bear - ingn.1 the manner in which one comports oneself; 2 the act, power, or time of bringing forth offspring or fruit; 3 a machine part in which another part turns [a journal ~]; 4pl. comprehension of one's position, environment, or situation; 5 the act of moving while supporting the weight of something [the ~ of the cross].
I entered full communion with the Catholic church at the Easter Vigil in 1993, when I was a freshman in college. I'd longed to do so through most of high school and didn't feel I could till I'd moved away from home. (That's another story.)
A couple of years after that, I had a second conversion in which I was forced to realize that I could not be simultaneously a believing Catholic and a supporter of legal abortion. (Why it took me so long is another story again. Hint: There were some serious problems in that particular RCIA program.)
My first vote was cast for Clinton, and my sympathies lay with Democrats in general, and I was in particular strongly anti-capital-punishment (still am). So I went through a certain period of gritted-teeth mourning about that. What do you mean there aren't ANY Democrats on this ticket who aren't really strong supporters of abortion? Does this really mean I shouldn't vote for any of them? Even the Soil and Water Commissioner?
I argued with myself about it for a long time, and I read the arguments of Catholics who honestly argued that there were proportionate reasons to vote for candidates despite their support for legal abortion, and I read the arguments of Catholics who honestly argued that the standards for what's "proportionate" have to be very high indeed, and I struggled with it, and ultimately I became convinced that practically nothing else in the current political climate is proportionately serious. I remain sympathetic to people who have not become so convinced, and I acknowledge that greater or more urgent evils could arise, but I'm certain of my own position now. Not really happy about it, but certain.
That was a while ago. For my whole life, of course, the power of people to decide how to regulate abortion, how to protect the baby and how to protect the mother, in their cities, counties, and states has been controlled at the national level by the outcomes of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. There's less variety in approaches than there might have been.
And things tend to line up a certain way. It need not be so, but: Opponents of nationalized abortion policy as it exists, a.k.a. supporters of expanding the variety of approaches to the problem of protecting both the baby and the mother, are usually opponents of abortion as well, and are usually Republicans. Supporters of nationalized abortion policy, a.k.a. supporters of continuing the restriction on finding alternative ways to extend legal protectections to mothers and to children, are usually supporters of abortion or at least of the legal right to abortion, and are usually Democrats.
I don't really thoroughly understand why this is. Why isn't it a little bit more mixed up? Why isn't there a large and vocal bloc of (for example) abortion rights supporters who are also supporters of the right of the people in a state to use legislation to craft an abortion policy that seems right to them? Why are so few Democrats who oppose abortion? I don't get that. I guess part of it has to do with game theory, how people choose to make alliances in different situations. Right now the situation is controlled by RvW and DvB, everywhere in the country, and in that situation people who might otherwise be ideological opponents are lined up on the same side (e.g., libertarians who don't want ANY national abortion policy and social conservatives who would like to see a national ban can both agree to oppose RvW.) But this doesn't explain to me why the anti-abortion candidate in a race is predictably the Republican and the pro-legal-abortion candidate in a race is predictably the Democrat. It does not have to be this way, and yet it is.
So. Where am I going with this?
I find myself voting for a lot of Republicans, and I have been for a while. When I first started, it was hard to do and I didn't much like it. But it has gotten easier. For one thing, as time has gone on (and especially after I had children -- I know not everyone has that reaction, but many do, and I'm one) I've felt less conflicted and more confident about my decision to give so much weight to abortion policy when making up my mind about candidates.
But another reason it's gotten easier? Over the years I've started paying more attention to the content of the arguments of the people I've been voting for, and really trying to hear them out. And a lot of it has made more sense to me than I expected it to, way back when. Perhaps it's just unconscious human nature: I've chosen to constrain my votes in a certain way, and I'd like to feel better about my vote, and letting myself feel convinced by them makes me feel less grumpy, because I can be happy about my vote in a more, oh, I don't know, unalloyed way. And maybe it's just because I'm still not all that comfortable admitting that I've become a "single-issue voter." Yeah, some of that baggage is still with me.
Anyway, my point? If the Democrats had been a little bit more ideologically diverse, they might have kept me. As it is, the longer I spend voting Republican because I feel I ought to, the more I seem to be drawn towards conservative and/or libertarian policies that are unrelated or only marginally related to life issues, and the more I seem to be repelled by many progressive policies.
From the inside, I can report that it certainly seems that the shift in my thinking is the result of being rationally convinced by many of these arguments. And I still hold a number of positions that are generally associated with liberals rather than conservatives (for instance, I still don't like capital punishment), and I still wind up being pissed off at people I vote for from time to time because they violate other principles I hold dear (hello, expanded domestic surveillance? excuses for torture?) so it's not like it's been a universal move to the right. Plus, sometimes the left-right continuum has seemed to spin around beneath me: I'm practically a free-speech absolutist, and efforts to control speech all seem to be coming from the left these days, what's up with that?
But I do think it is fair to acknowledge the possibility that my political positions are at least partly due to a subconscious desire for less cognitive dissonance.
Of course, if it's true for me it's probably true for a lot of people.