Last week, when I was prepping the text of Theodore Dalrymple’s then-latest essay for publication at PJM, I headlined it, “Can Congress Make You Buy Broccoli?”, which seemed like the logical choice based on the substance of his thesis, and wrote in the subhead for the homepage, “Can Congress force you to eat certain foods? To buy health insurance? So much for the 1970s mantra of ‘My body, my choice.'” I also Photoshopped a small “Keep Your Laws Off My Body” pin for the homepage, along the lines of this retro item.
A recent post by Jonah Goldberg dovetails perfectly with that sentiment, which was ubiquitous among the feminist left in the 1970s — and now seldom heard by that quarter today in the wake of ObamaCare:
I’m something of a product of my times. In the 1980s and 1990s I heard a lot of putatively honest liberals insist that the one zone of life that was absolutely sacrosanct was our own bodies. The state simply had no business getting involved in “our bodies.” Admittedly, this was mostly the rhetoric of abortion. I still remember Anna Quindlen on one of those Fred Friendly seminars waxing terribly righteous about the absolute sovereignty of a woman’s body. There was some spill-over into such topics as euthanasia and assisted suicide (remember “Whose Life Is It Anyway?”), but the passion and heat was over abortion.
One irony, of course, is that abortion is actually the one area of public policy where there are at least two bodies — and two lives — in question and in conflict. Or at least that is the claim of many.
Flash forward to today and pretty much the entire edifice of liberalism insists that our bodies — what we put into them, how we maintain them — are fair game not just for Congress but for bureaucrats. I know there are a lot of arguments I’m skipping over and exceptions one might make to all this. But at the end of the day, I still have a hard time reconciling yesterday’s passion of the “Keep your laws off my body” crowd with today’s passion for enmeshing everybody (or every body) in a lifetime of legal paperwork and government red tape via such things as a health-insurance mandate and end-of-life counseling. That is unless, it was all smoke and mirrors designed to make the pro-abortion stance sound more highfalutin.
But then, as Victor Davis Hanson also noted recently at the Corner, a lot of old rhetoric from the left has been discarded recently, under the precept of “If We Say It Is, It Is:”
If you had gone to sleep in early 2006 and woken up today, you would learn that the filibuster is no longer a necessary brake on the tyranny of the majority but rather is a fossilized impediment to necessary progressive change. Recess appointments no longer result in “damaged goods” but are necessary protocols to get the talented by ossified ideologues in the Senate. If raising the debt limit beyond $9 trillion was once reckless and proof of a lack of leadership, exceeding $14 trillion is sober and judicious. Iraq is no longer lost, it is our “greatest achievement.” And just as Guantanamo and Predators are no longer constitutional affronts but critical tools against man-made disasters, so too the “fat cat” Bush tax rates ceased being impediments to spreading the wealth and evolved into necessary incentives for economic revival.
And heck, who knows what you’d think if you had gone to sleep in late 1998 and woken up in the spring of 2004. Or in the spring of 2004 and woke up around that time in 2008. It’s like all their ethics, not to mention their support for the Constitution are entirely situational or something.
Or as Glenn Reynolds noted this past summer, during yet another strategic pivot, “Have you noticed how these people are always airbrushing? It’s kind of an admission that their stuff won’t sell if they tell the truth…”