They are saying that the next GOP presidential candidate might very well be a pro-abortion Republican who promises not to push that issue and is strong on other issues.
They hope that pro-lifers will “be reasonable,” not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and go along quietly.
Republicans and Democrats in 1980 took radically different approaches to the right to life. Republicans wrote into their party platform that all abortions should be outlawed. Democrats wrote into their party platform that not only should abortion be legal, but families should be forced to pay for others’ abortions through their taxes.
Democratic leaders have been utterly committed to their party platform. But there’s a movement afoot for Republicans to shrug off this plank of the party platform altogether, and give a pro-abortion politician the reins of the party and, they hope, the White House.
In particular, Rudy Giuliani has become a favorite for president of conservative talk-show hosts, and pro-war and tough-on-crime Republicans. He’s also way ahead in polls like Newsweek’s, though it’s anyone guess what such polls mean so early in the process.
The way the pro-Rudy argument goes is this: For the past three decades, social conservatives have had the luxury of insisting on purity in the Republican Party. Their clout was such that any candidate had to undergo a “forced conversion” before running for national office. But 9/11 changed that. Now, extremist Islam and the war on terror are such all-consuming issues, and we can’t be so caught up with abortion anymore.
Since Giuliani is committed to the war on terror and is a great crisis manager with a track record rooting out the gangs of New York, we shouldn’t demand that he be pro-life, but instead we should be willing to make a deal.
Rudy’s deal: He’ll promise not to push the pro-abortion agenda, and he’ll nominate judges in the mold of Samuel Alito and John Roberts. Pro-lifers in the Republican Party in return would support him, but keep insisting that the party stay pro-life, and fight our fiercest pro-life battles at the state level, where they belong.
That seems like a good deal, at first blush. We’re well aware that “forced conversions” to the pro-life fold are far from the ideal. Think of the candidacy of Bob Dole in 1996. And it is true that the fight against judicial tyranny is an immense front in the battle for the right to life. Transforming the courts is a prerequisite to victory elsewhere.
But what dooms the deal from the start is the fact that it totally misunderstands what pro-lifers care about in the first place.
When they ask us to “be reasonable” and go along with a pro-abortion leader, they assume that there is something unreasonable about the pro-life position to start with.
We’re sorry, but we don’t see what is so unreasonable about the right to life. We’ve seen ultrasounds, we’ve named our babies in the womb, we’ve seen women destroyed by abortion. What looks supremely unreasonable to us is that we should trust a leader who not only rejects the right to life but even supports partial-birth abortion, which is more infanticide than abortion.
We also see the downside of Rudy’s deal. If pro-lifers went along, we’d soon find out that a pro-abortion Republican president would no longer preside over a pro-life party. The power a president exerts over his party’s character is nearly absolute. The party is changed in his image. He picks those who run it and, both directly and indirectly, those who enter it.
Thus, the Republicans in the 1980s became Reaganites. The Democrats in the 1990s took on the pragmatic Clintonite mold. Bush’s GOP is no different, as Ross Douthat points out in “It’s His Party” in the March Atlantic Monthly.
A Republican Party led by a pro-abortion politician would become a pro-abortion party. Parents know that, when we make significant exceptions to significant rules, those exceptions themselves become iron-clad rules to our children. It’s the same in a political party. A Republican Party led by Rudy Giuliani would be a party of contempt for the pro-life position, which is to say, contempt for the fundamental right on which all others depend.
Would a pro-abortion president give us a pro-life Supreme Court justice? Maybe he would in his first term. But we’ve seen in the Democratic Party how quickly and completely contempt for the right to life corrupts. Even if a President Giuliani did the right thing for a short time, it’s likely the party that accepted him would do the wrong thing for a long time.
Would his commitment to the war on terror be worth it? The United States has brought the first abortion business to Afghanistan ever. And that happened under a pro-life president. What would a pro-abortion president do?
The bottom line: Republicans have made inroads into the Catholic vote for years because of the pro-life issue. If they put a pro-abortion politician up for president, the gains they’ve built for decades will vanish overnight.