White Republicans Vote Down Personhood in Miss.

By Margie Burns

One of the elections Tuesday, Nov. 8, as followers of elections know, resulted in the defeat of a “personhood” amendment to the constitution of Mississippi. Initiative 1 would have added Amendment 26 to the state constitution:

“Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Mississippi: SECTION 1. Article III of the constitution of the state of Mississippi is hereby amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION TO READ: Section 33. Person defined.

As used in this Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” This initiative shall not require any additional revenue for implementation.”

To get a constitutional amendment on the ballot, supporters were required to get 89,285 certified signatures from registered voters spread throughout the state. Over 130,000 signatures were collected, with over 106,000 certified. The Secretary of State’s office held a series of nine public hearings located around the state, and transcripts of the hearings are posted on the SoS web site.

On the web site, the initiative reads, “Should the term “person” be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof?”

Going to the polls on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, Mississippi voters roundly rejected the personhood amendment. Initiative 1 lost by about 56% to 44%. Unofficial returns by county show, furthermore, that the personhood amendment lost not only statewide but around the state. Mississippi has 82 counties. The personhood amendment won 20 of them. Thus the personhood amendment carried fewer counties in Mississippi in 2011 than the 29 Barack Obama carried in 2008.

The political story here is that the personhood amendment was solidly voted down by Republicans. Be it noted that the last time Mississippi went Democratic in a national election was with Jimmy Carter in 1976. Predictably, all 20 counties voting for the personhood amendment also went Republican in 2000, 2004 and 2008. But in 2008, a further 33 Mississippi counties went for John McCain. In 2004 and 2000, a further 37 counties went for George W. Bush. So the personhood amendment lost from 33 to 37 solidly Republican counties, and not just among any Republicans but among Southern white Republicans.

Let’s put the same numbers a different way. The 2011 ‘personhood’ initiative lost 62 Mississippi counties. Of these, 29 voted Democratic in 2008—but 33 voted GOP. In 2000 and 2004, 37 of the same counties voted Republican. Republican-voting counties going against the personhood amendment exceeded the number of Democratic-voting counties going against it. The personhood amendment has conventionally been characterized as too extreme, and the outcome of the Mississippi election thus dismissed.

This thumbnail does not get at the story and leaves out at least two significant components. One is that Initiative 1 undoubtedly failed among GOP women voters. For years now, this writer has noted with bemusement the many women voting Republican even while secretly disagreeing with almost every position held by social conservatives. Reagan, Dole (husband of Elizabeth), and McCain all got votes from female registered Republican voters who no more want to see Roe v. Wade overturned than they want to see all gays forcibly converted to heterosexuality. Continuing the trend, while hard data by gender for the 2011 vote are not available, polling before the election showed a gender gap in support for “personhood.”

So why do the same women vote Republican? Largely, for economic reasons, or for what are perceived to be economic reasons. In Mississippi especially, they unofficially represent the 1%.

Mississippi generally has the worst distribution of wealth and the worst disparities of income and of assets in the nation, except for years when it is outdone by Alabama or by South Carolina.

These are some of the people whom conservative pundit Tucker Carlson accurately described in October 2006 as having “contempt” for evangelicals.

These voters are not waiting around eager to be converted to antiabortionism any more than they are eagerly seeking to become homophobes.

Aside from their inner repugnance to social conservatism, the same women often view the strictures of social conservatives with secret defiance. Just as environmental proposals often have to face the Not In My Back Yard reaction—NIMBY—social proposals often have to face the Oh No You Don’t response. Call it ONYD, or NIMY, for Not In My Home. They might well lean against abortion. Does that mean they won’t use it themselves, if the amniocentesis results come back frightening? Does that really mean they will impose an unwanted pregnancy and early parentage on their own daughters? They might well let the more strident voices carry the discourse, without overt opposition, but silence does not always give assent.

Mississippi had two other ballot initiatives in November. One requires a government-issued photo ID to vote, the other forbids government to seize private property and turn it over to private entities. Both won handily. Both could be construed as protecting something perceived as private — the vote in the first instance, private property including one’s home in the second. This latter was Initiative 31, Eminent Domain: “Initiative #31 would amend the Mississippi Constitution to prohibit state and local government from taking private property by eminent domain and then conveying it to other persons or private businesses for a period of 10 years after acquisition. Exceptions from the prohibition include drainage and levee facilities, roads, bridges, ports, airports, common carriers, and utilities. The prohibition would not apply in certain situations, including public nuisance, structures unfit for human habitation, or abandoned property.”

As said, Initiative 31 won. More NIMBY. The notion that there is widespread voter fraud has by now reliably been shown as false. However, voter ID does have the tendency to help suppress voter turnout. This point raises the other strong likelihood about the defeat of Amendment 26—that GOPers mostly do not want abortion to end in the US. For one thing, its ending would injure many of them directly, as indicated above. But for another thing, if abortion were to be eliminated, how would the GOP attract the votes of the 99%? Would racism and homophobia really be enough? Would evangelicals and other devout Christians really remain wedded to foreign wars and military adventurism? Would the bailouts of Wall Street have been politically feasible without the acquiescence of voters drawn into the pro-Wall-Street-party fold by abortion?

The short answer is no, and Wall Street and K Street both know it.

As of this writing, there is a reasonable probability that almost all of the same counties voting for Initiative 1 in 2011 will vote for Mitt Romney, or whoever becomes the Republican nominee, in 2012. Most of the counties voting against the personhood amendment will also, as of this writing, be voting for him. Real political analysis raises the question why.

Margie Burns is a Texas native who now writes from Washington, D.C. Email margie.burns@verizon.net. See her blog at www.margieburns.com.

From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2011


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