Common Ground: Does Such A Thing Exist?

Frances Kissling on the common ground debate. Obama promotes it at Notre Dame, but what does it mean? Also, is Bristol Palin really fighting teenage pregnancy?


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Links in this episode:

Midwest Teen Sex Show makes good

Bristol Palin on the Today Show

Incoherence at its best

Obama addresses the controversy

Alan Keyes hyperventilates

Reality Cast is back from vacation!  On this episode, I’ll be interviewing Frances Kissling about what the common ground argument even is, and whether it has validity.  On the same topic, I’ll analyze Obama’s recent common ground statements at Notre Dame.  Also, am I the only one who thinks Bristol Palin’s not being up front about preventing teen pregnancy?

Congratulations the Midwest Teen Sex Show, purveyors of such great internet comedy such as this. 

•    prom *

They’ve got a deal to make the show for Comedy Central now.  Congrats and keep up the good work, guys!

In a lot of ways, you’d think that campaigns to prevent teen pregnancy could be simple.  After all, preventing a teen pregnancy is, at a fundamental level, about keeping sperm from hitting the eggs of teenage girls.  There are a number of well-researched ways to get this done.  But somehow, since the topic involves teens and sexuality, all common sense goes flying out the window, even when people claim to want to prevent teen pregnancy. 

The latest offender is the Candie’s Foundation, which had an Event To Prevent teen pregnancy.  It was heavy on abstinence, though not entirely.  Problem with it?  They’re putting forward Bristol Palin as their spokeswoman on abstinence. She is neither good at speaking or abstaining, so I’m not sure what her credentials are.  Worse, I don’t actually see any of this event to prevent stuff actually promoting prevention.

First, she was on the Today Show. 

•    prevent 1 *

This clip alone shows how this country is incapable of a reasonable conversation.  How does saying abstinence isn’t realistic count as a strike against prevention?  That’s the first step to actual prevention.  Facing reality tends to be the first step in tackling any problem.  But teen pregnancy?  We hope to apply fantasy and get results.  Which isn’t working yet.

Bristol’s changed her tune, realizing no doubt that her mother’s ability to win the primary in the presidential election means pushing fantasies. Embracing social conservatism makes her an incoherent advocate, though.

•    prevent 2 *

Here we’re getting to the crux of the problem.  Anti-choicers claim to oppose teen pregnancy, but they celebrated Bristol’s pregnancy, especially when they thought she was getting married.  And now she’s clearly been instructed to act like getting pregnant at 17 was the best thing ever, as if saying that waiting until you’re older means you don’t love your kids.  This means she has zero moral authority.  She’s presenting teen pregnancy as a way to grow up, be responsible, have meaning in your life.  Which strikes me as justifying it more than cautioning against it.

•    prevent 3 *

So what?  That’s true at any age you have kids, and maybe is even easier on resilient teenage bodies.  What she doesn’t mention is that it interferes with your education, limits your career choices, cuts you off from the same social life non-mothers get to have, and even makes it harder to date, as a lot of young men understandably don’t want to get involved.  But again, all I get from this is that getting pregnant as a teenager is a shortcut to adulthood, which is actually something many girls want.

Also, the Palins want you to know that your parents will love it if you have a baby at 17.

•    prevent 4 *

Okay, so far, I’m hearing that teenage pregnancy is exactly what they would have wanted for her, because it’s making them proud of her, and they agree that it’s a shortcut to being treated like a real adult.  Also, the only drawback is fewer movies.

The rest of the interview goes like this.  Matt Lauer tries to get either Palin to suggest that being a mom at 17 is less than ideal, and the most they’ll say is it’s  hard work, with the implication that it’s the ticket out of being treated like teenagers hate to be treated, which is like they’re stupid kids.  I fail to see how this is pro-prevention.  Seems like they’re on the Get Pregnant In High School, You’ll Love It tour.

* insert interview *
Unfortunately, our media couldn’t help but give attention to the small minority of anti-choice nuts who were trying to get Notre Dame to punt Obama from addressing the graduating class and getting an honorary degree.  Giving credence to a small, stupid, but loud minority is just way too tempting, I guess, because things got, as anyone could have predicted, completely out of control. Knowing that cameras would be swarming, self-aggrandizing fundamentalists showed up in droves pushing strollers with baby dolls and generally looking like a bunch of people with major delusions that extend to even understanding what babies are exactly. 

To make it even more fun, sperm worshipper Alan Keyes showed up to be creepy.

•    notre 1 *

I think he could go on for hours, and if he ever made sense, it would strictly be by accident. By the way, Keyes was one of the people pushing a stroller with a plastic doll in it.

Still, the mainstream media decided to treat these people like they’re reasonable people with opinions worth considering, so I guess Obama felt like he had to do it in his speech, too.  He took the “common ground” tactic, and I’m going to play some clips and analyze where I think this tactic works and where it doesn’t. 

•    notre 2 *

Apparently, we can’t agree on that.  Anti-choicers clearly think that women make the decision casually and thoughtlessly, which is why they strive to pass laws that force women to wait 24 hours to get an abortion.  The implication is that you just walked into an abortion clinic and didn’t think about it, and the law has to tell you to think.  So, no, we can’t agree.

He then trots out the common ground manifesto—let’s reduce the number of abortions.  Problem is, there’s no common ground there, since the only people with solutions that will achieve that goal are mostly pro-choice and generally liberal.

•    notre 3 *

Awesome.  The people already working to do that are pro-choicers who strive to make contraception and education readily available, against our opponents who oppose sex ed and contraception alongside abortion.

•    notre 4 *

That’s a feel-good comment to make anti-choicers feel like they have anything to add to a discussion.  The reason that there aren’t a lot of healthy infants up for adoption isn’t because adoption is just so hard that women resort to abortion, as much as the anti-choicers would like to believe otherwise.  It’s pretty easy, legally speaking, to give up a healthy infant.  The reason there aren’t a lot of babies up for adoption is that the vast majority of women don’t want to go through the process of giving birth only to give the baby up.  There’s no policy solution to address that, outside of immoral ones often pushed by anti-choicers, such as intimidating young women in maternity homes, or buying babies off desperate women.

•    notre 5 *

This is the only thing I think that common ground might be able to achieve.  It’s useful for prying social conservatives away from economic conservatives, and using guilt and fear of hypocrisy as tools.  We know a lot of women cite financial concerns like health care access or poverty as reasons for abortion, so perhaps we can get some anti-choicers to swallow their antipathy towards social spending and give these ladies a hand.

But you know what?  I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that.

And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, that word doesn’t mean what you think it does edition.  Alan Keyes being incoherent never stops being funny. 

•    alan keyes *

Think Keyes is obsessed with sex?  Fascinating how he jumps straight from being pro-choice to being a prostitute or a pimp.  What I love about anti-choicers is that they can’t remember that they’re supposed to be all about the babies. Few can opine for more than 60 seconds before degrading into sexual hysteria.

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte