This is my first diary but one that I will be expanding on in future weeks. I would imagine reactions to this will be harsh and critical, but insight does not come from patting ourselves on the back or galloping happily down the same failed paths. It is important that we find our soul if we are to regain any of the federal branches of government in the next 4 years.
Essentially I have decided that the GOP’s reliance on the religious right for moral and legislative direction is dangerous to long term party growth and affects a number of key policy decisions that have the effect of driving away large constituencies. I will be addressing this hypothesis on a case by case basis, but given the recent anniversary of Roe v. Wade I will be starting with abortion, which is actually on the homepage right now as well.
There are numerous polls available about abortion and there’s a relatively good summary of the last 20 years of polling data from various pollsters that can be found here. The consensus appears to be that a majority, of roughly 60% of Americans, favor abortions being legal in most cases, and if you include Americans who favor them being illegal in some cases the majority grows to around 80%. Furthermore polling data suggests that younger generations and those with college degrees are more in favor of supporting abortion rights than older less educated Americans meaning that if anything this trend will be accelerating over the next decade.
Given that this is how the majority of Americans feel we are doing our party no favors by making it a litmus test for all of our elected officials. While it is true that abortion is supported by the majority of republicans it is not supported by a majority of independents whom we must win over to return to power.
So where does this leave republican policy options concerning abortion? I suggest that our politicians concentrate on supporting programs that reduce the number of abortions that occur in the US rather than the current approach of demagoguery on the issue. A substantial reduction in the total number of abortions that can be linked to republican led initiatives is not a hollow victory, it is a victory for life its self.
For instance it is shown that comprehensive sexual education can reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in teens by up to 60%. Conversely states that have adopted abstinence only programs have seen their teenage pregnancy rates skyrocket with Mississippi’s teenage birth rate now 60% higher than the rest of the country. Clearly young mothers are one of the most likely groups to get an abortion due to their potentially precarious financial position as well as the impact a child can have on their education.
If we can leverage comprehensive sexual education to reduce abortion rates in America we can hold that up as red meat for the base while avoiding alienating potential new voters. There are few things in America as contentious as abortion and we would do well to stop focusing on culture war issues and instead offer pragmatic solutions for the future.
Happily lowering teenage pregnancy rates also has the impact of lowering the number of people enrolled in SCHIP and state funded medical programs like WIC in SC. A reduction in the costs and overhead of these groups is something that we can also use in election cycles to prove our renewed commitment to reducing government cost and decreasing the size of the government while improving its efficiency.
So to summarize by moving away from demagoguery about the legality of abortions we can avoid alienating new voters. We can still please our base by supporting programs that reduce the total number of abortions, and we can reinforce our position that government can be smaller, cheaper, and still effective.
Edit: Some people have been upset by my use of the term “religious right,” I appologize and will adopt whatever terminology is appropriate for describing this group of largely protestant evangelicals.