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January 23, 2013

Steven Den Beste: An interesting symmetry

[Andy -- I wouldn't normally swipe an entire post like this, but see the lead-in. Steven, you're welcome to post here anytime.]

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?

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posted by Andy at 08:24 AM

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