Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company in New York.
Can I be truly pro-life and Republican? That is the question with which I have been wrestling.
Let me start by saying that this is not a political post in the classic sense. I like to write political posts because politics is the front line of the culture war. Politics is where we keep the barbarians outside the gate as best we can, but this is not that kind of post. Let me also say that I have no firm conclusion to my opening question. In this post I am thinking out loud, letting you know what I struggle with in the hopes that someone maybe has an answer or even an approach to an answer that can help settle this question in my mind.
I know that no matter how I look at this, many people will tell me that I am looking at it the wrong way. I accept that. But that said, I have distilled my thinking down to a few points that I think are relevant. I am sure there are more relevant points, but this is where I am at.
Supporting the Democrat party is impossible for me, life is just too important and the Democrat party is committed heart and soul to abortion on demand. So they are out.
So for me that leaves either the Republican party, a third party, or becoming an independent one-issue voter. It is a purity thing. I would love to have a party that is 100% committed to life AND has broad general support. This, unfortunately, is not an option.
I have been giving this question much thought: Is it better to stay within the Republican party and try to reform it from within, knowing that by doing so I will be associated with their miserable failures on life issues, or do I remove myself from the party? Of course, I can still vote for Republican candidates when they support life, but I can do so only in the general elections, not in the primaries or in local politics. By doing so, I forgo my limited ability to help shape the Republican party.
Those who live in countries with parliamentary systems do not face the same dilemma. In those systems, it is possible to have a party that cannot achieve a majority, but still have influence because of the frequent need to form coalitions. You can have a purely pro-life party that might, in theory, be able to extract promises for pro-life action as a condition of helping to form a governing coalition. But this is not the case in the American system.
As everyone knows, the American system is a winner take all system that, by default, results in a two-party system. In order to achieve a majority, parties must be broad based. That leaves pro-lifers in the unenviable position of being only a faction among other factions with the framework of a large party. And truth be told, some of the other factions have much power and little regard for the pro-life faction.
Dedicated pro-lifers within the Republican party have often been marginalized and their achievements on the federal level are few and far between. (And that is being generous.)
There is also another important distinction to be made here. It is almost like there are two Republican parties, one on the local and state level, and one on the federal level.
Truth be told, a lot has been achieved on the state level in the cause of life. We have seen legislatures and executives around the country make great strides recently enacting limits on abortion, sonogram laws, and de-funding Planned Parenthood to name a few. Almost without exception, these advances are the result of members of the local Republican party.
Yet we know that so much of these efforts, while important and good, are just working around the edges of the problem. This is because what states can achieve on the great issue of the day is limited because abortion was wrongly federalized by judicial fiat almost 40 years ago. So much of what needs to achieved, needs to be achieved on the federal level. Unfortunately, Republicans at the federal level are not unified on this topic, and as a result, almost nothing has been achieved.
So this is the unfortunate lay of the land, and it brings me back to my question. Is it better to stay within a party in hopes of reforming it and cajoling it toward a more consistent life ethic over a long period of time, knowing that in doing so that I support a party that will often abandon life for some modern notion of real-politik? Can I align myself and ally myself with a party that will give support to candidates that are diametrically opposed to all that I believe just to achieve the majority necessary in a two-party system on the slim hope that something good for life will come of it? Or must I say never. I cannot be a member of a party that will sometimes support pro-abortion politicians, even knowing this might result in a majority for a party completely committed to abortion.
In the past, I have always come down on the side of ‘it’s better to be in than out.’ But I must admit that given the recent unholy failures of Republicans to stand up for life at the federal level, I question the efficacy of my former strategy.
Can I be a Republican and be truly pro-life? I just don’t know.