Truth, justice, and the American way!
Unless you are a Republican talking about abortion, in which case, sling those lies and forget about the facts.
The past few weeks have been tough on those of us who believe that what we learned in kindergarten about telling the truth should still apply now that we’ve grown up.
Just yesterday, Texas Senator John Cornyn stood up and lied when speaking in support of S. 1881, a bill that would strip federal funds from Planned Parenthood. Many of his talking points were repeats from the Texas legislature’s sham hearing last week.
It isn’t only Republican politicians, however, who lie with wild abandon when it comes to abortion.
Campaigns & Elections reported on the 2014 Texas Gubernatorial Project, which used “pro-life messaging” as a wedge issue to move voters away from Wendy Davis and toward Greg Abbott.
Does pro-life messaging work as a wedge issue? To find out, we conducted a randomized-controlled experiment testing three different pro-life radio ads attacking Davis … We found something remarkable. The best targets for pro-life messaging were Democratic-leaning women, young voters and Hispanic voters. Exposure to just one pro-life video ad shifted Democratic-leaning women by 10 points away from Davis and toward Abbott.
Honestly? I panicked a bit when I read that.
Then I paused, and considered the source. The project, after all, was paid for by the Texas Right to Life PAC. My concern turned to frustration. This is an organization that, like Republicans in the Texas legislature and the U.S. Senate, never hesitates to lie when it suits their purposes. Would a third party using words like randomized-controlled experiment, which implies a dispassionate, rational approach, follow suit?
I was unable to find recordings of the radio ads, but Evolving Strategies, engaged by the PAC, published the phone scripts they used to test messages while developing the ads. Here’s what they call pro-life messaging:
…we wanted to let you know that Wendy Davis is an extreme liberal who supports abortion on demand at any time, for any reason, all paid for by the Texas taxpayers.
There are some communities that are hit hardest by abortion. Twenty-two Hispanic babies are for every 100 that are born. That’s more than one and a half times the rate for white babies.
But Davis opposes commonsense, popular legislation that would limit late-term abortions after the age when a baby can feel excruciating pain.
Wendy Davis wants our votes, but why should we vote for somebody who doesn’t want our babies?
People who support abortion rights, who believe that a person, not the state, should make these most personal decisions about whether or when to parent, have the facts on our side. We don’t need to lie.
All we need to do is talk calmly, respectfully, and factually. When we do that, more often than not, even people who might not ever opt to terminate a pregnancy say they support safe and legal access to abortion for others.
Republicans are fond of saying that their party and Hispanics share the same values. As the abortion as a wedge issue campaign demonstrates, however, Republican values include lying in order to manipulate voters.
It is up to progressive Texans to live our values on abortion and reproductive justice. Apoyo y respeto. Support and respect. Those are progressive values, and those are the best tools to use against lies and dissembling. It is hard, it takes time, and in the political sphere, it takes ongoing investment, but it is the only way to win.