Can what has been said ever be unsaid? Republican Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump seems to think so.
In an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews yesterday, Trump called himself “pro-life,” and stated that he would back a ban on abortions if elected. He acknowledged that, faced with a ban, women would turn to “illegal places,” but that if they did, there should be some form of punishment. Ick. You heard it all before. Just watch. If you can:
Then, almost immediately after the interview was published online, Trump released a statement modifying his previous comments. Time reports:
“If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.”
So he said it, then he unsaid it. We cool? No, we not cool.
So there’s this thing called the Overton window, which is the spectrum of political rhetoric that the American people will accept. The real danger with Trump is not merely whether or not he will be elected, but that his comments are moving the Overton window into a dangerous reactionary territory. As he continues to make his racist, classist, and sexist views known, they become more and more popular. We get used to hearing it, it becomes reasonable, it falls within the Overton window.
Do we actually think there will be a 90-foot concrete wall built on the Mexican border? Seems unlikely. But are we now talking about immigration policy like it’s a sitcom where we draw a line down the middle of the bedroom we share with our sibling we dislike and dare them to cross? Heck yes. The Overton window has moved, and that’s the part that really scares me.
In a way, women are already being punished for seeking abortions, in a country where abortion is legal! Waiting periods, invasive ultrasounds, multiple doctor visits, prohibitive costs, mandatory parental consent – all attempting to punish women for seeking an abortion, which is well within their rights under the law of the country.
Not to mention the cultural stigma, clinic protestors, and vigilante pro-life gunmen and clinic bombers. Is there a punishment more severe for seeking an abortion than the threat of death? Trump says he would favor punishment for the providers of abortions, but haven’s many abortion providers have already paid with their lives for supporting women’s perfectly legal choice? Consider the case of the late Dr. George Tiller, who was murdered in his church by an anti-Choice assassin.
Can that which has been said be unsaid? Trump says yes. Overton says no. Violent, dangerous rhetoric remains in the public consciousness. Hopefully, voters will remember this dangerous filp-flopping when they head to the polls.
image via Wikimedia Commons
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