The Republican Pro-Life Plank, a Philosophical Stance or a Political Stance? Or Both?
We all know it is both, but I ask this question this way because I want to point out a key difference between conservative constitutional philosophy (if you are a true conservative) and moral philosophy (if you are a deep person of faith)…for while you can be both, they are sometimes a little different and you have to put on a different hat to appreciate this difference.
I’ll rush to the bottom line questions now: Can pro-choice advocates be genuine conservatives? (I vote yes.) And if so, have we unfairly shunned them, just as we say they are shunning us? (Maybe.) And is there common constitutional ground on which we can all shake hands, and get back to the task of defeating the Left? (I believe so.)
We’ll see how this goes.
First I want to point out how Roe v Wade threw a monkey wrench into the compatibility of those two notions, the entire constitutional scheme, and also the Republican Party, all in one throw. It’s why we’re in this pickle. The Left designed it, and I think it’s high we quit dancing to their tune.
On the one hand we have a Republican Party that has carried an anti-abortion plank at least since Ronald Reagan took office. On the other hand, since Reagan left office, we’ve seen a schism break out within the party as to whether that plank should be removed, or watered down, ostensibly to make the GOP tent bigger.
Of course, we know there’s more to it that just a bigger tent. The rise of an “Right-to-Life Amendment movement” was perceived by the old guard up-east, urban, country club Republicans (and their children, like Lincoln Chafee) as a bad thing from their particular perch inside the Party; a kind of populism by an upstart group of newly enfranchised southern (read “rural, Christian”) Republicans who had come on board under the sponsorship of the old Moral Majority forged by Rev Falwell and Tim La Haye…most of whom had age-old Democratic Party roots, by the way. You know, Jim Crow. And Bible thumping.
(Please note that everything I’m saying will be about respective political viewpoints, so keep your moral notions in your holster. That’s partly the problem here, fighting political notions with moral positions, and moral positions with political ones.) Suffice it to say that regional and (more often now) class differences separated these two groups from the beginning, on cultural, religious and economic grounds. That’s where it stands today, not just up-east, but across the country; urban vs rural, as I’ve noted here in Virginia. These two factions never did really like one another very much, probably going back to 1856 at least…but being Republicans, they are not amenable to the normal kinds of social and political bribery that have brought so many disparate sectors of the Democrat Party together so they could sit down and pretend to make nice with one another. (Even in disunity we’re more honest then the Democrats.)
Since we’re seeing that Democrat coalition come unraveled now, maybe this is a perfect time for those urbane, pro-choice Republicans and down-home, right-to-lifers to come together and mend a fence that never should have been broken down in the first place…by laying the very intimate politics of class and moral philosophy of life over to one side…and gather around one simple, often ignored (though mentioned here often on RedState) conservative constitutional principle, which had this sorted out pretty well until 1973.
I’m speaking of the 10th Amendment, which, besides staking out territory that belongs exclusively to the state and the people, establishes a cultural “live and let live” boundary, so that the people of Georgia will live, and let the people of New Jersey live likewise. This is indeed how the Founders saw it. And in the context of this on-going argument about abortion, that also included, prior to Roe, the right to live and let die, for every state had the right to decide when and how it was legal to take a life.
As always, it should be the Constitution that separates the wheat from the chaff, for it is here that one gets to prove that 1) he/she is pro-choice (versus pro-abortion) or 2) genuinely a constitutional conservative (versus a one-issue conservative), by agreeing to the notion that people of different states in fact do (should) have the right to decide what’s best for themselves; not the federal government, not some federal judge, and not some priest or preacher, nor the teachings of their respective churches, and certainly not neighboring states.
In order to do this, first we have to go back to Roe and shout out the true constitutional sin of that decision. Pardon me, that sin had nothing to do with killing little babies, for some states already allowed abortion, at least on certain grounds, including two southern states, North Carolina and Mississippi.
What Roe did was override the power of the states to decide this. More specifically, it denied the people of the individual states, as laid out in the 10th Amendment, the power to either 1) prohibit abortion, 2) allow it in some cases (rape, incest) or 3) allow it across the board, as a matter of choice, as New York did. The Court decided we all have to go by the New York rule. Don’t like it? To hellwitcha.
The ancillary, but equally grievous sin of the Court was that it fractured the constitutionally-designed system of balance and checks by having the highest court in the land legislate from the bench, thereby denying any other branch of government the power to overturn it. When the Court acts unconstitutionally, who do you go to to seek relief?
On these counts, all Republicans should be able to agree. This is my cut-off point. You can’t agree with this, then you ain’t a conservative, and shouldn’t be a Republican. On all counts, Roe was a very, very bad decision, which should be reversed. And it made very bad law, an outgrowth of which being that it caused the Republican Party to place in its national platform an issue that should always have been a matter for the states to decide. In other words, there should never have been a national Republican anti-abortion plank. The Devil made them do it. Since 1973, there should have been a Republican anti-Roe plank instead. (I even know Liberals who agree with this.)
I won’t spend much time splitting hairs here between pro-choice (as many urban Republicans and Libertarians claim to be) and pro-abortion, as the Margaret Sanger wing of the Democrat Party has always been. But it’s important, in fact, paramount, to acknowledge those differences, and the need to highlight them, in a future political context. (Below.)
Nor will I spend any time revisiting what the most ardent pro-lifers have to say about the sanctity of life, except that I’m with you. That is my moral philosophical stand, as well. But you (we) are using moral arguments against a political one, and I wonder if you fully understand this? It’s a struggle I’ve been having with friends for over 20 years.
My own conservative constitutional stance, stated here, is that is really shouldn’t be the business of any Christian moralist in Birmingham what a twenty year old girl in Pawtucket is doing about her pregnancy…except maybe to pray for her. I am old enough to know that no one considered it their business back in 1970. Nor in 1960, nor 1950. I also know that the back-alley coat hanger abortions, of Teddy Kennedy-Robert Bork fame, were by and large urban legends. Old World Catholic women had known since the 11th Century who to go to for herbs in order to buy at least a whole year of a flat belly before her husband, Robert the Wagoner, would start wanting her to spit out babies again…in keeping with Church teachings of the day. Small town docs all over the south and midwest were “inducing” early term “miscarriages” since the late 1800s, probably earlier, often for free, and often for the poorest of the poor “because they just couldn’t afford that extra mouth to feed.” Who they answered to was God, and no one else, for after all, according to church teachings, it was His law being broken. What those women couldn’t do then was march into a clinic in Jackson, Tennessee and announce “I want an abortion”. Instead, they had to get on a bus bound for White Plains, New York. Constitutionally, that works for me. We all lived in a kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” world then. And it was probably better then than today; far fewer babies dying, far fewer wrecked, regretful mothers, carrying that guilt to their graves (they almost all do, you know), and far fewer souls burning in whatever fire of hell you’d care to impose…but all of them who were there being there by choice instead of the misguided belief that they’d nothing wrong.
Since 1988 this schism within the Republican Party has descended into an abyss of both ignorance and quite frankly, the worst kind of political dishonesty…which always happens when self-serving demagogues step into the limelight, to lead their children into the light. Only who am I speaking of here? Jerry Falwell or David Brooks? (Actually, I admired Rev Falwell for having stepped back out of the political arena after having stepped in it. He found out that when you hitch your wagon to two horses, one named Morality and the other Politics, the only place that wagon can’t go is straight. So he cut the one horse loose. Good for him. As for Brooks, I can think of nothing to admire about him, but I don’t like snobs and s**theads, so it could just be me.)
Never forget the 30-year-rule and Law of Generations. Today there are more pro-life Christians alive who have never known a world without abortion, than not, never knowing that at one time their daddies and mamas could give a bigger hoot in hell what anyone was doing with their body in Hartford, Connecticut. Likewise, once upon a time not one in ten middle class people in Buffalo knew what the Southern Baptist Church was all about, and could care less. Somehow, I think that is what the Founders had in mind about the 10th Amendment and these personal medical and moral decisions. Let God and the individual states sort it out.
Like I said, I don’t like snobs, even as I think I’m smart enough to qualify as one, at least on certain things, such as the best tater cakes in Lexington, South Carolina. And I don’t like blueberries, as in Susan and Olympia. But their disqualifying constitutional sin is not being Pro-choice, but rather their approval of high taxes, big government, and a willingness to look the other way on virtually every constitutional issue that comes their way…due to a general amiability toward any kind of flattery than could cause milk to curd anywhere else. At least Mary Landrieu dealt in coin of the realm. Maybe being a high-priced whore really is better than a cross-town consort.
On the abortion issue, morally, I line up squarely behind the Church’s teaching. But I have to note, just as with that 11th Century mother who was expected to bear a dozen kids before she finally died at 33, the people have always had personal escape clauses built into God’s laws, which were, shall we say, extra-legal. I’ve known God-fearing mothers who were dead set against it until their 15-year old turned up pregnant from a motor-cyclist who spent the summer at the next farm over. And in states that had miscegenation statutes until the 1960s, almost all southern states acknowledged a de facto right to abortion for certain reasons, whether it was on the books or not. And what county attorney would say they were wrong? What jury would convict them? And who would vote for him next time?
But did you notice what I’ve said, “the Church’s teachings”? Justice Douglas tried to make a secular-based reason for “choice” since he also knew that the Constitution probably, and the Left, most assuredly, would never abide a religiously-based one. He failed, in my view, for he tried to create an immutable right without acknowledging an immutable source. No matter, the Left dropped any real belief in that opinion years ago, and the only time they bring it out is to slam down a God-based counterclaim. But his arguments did lead God-fearing Christians and god-less Pro-choicers (I use the adjective in the strictest sense) off into a world of standing against one another constitutionally where there simply is no basis for it.
In this I see an opportunity. A political, as well as moral, one.
The Coming-Together Plan.
I’ll bet that today there are more Libertarians and Republican Pro-choicers than there are Democrats claiming to be pro-choice (most of whom are actually pro-abortion, and most often, about someone elses womb)…and therein lies a plan, if you ask me. Hear me out.
Beneath the veneer of political justifications for pro-choice offered up to blue state GOP’ers and Libertarians, there is a layer of thin (in my view) humanistic philosophy, i.e, a philosophy based a world without God and without absolutes. “Society can move along quite well without religion, thank you.” (Actually it can’t, but that’s a debate for another time. Right now, I’m trying to convince pro-lifers to see y’all in a better light.) But understand, Pro-lifers or secularists, what I call Don’t-Give-a-damns are citizens, too, even when they were toothless, unhygienic, illiterate layabouts as they most often were 80 years ago. The Constitution makes no distinction between their rights and my own, so my idea of what is and is not murder does not carry any additional weight in the Constitution’s eyes. (You must understand this principle.) As John Adams said, the Constitution was written for a moral and religious people. It inferred that those kinds of people will always far outnumber the combined forces of Don’t Give a Damns and anti-religionists.
Well, that is no longer the case.
That’s where we are now, and to get back to the moral status quo of the constitutional vision, we have to do it by persuasion, within the constitutional framework; i.e the 10th Amendment. Let each state become a test tube, to showcase to the others what their way has to offer. Well, actually, that’s been going on for years, and the moral element espoused by the pro-Life is part of an equation that has proved itself as having the greater survivability and growth potential, in both the constitutional sense and economic sense, and not just in the US, but worldwide. Blue State political regimes in general have failed. Urban politics have failed. Europe has failed. The more community-based, congenial politics of live and let live have succeeded and prospered…so much so that a sizable portion of Connecticut now lives in Virginia. Lebensraum? Gentility? Good manners? Or just the fact that they don’t have some a-hole from Connecticut living next door? Free markets, low taxes, smaller and less intrusive government helps.
Those are the people those Republicans should be targeting, by drawing distinctions between the philosophical tenets of choice (such as they are) versus the much darker tenets of murder with malice aforethought, as the Sangerites truly preach.
As I see it, the Sangerites of the Democrat Party get to bring out those other tenets, the right to choose, when it suits them, without ever having to prove to their own that they really mean it. This is in part because they are always locked in combat with an enemy every one they know has been acculturated to dislike and fear; the Bible-thumbing, slack-jawed knuckle-draggers from Biloxi. Or simple-minded Christians. (They avoid genuine philosophical arguments on this issue like the plague, for they always lead to a place where they have to admit things they really don’t want to admit, even to themselves.)
Many Libertarians and blue state GOP members agree with the Sangerites, but mainly because they don’t like that bunch of Christians either…only more on cultural grounds than anything remotely philosophical.
Well what if the pro-choice GOP turned on the Democrats and said, “Well, we believe in the right to choose, but from your actions (versus your words) we believe you don’t.”? To do this, all they have to do is turn and shake hands with the right-to-lifers over the 10th Amendment notion that it’s the states’ right to decide this issue, and no one else’s, and that they are entitled to their own turf, and on that one issue we are united.
If we could do that, we can turn the abortion tables on the Democrats. Imagine how their political world would turn upside down…by throwing a third plank into the debate…pro-life, pro-choice, and pro-abortion…each with their vocal adherents?
But in the real political world only the pro-choicers can stake this ground out.
The Sangerites have peddled death for years pretending they were only defending a sacred turf, “choice”, which Douglas laid out. But now that the baby boomers who most supported Roe in 1973 are grandparents, that view is on a downward slide. The persuasion factor is favoring pro-Life more and more every year.
By turning “pro-choice” back on the Sangerites millions of pro-choicers will have to make decision by drawing distinctions they’d never had to draw. “Just why do I believe this?” A lot will drop off. A lot will come over, as many, after 30 are having questions already. The idea is to destroy the culture of death by cutting off its head first, the Sangerites.
Some years ago, one of those sons of the Confederacy came to see me, going on about the 10th Amendment. I casually mentioned that the biggest victims of the government these days areblack folks, so, in my opinion, they should be his biggest ally in defeating the common enemy of Big Government. He looked at me curiously and walked away. Too bad. When you force a fellow to a crossroads he has to decide, does he love the Constitution or hate black folks more? The same goes for pro-choicers. By extending the handshake of the 10th, they will define themselves: whether they love the Constitution, or hate Christians more. By there act ye shall know them.
All that is required within the GOP is a return to the constitutionally correct position from the beginning that Roe v Wade should be overturned, and the power returned to the states under the 10th Amendment, then…
And come out fighting.