Americans' affirmation of the "right to choose" is a feature of our national identity. No matter where you go or what you're doing, chances are you are confronted with a plethora of choices. Go to the supermarket and you are confronted with a dizzying array of options for each and every product you wish to buy. Seventeen brands of Greek-style yogurt. Forty-five flavors of coffee creamer. Thirty-seven different kinds of peanut butter. The same may be said of cell phone carriers, automobiles, clothing brands ... you name it.
The freedom of "choice" also figures prominently in the political realm, and is generally associated with the liberal or Democratic side of the aisle. Republicans are often painted as cantankerous old curmudgeons who cling blindly to guns, religion, and "the way things used to be done." Their rigidity, we are told, often comes at the expense of "choice." When the rhetoric is peeled away and the issues scrutinized, however, it turns out that conservatives are actually the true champions of choice while liberals tend to oppose it, unless of course the choice in question is the choice to kill your unborn child.
Last week America tuned in as swarms of union workers stormed the Michigan state capitol to protest the passage of landmark "right to work" legislation. Reporters were punched and threats of "blood in the streets" were levied by union representatives outraged by the notion that free individuals should have the right to choose whether or not to join a union. You see, unions and their Democratic cohorts in the House and Senate (and the White House, for that matter) don't support that kind of choice. They believe that when it comes to your work and your money, the government and their favored allies should call the shots. They think you should only have a right to work if you first pay your dues to Big Labor, which in turn lines the coffers of Big Government in the form of generous campaign contributions.
Okay, so maybe Democrats aren't in favor of "choice" when it comes to work, but what about education? Surely they should be in favor of a system that allows parents the right to choose the best education for their children. Unfortunately, no. Turns out that Democrats care more about currying favor with the NEA than they do about ensuring access to quality schools for those children most in need of educational opportunity. Take the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, for example. This program enables inner-city children to use vouchers to escape the District's failing schools and attend quality institutions like Sidwell Friends, where – incidentally – the Obama daughters go to school. Sadly, however, what's good for the presidential goose is not so good for the inner-city gander: President Obama and his cohorts in Congress have worked to kill this program since he took office. When it comes to education, the president and Democrats prefer to make the decisions for the children of the hoi polloi than have parents to make the decisions for themselves. Uncle Sam and the teachers' union have it all under control, thank you very much.
What about religious liberty then? Do liberals support the freedom to choose how you practice your religion in the health care arena? Again, the answer is no. President Obama and his Secretary of Health and Human Services see nothing wrong with limiting religious and economic liberty in the name of mandated free birth control and abortifacients for all.
Which brings us full circle to the one "choice" that is truly sacrosanct to the Left: abortion. Tread on this sacred freedom and you might as well break into the National Archives and light the Declaration of Independence on fire. Suggest that the government might have a legitimate role in safeguarding the God-given liberties of unborn children and you'll be labeled a hateful misogynist who wants to "dictate to women what they do with their own bodies." Nevermind the fact that Big Brother feels perfectly justified in telling us how big our drinks can be, what kind of light bulbs we can buy, where we can and can't smoke a cigarette, etc. ... Heaven forbid we use the force of law to protect the lives of innocents who can't make choices for themselves. That would be crossing the line.
It's true that choice is under attack in America, but not from whom the media and other mainstream formers-of-opinion would have you think. If you want to know who the real enemies of free choice and free thought are in America, look no further than the nearest liberal Democratic representative or Left-leaning think tank.
Ken Connor is an attorney and co-author of Sinful Silence: When Christians Neglect Their Civic Duty. He is also chairman of the Center for a Just Society.
Publication date: December 19, 2012