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The Abortion Truce Trap

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We social conservatives are often counseled to not fight on “divisive” social issues as they are presumed to be losers. Take for instance abortion. As early as 1996, a “truce” was declared within the GOP on the subject to soft pedal opposition to the normalization of in utero infanticide. In an article titled GOP Strikes Truce on Abortion Issue, CNN covered the machinations of the pro-abort faction of the GOP to torpedo the pro-life language in the GOP platform even:

Republicans struck a compromise Wednesday on the divisive abortion issue, maintaining their anti-abortion plank while allowing moderates to express their dissent elsewhere in the platform.

Prodded by Bob Dole’s campaign, GOP leaders reached the deal in backroom negotiations that began Tuesday evening. The compromise calls for the views of abortion rights supporters to be listed in an appendix.

More importantly, it appears to have averted a potentially explosive convention floor fight.

“I’m reasonably confident that those of us who are pro-choice will not seek a floor fight because we have been granted the accommodation we sought,” California Gov. Pete Wilson said.

Fiery House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who backed the truce, applauded GOP efforts earlier in the day, saying it’s time for Republicans to become unified.

As is so often the case, the pro-aborts threatened a floor fight damaging to the already dim presidential hopes of Senator Bob Dole unless the platform was changed.

When Mitch Daniels was considering a run for the presidency in 2011, he also proclaimed a truce:

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is seen as a potential 2012 presidential nominee to take on pro-abortion President Barack Obama. But, in an interview with the Weekly Standard, the potential candidate may have put is foot in his mouth by declaring a “truce” on social issues like abortion.

Daniels told the conservative publication the next president “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues.”

“We’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while,” by casting social issues like abortion aside so the next president can focus on fixing the beleaguered economy.

When the perpetually moderate John McCain gave his post mortem on Mitt Romney’s defeat he, too, found the answer to all of the GOP’s problems in a truce on a issue its failed nominee did not campaign on:

Senator John McCain, the former presidential candidate, is facing criticism from pro-life advocates over his call for a truce on abortion.

McCain is under the mistaken notion that the abortion issue cost Republicans the 2012 presidential election and that pro-life advocates should state their views and then be quiet.

“As far as young women are concerned, absolutely, I don’t think anybody like me — I can state my position on abortion but, other than that, leave the issue alone, when we are in the kind of economic situation and, frankly, national-security situation that we’re in,” he said over the weekend. “I would allow people to have those opinions and respect those opinions. I’m proud of my pro-life position and record. But if someone disagrees with me, I respect your views.”

As Maggie Gallagher points out in today’s Washington Post, this self-declared truce on abortion has resulted in Ken Cuccinelli disarming himself while simultaneously being bombarded with hundreds of thousands of dollars in pro-abortion advertising:

The one lesson Republicans probably will not learn from Ken Cuccinelli’s troubled campaign for Virginia governor is the most important: Politically, the “truce strategy” on abortion fails. If it is not abandoned, it will drag down the GOP.

Democratic charges of a Republican “war on women” are predicated on the GOP’s self-imposed truce on social issues: Republican candidates pledge not to run ads on topics such as abortion. When social subjects arise, GOP candidates go

For an example of the truce strategy in action, recall the July 19 debate between Cuccinelli, a Republican, and his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, a man whose position on abortion is far outside the Virginia mainstream.

Debate moderator Judy Woodruff asked Cuccinelli whether he would push for tougher laws on abortion. The state attorney general responded: “I do not expect to use the political capital of the governor’s officeto be moving those pieces of legislation. My focus is on job creation and job growth.” Translation? He doesn’t want to appear to care about the issue enough to govern on it.

There is still time for Cuccinelli to turn things around, but the fact that someone with his conservative credentials speaks this way underscores that there is a conventional wisdom about how candidates ought to address, or avoid, social issues during campaigns. And Cuccinelli’s standing in the race underscores that this approach is dangerous for the GOP.

The truce strategy demoralizes the GOP base and makes it hard for the grass roots to care about Republican candidates. Conservative candidates are advised to deflect or retreat when social issues are raised, and their refusal to speak clearly and hold the line allows Democratic candidates to adopt more extreme positions, energizing their own base and unleashing a flood of money at no political cost. Democrats are confident that their opponents will not make an issue of their positions. Republican candidates’ apparent discomfort discussing such issues makes it look like they have something to hide, confirming to many voters Democratic suggestions that GOP candidates’ positions are extreme.

This is not to say that all of Cuccinelli’s woes are due to this issue, they aren’t, but on an issue that has overwhelming support in Virginia, Cuccinelli has allowed the advocates of abortion on demand portray their position as reasonable and Cuccinelli’s record of policing the RICO-ready abortion industry as profoundly evil.

Why do we avoid hitting the Democrats hard on abortion? This month’s Esquire runs an article titled 13 Things That Define the New American Center. Issue #7 was Abortion

abortion data

Seventy-two percent of the population believes that abortion should be illegal after the first trimester. The test Newt Gingrich used for the Contract With America was that the issue had to have 60% support. Now, I am a member of the 7% myself, but you know if I could get an agreement that abortion was a felony if it was undertaken after the first trimester I’d take it (and then I’d start chipping away at that). Why would we want to declare a truce on something like abortion?

 

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