Full or nearly full-page advertisements against Amendment 1 to Tennessee’s Constitution to be voted on in November ran last Sunday in the lead newspapers in each of Tennessee’s four largest metropolitan areas. The advertisement was shocking, but it did provide voters a better understanding of what those opposing the amendment think.
The ad and those who paid for it literally called the state legislature the “Tennessee Taliban,” and by extension, all those who support Amendment 1. But the narrative description of those who support the amendment really took the cake.
In two of the newspapers, the advertisement’s text was accompanied by a picture of a man wearing a turban marked “Tennessee legislature.” He is holding a scroll with the words “Amendment,” and has one foot planted on the shoulder of a prostrate woman in a tank top and bare legs, looking helpless. “Tennessee women” is written on her head.
The picture was certainly inflammatory to all people of goodwill who prefer reasoned debate to name-calling. But the imagery and text of the advertisement made clear the understanding of the advertisement’s sponsor relative to the American political process and constitutional government.
The advertisement’s argument could be summed up as nothing more than the trite expression by liberals that “conservatives” (in this case, pro-life citizens) are “imposing” their values on everyone else. The implication was clear that the pro-life folks are dictatorial and, if necessary, even physically so.
Ironically, the advertisement’s sponsor made clear who the dictatorial parties are in the debate over Amendment 1. The amendment is about using the democratic process created by our republican form of government to allow the people to govern themselves when it comes to how our society will handle the issue of abortion. As I understand it, such a process under the Taliban philosophy of government is a no-no.
The Taliban would have the civil government impose its views on the people it governs; in our form of government, no one imposes their views on anyone. We choose the views by which we will govern or regulate our interactions with one another.
That’s what makes the don’t-impose-your-morality-on-me argument so inane. No one imposes his or her morality about abortion or any other issue on anyone else, and in any event, someone’s morality will always be reflected in the law that we collectively choose to govern us all. So, either no one “imposes” any law or morality on anyone, or else we all do it to each other at different times by means of some law on the books.
The bottom line is that those who were behind the advertisement and, generally speaking, those who oppose the amendment, are fearful of the American political process. They fear that a majority of Tennesseans will not share their view about the taking of an innocent unborn child’s life. They prefer to have five unelected people on the state’s Supreme Court take this issue away from the people.
In a very real sense, running to the courthouse to get a majority of five largely unaccountable people to enshrine your view of a long-running cultural debate into the constitution is more like the imposition of one group’s views on another than those whom they accused of being the “imposers.”
As the lone dissenting justice said in the case that “wrote” abortion into our state constitution, four of five Tennesseans, by virtue of their position on the state Supreme Court, imposed one side’s view of abortion on all those who have another view. And opponents of Amendment 1 want to keep it that way.
It seems that Amendment 1’s opponents prefer a judicial dictatorship to a republican form of government in which free people democratically elect those whom they want to represent their views.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.