Potter Political Pickle

Answer Well


March 11
As a political observer and registered Independent, I enjoy discussing my opinion. It didn’t take long for my wife to name these occurrences “The Jeremy Potter Lecture Series.” But I’d prefer to take them public as an enthusiastic motivational “speaker” writing to challenge America’s assumptions and perceptions. A political science degree propelled my pragmatic growth as an analyst in the government-contracting industry. Now, I’m complementing, and perhaps complicating, my perspective in law school. Combining my writing experience and personal passion, I intend to accelerate political progress. Thank you for considering my qualified, yet independent voice.


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JANUARY 18, 2012 12:52AM

Another pickle: What would Karen Santorum do?

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Having 7 more minutes before my last first day of school, I decided to try to go 3 for 3 on posts over the last three days.  I thought about promising that it will be quick.  But let's be honest, that term is relative.  Speaking of relativity...

I found another "pickle" and thought given my post two days ago about trying to dig a bit deeper for interesting stories, I'd at least throw it out there.  This pickle is the tension between wanting to see the government and its laws conform to one's worldview and wanting the government to protect worldviews of all types.  In the latter view, the government acts more like a referee.   Instead of taking a position on a controversial moral choice like abortion or gay marriage, the government allows the practice(s) and leaves the choice up to the individual about whether to participate.  In the former view, the government decides what is acceptable in society and our elected officials craft legislation to reflect the values of the majority of the people thus outlawing practices the majority party finds unsavory and/or immoral.

I considered this dichotomy while reading two stories about Karen Santorum.  I have to be honest, before today, I did not know the name of Rick Santorum's wife.  And I grew up in PA when he was our junior Senator.  Nevertheless, he's running for President and his wife is "fair game."  The first story in the Daily Beast/Newsweek chronicles Mrs. Santorum's early life living within a much older abortion provider/doctor.  The second story was a comment by an author at Slate.com commenting on the Daily Beast piece.

Honestly, my initial reaction was ok? People aren't allowed to change?  No big deal. The Slate piece addresses this directly:

"It's a shame that such a fuss is being made over Karen Santorum's past. In a sane world, we'd be allowed to have our private lives be private. But since the Santorums want to strip you of your right to sexual privacy in order to have the government micromanage your sex lives, it's high time she be held to the standard she wants for you. After all, she's benefitted long enough from the freedoms that she and her husband want to take away from everyone else." Link: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2012/01/17/the_anti_fornication_anti_abortion_wife_of_rick_santorum_lived_very_differently_in_her_20s_.html 

Here's the thing.  I get that.  It's not fair to change your worldview and then begin holding people to standards you yourself was unable to live.  Also, it conforms to the second worldview I mentioned earlier.  The government is not meant to be a tool of oppression of one group's moral code on another.  And yet, when isn't the government wading into moral decisions? Only all the time.

So, here's the pickle.  Do you fight for what you believe (believe in your heart, religious beliefs, rationally believe, etc.) and try to use every possible medium at your disposal including the legislature to get others live the same way?


Do you allow for the possibility that other adults in a free society might want to live in a way that certain groups do not agree with?  In the case of Karen Santorum, should she work to change the law to match her religious beliefs however new or old they may be?

Why not? If you really, really believe something, aren't you supposed to do everything in your power to do as much as possible to change the law?

My take is Karen Santorum would be far more effective focusing her energy on the individuals whom she'd like to live differently (i.e. women contemplating an abortion) rather than on politicians to change the law.  In this way, the system works.  The politicians protect those that don't want to live by Karen Santorum's worldview and want to make their own choices about their own lives.  Karen Santorum changes the hearts and minds of the people who have the choice.  

The problem arises because there is always a line.  No matter how much we'd like to respect other's choices and lifestyles, there's always a line that needs to be drawn.  Legislatures and courts (the government) find that line.  The ultimate line  for abortion (legalizing) has been drawn even though some specifics (late term/partial birth abortions) are defined later on in the process.  The line for gay marriage is being drawn state-by-state as I write.  

This is the understood resolution to this particular pickle.  As a moral choice or lifestyle gains participants and support in society, we re-examine the line in our governmental institutions.  So, while religious leaders talk about the notorious slippery slope, there's no question the line moves quite slowly.  Yet, it means telling devout and passionate people NOT to fight to change the law.  Understandably, that is not an easy position for people who believe strongly about moral values.  

For example, the Karen Santorums of the world see proponents of the right to chose and supporters of gay marriage as trying to do the same thing she is doing - change the law to conform to a worldview.  Karen Santorum sees making a practice like abortion legal as the legislature "approving" it.  She sees making abortion illegal as disapproving of it.  In order to make my point, please grant me a quick assumption about Amanda Marcotte, the author of the Slate piece above. She doesn't see the legislature as "approving" or "endorsing" abortion.  She sees the legislature as simply allowing individuals to participate, or not.

This is a pickle.  When you believe that making a certain practice legal is the same as endorsing it, it muddles the whole argument.  When you believe that making a certain practice illegal is the equivalent of "forcing" your beliefs on someone, it cheapens the beliefs.  Suddenly, bloggers and authors see Karen Santorum as a hypocrite and moralist as opposed to a true believer and perhaps Karen Santorum sees the bloggers as liberal humanists who are "anti-God" or "anti-religion."

The truth is a difference of opinion on the proper role of the law, the legislature and even the government.  Is there a resolution to this difference?  Is this a pickle we'll ever get out of?  As Romney and Obama gear up for a national debate on the role of government and wealth in America, I can't help thinking that there are some basic disagreements that might remain pickles no matter how much we discuss them.  The proper role of morality in making law is likely going to continue as long as I'm alive and observing politics.  So, Karen Santorum and the subsequent coverage of her life illuminates a pickle that's likely to remain a pickle until the understood resolution I mentioned earlier (the law will continue to draw a line that is debated and fought over in the legislature and the judiciary) until we come up with something better.  But if that's the case, aren't the Karen Santorums incentivized to continue fighting that fight through government institutions?  

Huh, that is a pickle.

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It's easy to articulate a principle that deals with this. The Gov't's job is to protect life and liberty. Obviously, abortion falls into a gray area, but for gay marriage, it is clear: if two people of the same sex marry, it does not in any way affect the life or liberty of those who disapprove.