.

If union fees are not mandatory, workers can enjoy the benefits of union representation without having to chip in for unions’ work on their behalf, often known as the “free rider” problem.

More from The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

ST. LOUIS • Fueled by more than $15 million in campaign spending and laser-sharp attention from national labor unions, voters solidly rejected an attempt to make Missouri a “right to work” state.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday, unofficial results showed the ballot question asking whether the Show-Me State wanted to join 27 others in allowing private-sector workers to not pay dues to a labor organization had flamed out about 2 to 1.

“We are hopeful that the outcome of today’s election will put an end to attacks on Missouri’s working families and give our state a fresh start at working together to help and support all Missourians,” noted a statement from the We Are Missouri coalition, comprising labor unions and affiliated organizations. “In every corner of the state, voters rebuked the efforts of powerful, out-of-state corporate interests and dark money to control the future of Missouri’s economy.”

Dan Mehan, executive director of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the push by Republicans and business groups who supported the law was not a mistake.

“No miscalculation. It was a deluge of money coming in from out of state that helped them get to $20 million to buy the election,” Mehan said. “We just got blown out.”

From the start, pro-business groups supporting the law failed to keep pace with the millions of dollars that the unions pumped into the referendum. Yard signs, television ads and a radio ad by actor John Goodman — a Missouri native — dominated the campaign.

While supporters of Proposition A said states with similar laws had seen positive job growth, opponents said myriad other factors had played into boosting the business climate in those states. Opponents also said wages in right-to-work states were lower.

“I’ve seen the facts of states that have laws like right to work,” said United Auto Workers union member Michelle Whitley of Wright City. “It’s just not a good thing for our state.”

Whitley told the Post-Dispatch that she and other union members would continue to play defense against similar efforts by lawmakers.

“I don’t think we’ll ever stop fighting,” said Whitley, who works on the pickup and van assembly line at General Motors in Wentzville.

Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Webber called the push for right to work a “shameless attack on the middle class.”

“Tonight, Missouri voters rejected a top Republican priority and sent a resounding message that we will not leave working people behind,” Webber said.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also got in on the celebration.

“I’m glad to hear Prop A was defeated tonight in Missouri,” he said on Twitter. “Right-to-work legislation must be defeated nationwide. We must stand together, beat back union busters, and continue to build and grow the trade union movement in this country.”

In 1978, the last time right to work was on a statewide ballot, 60 percent of Missouri voters turned it down.

Despite steep declines in the union workforce, Tuesday’s measure was defeated in both urban and rural areas. Unofficial returns showed just 14 of Missouri’s 114 counties supporting the law.

As noted, this vote comes just about two months after the Supreme Court dealt public-sector unions a potentially devastating blow with a ruling that found that it was unconstitutional to require government employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment. As I noted at the time, though, this decision does not have any impact on private-sector unions since the First Amendment, which formed most of the basis for the ruling, does not apply in the private employment context. In that case, the major threat to unions has come in the form of right-to-work laws that are on the books in twenty-seven out of the fifty states and which, generally speaking, prohibit so-called “closed shop” agreements between unions and employers and prohibit unions from collecting mandatory fees from non-members. This, effectively, is what the Missouri law would have done.

In the end, the outcome of the referendum wasn’t even close. The “no” vote ended up getting 937,241 votes (67.5%) compared to 452,075 votes (32.5%) for the “yes” side of the ledger. In retrospect, this arguably vindicates the decision of the Republican-controlled state legislature to put the measure on the primary ballot rather than on the November General Election ballot. At the time, pro-union forces accused Republicans of scheduling the referendum in the manner that they did in order to benefit from what would otherwise be expected to be a lower-turnout election. While it’s likely that this is at least part of the reason for the scheduling of the vote, it has also been suggested that the GOP wanted to avoid scheduling the vote for November out of concern for the impact its presence on the ballot might have had on other races on the ballot, specifically including the race for Senate and the GOP effort to unseat incumbent Senator Clarie McCaskill. Arguably, a measure like this on the November ballot would have motivated pro-union voters inclined to support McCaskill to get out and vote and thus made it harder to take out McCaskill, a task that isn’t going to be easy in any case.

Union supporters are likely to take no small degree of solace from the outcome of this vote since it pushes back against what has been a difficult several years for unions in general. In addition to the loss earlier this summer at the Supreme Court, the union movement has also seen defeats for public sector unions in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan in recent years. Additionally, until this referendum, right to work laws have slowly advanced through state legislatures to the point where they are now on the books, in one form or another, in a majority of the states in the United States. In that respect, this victory is a small one given the overall trend, especially since there is no reason to believe that it represents the beginning of a turnaround the fortunes of labor unions to begin with.

 

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2018, Economics and Business, Labor Unions, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. James Pearce says:

    “I have four guys who are Ford workers in my Sunday school class,” Mr. Berry said. “And they fit exactly what I’ve told you: Pro-life, pro-gun and pro-worker. All of them voted for Trump.”

    What if the left had decided years ago that it wasn’t important to be superficially pro-choice and anti-gun? Would they have more “pro-worker” voters?

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  2. Kathy says:

    @James Pearce:

    Yes, if Democrats switched to holding Republican positions, you’d have a one-party state.

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  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    At some very basic level, people don’t understand how the world works. The operating system of civilization could be called Power 1.0. Without power you are irrelevant. Without power you are prey. There are many forms of power – votes, moral suasion, war, threat – but the only power specifically available to workers is a union.

    Reagan managed to sell workers on the notion that they would be individually rewarded as a rising tide lifted all boats. That was absolute bullsht. The rising tide lifted the rich, it drowned the working man. An individual worker has no power. Ten thousand workers have power. A million workers have more power.

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  4. gVOR08 says:

    Labor groups characterized right-to-work laws as an attack on workers’ livelihoods, because, they said, they undermine unions’ ability to negotiate wages and benefits.

    Dear FTFNYT, were you less married to he-said-she-said and more honest this would read simply,

    Right-to-work laws are an attack on workers’ livelihoods, because they undermine unions’ ability to negotiate wages and benefits.

    (I miss the strikeout font.)

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  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kathy:
    No, no, don’t you see? If we did more to appeal to Pearce’s cracker friends we’d somehow still manage to keep the same numbers of pro-choice women and POC and LGBTQ voters. Pearce’s view of politics is solipsistic – only those things which appeal to him have any validity. If only both political parties united to pander to Pearce, why, we’d all be singing kumbaya. Somehow.

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  6. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR08:

    (I miss the strikeout font.)

    Key it in yourself: [left arrow] del [right arrow] [left arrow]/del [right arrow].

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  7. James Pearce says:

    @Kathy:

    if Democrats switched to holding Republican positions

    Pro-choice Republicans and pro-gun Democrats are like, “Really?” Point being, these are markers of identity, not “positions.”

    I’m willing to care less about abortion and guns if it meant labor was getting more than lip service.

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  8. george says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Well, there has been a lifting tide – think of what’s come along since say 1900, how much almost everyone’s life in North America has been made easier by say refrigerators, electricity and electrical appliances, running water, indoor plumbing, modern medicine and so on. Its just that the tide has been technological, not financial, and conservatives have been anything but friends to the science that drives that technology.

    The GOP takes credit for a lifting tide their conservative values are against (ie science vs fundamentalist religion, public education and so on). Meanwhile, the financial tide they’re backing is as you say running out rather than in.

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  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @george:
    The rise or fall of a tide has both an absolute dimension (up 2 feet) and a relative one (up 2 feet, but my neighbor went up 10 feet.) It’s the second measurement that carries emotional weight.

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  10. Han says:

    @James Pearce: We had a pro life presidential candidate just 14 years ago, who hunted wildlife, and had seen combat. Didn’t seem to help him any.

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  11. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce:

    What if the left had decided years ago that it wasn’t important to be superficially pro-choice and anti-gun? Would they have more “pro-worker” voters?

    We have lots of pro-gun Democrats. Nearly every elected Democrat is pro-gun.

    The dividing line between the parties on guns is that the Republicans favor irresponsible distribution of guns, and the Democrats favor responsible distribution of guns. And, in poll after poll, most Americans prefer the Democrats positions.

    If you want to make a case that Democrats get rolled on gun issues because they don’t defend themselves… that’s a more more reasonable case. But then you would claim Democrats aren’t being civil.

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  12. Kylopod says:

    @Han:

    We had a pro life presidential candidate just 14 years ago, who hunted wildlife, and had seen combat.

    Are you referring to John Kerry? Where did you get the idea that he was pro-life? (I’m not getting into some semantic debate over what the term “pro-life” means; the fact is, he was unquestionably a supporter of abortion rights.)

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  13. Tyrell says:

    I would not want to work at a place where I had to join any organization unless I wanted to.
    I am trying to think of a comparable or analagous situation.
    I live in a development that has a homeowners organization with strict rules and codes (no pickup trucks parked; no solar units visible). But I don’t have to live there.

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  14. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Pearce’s cracker friends

    It’s not about my “cracker” friends. It’s about my poseur friends, the kind of people who find themselves unable to find any common ground whatsoever with the guy who agrees with them on the big important stuff, but has a difference of opinion on the insignificant stuff.

    What do you care if a person is pro-life and pro-gun?

    @Han:

    We had a pro life presidential candidate just 14 years ago, who hunted wildlife, and had seen combat.

    I’m not talking about presidential candidates at all.

    (Although if I were, I’d urge Dems to consider nominating a governor instead of a Senator. We need legislators, not another Senator who just really wants to be President.)

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  15. An Interested Party says:

    Well, there has been a lifting tide – think of what’s come along since say 1900, how much almost everyone’s life in North America has been made easier by say refrigerators, electricity and electrical appliances, running water, indoor plumbing, modern medicine and so on.

    Indeed…but it becomes harder and harder for many people to pay for all those things if their rights to collectively bargain are taken away from them…

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  16. MarkedMan says:

    @Tyrell:

    I would not want to work at a place where I had to join any organization unless I wanted to.

    Isn’t working at a place more or less “joining an organization”?

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  17. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce:

    It’s about my poseur friends, the kind of people who find themselves unable to find any common ground whatsoever with the guy who agrees with them on the big important stuff, but has a difference of opinion on the insignificant stuff.

    I don’t think access to abortion is insignificant. Part of freedom, at least to me, is not having to accept someone else’s religious beliefs as more important than my choices or my partner’s choices in how to live our lives.

    Should an errant spermatozoa determine my life, just because Cletus thinks that life begins at conception? Life begins before conception, Cletus.

    I’m not saying we wouldn’t be better off if America had a more formally defined class system, and people put a greater emphasis on their economic class, but these other things really are important.

    I do wish that sex education included a lesson on why women who might want an abortion in case of contraceptive failure should just not sleep with men opposed to abortion…

    (Actually, an errant spermatozoa has determined my life, as I was a mistake… my father got himself a vasectomy during those nine months while I gestated)

    (On a tangentially related note, which I keep trying to weave in but keep failing at… I don’t really care what someone’s sexual orientation is, I just care if they want to sleep with me, and only if I want to sleep with them. This is basically how I feel about abortion, and religious issues too. You do you, but leave me alone)

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  18. george says:

    @Gustopher:

    I don’t think access to abortion is insignificant. Part of freedom, at least to me, is not having to accept someone else’s religious beliefs as more important than my choices or my partner’s choices in how to live our lives.

    That’s very true, but its been part of civilization for a long time. Consider conscription into the military, where someone else’s political or religious beliefs (ie should we go to war) can decide that young men (who have basically zero input into that decision) are to be sacrificed by the millions for what is usually the economic gain of a handful of rich folks (who aren’t going onto the front lines themselves, and typically make sure their sons aren’t either).

    Someone like Kerry, who was against conscription and was pro-choice is consistent – and I’d guess that most pro-choice people are also against conscription. Pro-life (ironically named in this case) folk tend to be much more willing to send millions out to die in wars – though I suppose they’re consistent in this as well, as both anti-abortion and pro-conscription are basically saying people (usually young people since they’re the ones fighting in war or having unwanted pregnancies) shouldn’t be allowed to determine what they do with their bodies.

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  19. MarkedMan says:

    There is a question I’ve asked many times, but never received a satisfying answer. Why do people who brand themselves conservatives or Republicans have such an emotional reaction to unions? They can have intellectual discussions about Executive pay and capital gains tax, but the idea of workers banding together to gain power just seems to inspire immediate hostility and disgust. Why?

    Personally, I think people that brand themselves this way are more likely to be heavily invested in the class system, regardless of which side they are on. Unions are a way for people to “get above their station” and “put on airs in front of their betters”. I’m sure our conservatives here think I’m wrong, so I would love to hear what they think.

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  20. MarkedMan says:

    @george:

    and I’d guess that most pro-choice people are also against conscription.

    Speaking for myself, I’m pro-choice and pro-conscription (under necessary circumstances).

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  21. James Pearce says:

    @Gustopher:

    Should an errant spermatozoa determine my life, just because Cletus thinks that life begins at conception?

    Look, we can get philosophical about these things if we want, but guns and abortion are matters of settled law, so the only reason why you can’t find common cause with a pro-gun, pro-life person on other, more important issues is because you won’t let yourself. You have decided that identity politics, not interest-based politics, is the game you’re going to play, so RIP the very concept of common cause.

    Like I said, what do you care if someone is pro-life or pro-gun? They disagree with you on basically settled issues. So what?

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  22. Jen says:

    One other thing that is notable about this effort is that Missouri’s initiative petition process has been gamed/weaponized before. This was noted on CNN’s election rundown piece, but it’s worth noting here–supporters of this measure had hoped that by putting it on the ballot in the primary, they’d have a better chance of getting it passed than in a larger turnout general (even a midterm election has better turnout than a primary, for example). That gambit backfired spectacularly.

    This is a very interesting aspect of this vote that really isn’t getting much attention.

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  23. Han says:

    @Kylopod: @Kylopod:

    Are you referring to John Kerry? Where did you get the idea that he was pro-life? (I’m not getting into some semantic debate over what the term “pro-life” means; the fact is, he was unquestionably a supporter of abortion rights.)

    I got it from his own words. He is a Catholic in good standing. He has been very clear that what is an Article of Faith for him may not be so for someone else, and he will not legislate his faith on others. That’s not semantics, and we would do well to stress it.

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  24. gVOR08 says:

    That was useless helpful. Thank you.

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  25. george says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Speaking for myself, I’m pro-choice and pro-conscription (under necessary circumstances).

    I find that inconsistent. If its wrong for the government to force someone to have a baby (ie the gov’t wants to control the woman’s body), isn’t it even more wrong for the government to force someone to go to a war (ie the gov’t wants to control a young person’s body)?

    I think its not a coincidence that the pro-choice movement came along at the same time as our volunteer army; in both cases its about allowing people control over their bodies.

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  26. Kylopod says:

    @Han:

    I got it from his own words. He is a Catholic in good standing. He has been very clear that what is an Article of Faith for him may not be so for someone else, and he will not legislate his faith on others.

    In other words, he’s pro-choice.

    You can choose to define the position of “I personally oppose abortion but don’t want to impose by beliefs on others through the nation’s laws” as constituting “pro-life” if you like, but that’s not how the word “pro-life” is commonly defined, and Kerry himself has never self-identified by the term. Indeed, you could characterize Bill Clinton as “pro-life” by that definition, as he claimed to want to make abortion “safe, legal, and rare.”

    You were trying to argue that Dems aren’t helped by nominating pro-lifers, and you used John Kerry’s defeat as proof. (Even putting aside the definitional question, that’s a logical fallacy: the fact that Kerry lost doesn’t in itself tell us anything about whether his position on abortion helped or harmed him, or to what degree.) If the Dems ever nominated someone like the late Senator Bob Casey (a mostly liberal Democrat who opposed abortion to such a degree that he lent his name to one of the biggest judicial challenges to Roe, 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey), we could begin to measure its political effects. But that simply hasn’t happened; since the Roe decision was handed down in 1973, no one who has sought to overturn it has ever come close to winning the Democratic presidential nomination.

    I should make my position clear: I totally favor a woman’s right to choose, and I entirely reject James Pearce’s argument that it’s a mostly symbolic issue that distracts from Democrats’ economic message. (Indeed I think it strongly intersects with economics, as it is poor women who would be most negatively impacted by an abortion ban.) I am open to the idea of occasionally supporting pro-life candidates in deeply red areas–and by “pro-life,” I mean someone who seeks to outlaw abortion, not simply someone who personally disapproves of it.

    I have very little patience when people try to hijack debates by redefining commonly understood expressions. Sure, the term “pro-life” is spin. So is “pro-choice,” for that matter. But ultimately they’re just labels for the contrasting positions on abortion as public policy. If you want to see abortion outlawed, you’re “pro-life”; if you want it to remain legal, you’re “pro-choice.” Period. If there’s anything that’s a distraction, it’s trying to invite confusion over language that no one is confused over.

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  27. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce:

    Like I said, what do you care if someone is pro-life or pro-gun? They disagree with you on basically settled issues. So what?

    Is abortion really settled law? If so, then what’s all the commotion about with the Supreme Court?

    And on guns, the fight has moved to stand your ground laws (not settled, nationally) and public protests with weapons (also not settled) and requiring responsible gun ownership (if your gun is used to commit a crime, you should be liable… also not settled law)

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  28. James Pearce says:

    @Gustopher: Guns and abortion are about as settled as policies can get. They’re wedge issues used by lazy politicians to scare up votes, not real debates Americans are having. The debates are about magazine limits and pre-consultation literature, parental notification and background checks, and here’s the thing those wedge-exploiting politicians don’t want you to know:

    Reasonable people can disagree on that stuff.

    So there’s no reason to allow wedge issues to be the Sorting Hat of American politics. None. Cui bono? Some politician on Election Day maybe, but not we citizens.

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  29. Han says:

    @Kylopod:

    In other words, he’s pro-choice.

    It seems unusual to call someone who believes life begins at conception pro-choice, but whatever. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A27920-2004Jul4.html?noredirect=on

    You were trying to argue that Dems aren’t helped by nominating pro-lifers, and you used John Kerry’s defeat as proof. (Even putting aside the definitional question, that’s a logical fallacy: the fact that Kerry lost doesn’t in itself tell us anything about whether his position on abortion helped or harmed him, or to what degree.)

    I was merely responding to Pearce’s ridiculous assertion that “the left” insists on the Democratic Party being “superficially pro-choice”. Kerry himself advocated for bringing more pro-life people into the Democratic fold. And I agree with you about not finding causation in Kerry’s loss, but I thought it was all the reply Pearce’s argument deserved.

    I should make my position clear: I totally favor a woman’s right to choose, and I entirely reject James Pearce’s argument that it’s a mostly symbolic issue that distracts from Democrats’ economic message. (Indeed I think it strongly intersects with economics, as it is poor women who would be most negatively impacted by an abortion ban.) I am open to the idea of occasionally supporting pro-life candidates in deeply red areas–and by “pro-life,” I mean someone who seeks to outlaw abortion, not simply someone who personally disapproves of it.

    Great! I totally agree with you!

    I have very little patience when people try to hijack debates by redefining commonly understood expressions. Sure, the term “pro-life” is spin. So is “pro-choice,” for that matter. But ultimately they’re just labels for the contrasting positions on abortion as public policy. If you want to see abortion outlawed, you’re “pro-life”; if you want it to remain legal, you’re “pro-choice.” Period. If there’s anything that’s a distraction, it’s trying to invite confusion over language that no one is confused over.

    Dude, you’ve expended about 10 times the verbiage I have on this, not sure how I’m the one trying to hijack the debate. Also not sure how something that is “spin” and “just labels” must be so black and white in their definitions to you. I know a number of people that consider themselves pro-life, but don’t think it should be legislated. Guess what? They vote Democratic. I think they should be allowed to label themselves as they like. And who knows, we might even garner a few more votes if we tell people they can be pro-life while voting for people that will not legislate those beliefs on others. But go ahead and be an asshole to them, telling them no one is confused over whose side they are on. See how that works.

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  30. Kylopod says:

    @Han:

    I know a number of people that consider themselves pro-life, but don’t think it should be legislated. Guess what? They vote Democratic. I think they should be allowed to label themselves as they like.

    Fine! Let them label themselves how they like. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that many, many other people do not define the term that way, and it can be confusing to many people to call someone who supports the legality of abortion “pro-life.”

    A long time ago I remember reading an essay critiquing creationism by Kenneth R. Miller, a prominent biologist who also happens to be a devout Roman Catholic. At the start of the essay, Miller noted that he considers himself a creationist in the sense that he believes in a Creator, though he fully accepts the scientific theory of evolution. That way of defining the term is not unheard of, and in fact it goes back a long way. In the battle against creationism (in the sense of people who refuse to accept evolution), it’s important to welcome religious allies like Miller regardless of what they choose to call themselves, and it would be monumentally stupid and counterproductive to only allow atheists to join the battle. Miller was not being esoteric or unclear; he was very open about the fact that he entirely rejects the “creationism” of most people identified by that term. But it would still be deeply misleading to include Miller on a list of “creationist scientists.” That’s the danger of using relatively nonstandard or infrequent definitions. Use them if you like, but be aware that most other people don’t define those terms that way.

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  31. Matt says:

    @Kylopod:

    can be confusing to many people to call someone who supports the legality of abortion “pro-life.”

    That is why I call those people anti-choice or if I’m feeling particularly snarky anti-freedom.

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