The whole introduction of abortion into the national political agenda has been driven by the tiny religious right in Canada -- in poll after poll Canadians have been shown to favor the status quo on abortion and want to keep it legal, safe and broadly available.
The Reverend Doctor Chuckles McVety (whose credentials are as valid as my own) and his merry little gang of socially regressive theocrats will do their very best to try to push people's buttons and play to their fear, prejudices and worst, darkest sides to push their agenda of having their narrowminded view of morality dominate public policy.
To do this they will try to raise cultural wedge issues. How? Simple - they pick an issue where the state has endorsed a progressive position that may be slightly ahead of the social development curve and use an extreme example and negative stereotypes that might make some in the mushy middle ground on the issue uncomfortable and then claim that it is going to become the standard to scare that middle ground into picking a side. The transformation of our society to a more open-minded, more progressive one is a slow journey and not everyone travels the road in the direction of progress at the same speed or travels the same distance, so if the religious right and other social regressives can pick off the stragglers and build their numbers, over time they gain enough political clout to throw up roadblock to everyone else's journey and drag more and more people back to the dark ages with them.
The strategy is to divide and conquer, the tactic is to use coded language, innuendo, suggestion and disinformation.
For example: Some people, especially older folks raised in a less open time, are still a bit leery of open homosexuality - a mindset that is fading with each passing year as Canadians get less religious and the laws granting equal rights become more broadly accepted and enforced. (Note: I'm using broad generalizations here, so please, spare me the lecture about how you aren't a homophobe or how everyone is a homophobe or whatever - as far as I'm concerned, if you want to have sex with another consenting adult, do so - it is no one else's business. The public fight over equal rights for homosexuals is merely a convenient example to draw on, the same argument can be made on the fight over fair treatment of people accused of terrorism, women's rights, financial regulation - you name it). The religious right will condemn through various forums - speeches, complaints to government panels, press releases - the most excessive behaviour in the gay community and try to convince Mr. and Mrs. On-the-fence mushy-middle, "we don't know any gay people and we'd rather not talk about sex anyways" that all gays are
Then they drive the wedge by pushing a false choice that fits with their simplistic black-and-white view of the world: You are either in favor of child-rape and cannibalism or you are against homosexuality. A lot of it has to do with framing the question using loaded language about family or morality or even religiosity, but the goal is to force the subject to make an us-and-them distinction and side with the team conducting the campaign.
The strategy is a tough one to counter, especially if the side using it is willing to be blatantly dishonest in repeating the Big Lie until people start to believe it and has lots of money to spend on advertising, publishing books, magazines, newsletters, websites, building an infrastructure of institutions and networks of people who will back each other up and help mainstream the language and ideas of the extremists. (see Dave Neiwert's excellent The Eliminationists for more on this idea of mainstreaming extremist rhetoric).
Almost any social movement uses this strategy. It worked very well for the African-American civil rights movement and the women's suffrage movement and even the abolitionists. For all I know, early man used it to convince other early men to use fire and tools and move out of the caves - "remember how we found the cave bear in that one cave and it ate Ugg? Unless we leave the cave, the bears will eat us all!"
peckerwoods, they managed to achieve a massive lasting change in society.
Before I am accused of the crime of high Broderism for saying "both sides do it" let me point out some key differences in how and why both sides do it. Both sides want to present their goals in the most favorable light, but one side is using this strategy to oppress people and the other is doing it to achieve equality of treatment, opportunity or status. The aim of the strategy is important and goals are not value-neutral or equally valid -- ending slavery is a good and noble goal, filling you own pockets or keeping your boot on the neck of others is not.
I am not saying the end justifies the means either, because there are important differences in the tactics used to pursue this strategy. Klan lynch mobs and violent rednecks existed, you could see them attacking the civil rights marchers on television. Condemning lynch mobs and complaining about the mistreatment of African Americans in the Jim Crow South was telling the truth. Complaining that abortion leads to breast cancer, teen promiscuity and moral degradation is a Big Lie. Complaining that allowing gay marriage somehow damages heterosexual marriages or undermines families is a Big Lie. Complaining that increasing taxes on the top 2% of income earners back up to where they were 20 years ago or enforcing the existing rules governing financial fraud is socialism/communism/fascism or whatever other idiotic idea the teabaggers are misspelling on their signs this week is a Big Lie.
These are important differences - they are the difference between good and evil.
(crossposted from the Woodshed)