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Conservative indecisiveness: A life identify crisis?

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted March 21, 2005

Condoleezza RiceI was quoted in the Washington Times as saying if there were a contest between Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice I would swallow hard and vote for Miss Rice because I consider Hillary Clinton such a dangerous person.

I did say that but I do not expect to make the choice. That is because Miss Rice made one of the more absurd statements ever made by a potential candidate for the Presidency. (Miss Rice said she has no plans to run for the Presidency but declined to make a Sherman-like statement.) She said she was "mildly pro-choice" on abortion. She went on to recite a litany of positions, such as support of the Hyde Amendment (prohibition of federal funds), opposition to partial-birth abortion and support for parental notification, which would put her in the pro-life corner.

With all due respect, either abortion is the killing of an unborn child or it is not. If it is the killing of an unborn baby, how can a rational person be mildly in favor of such a horrific act?

I said I did not expect to make the choice because the Republican Party has produced pro-life nominees for President since 1980. Even four years before that the Party adopted a pro-life plank in its platform. Pro-lifers tend to vote in a higher percentage in primary elections and also get themselves elected as delegates to conventions in those states, which hold conventions rather than primaries to choose delegates to the national convention.

Ronald Reagan made the Republican Party the pro-life party. Now all the leaders in both Houses of Congress are pro-life. Most of the 29 GOP Governors are pro-life. It is a moral imperative that at least one of the major parties be pro-life. Putting aside the morality, pro-life candidates have a 5 to 7 percent advantage over pro-abortion candidates in general elections. In some cases, depending on the state, the advantage can be much higher.

In every election there is an effort to get the pro-life plank eliminated from the GOP Platform. It has not worked mainly because the presumptive nominee when the party platform is being drafted always has signaled that he wants that plank included.

And there is always a candidate who runs on the ground that there is a groundswell to demand abortion. The latest to do so was Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who ran in 2000. His was one of the briefest campaigns in the history of Presidential politics. I well recall Specter holding up a chart, which purported to show that 50 percent of Republican voters wanted abortion on demand. Funny how his polling showed that no other candidate's polling showed anything close to it. If there were numerous Republicans who had a pro-abortion point of view they didn't bother to help their champion, Senator Specter.

The Democrats have finally figured out that abortion is an albatross around their political necks. So the new Democratic Party Chairman, former Vermont Governor Howard P. Dean said the party must make room for pro-lifers. That is a far cry from 1992 when then Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey was denied a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention because he was pro-life. Hillary Clinton said pro-lifers and pro-abortion groups should look for common ground. She shocked the abortion crowd by saying so, even though she in no way changed her radical position on abortion. The Democratic Party has tried to clear the deck for pro-life senatorial candidates in both Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. They were successful thanks to the strong arm of Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. However, Rhode Island has a Republican Governor and Rhode Island party officials have not been strong enough to prevent a pro-life/pro-abortion senatorial primary.

While no doubt a majority of GOP voters is pro-life, it could be that pro-lifers could be divided among many candidates to the point that a pro-abortion candidate or mildly pro-abortion candidate could win a plurality of the vote in 2008. Since in most states it is winner-take-all in both primaries and conventions, an abortion sympathizer could win the GOP nomination for President with a plurality.

The party bosses think that pro-lifers would end up voting for the GOP candidate anyway. They are wrong about that. While those of us who have been Republicans for decades might swallow hard and vote for a nominee who is less than desirable, pro-lifers vote for pro-life candidates, period. If faced with two pro-abortion candidates most of them would stay home. The pro-abortion organizations own the Democrat party. That is not likely to change anytime soon. If the Republicans would be stupid enough to nominate a pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage candidate such as Rudy Giuliani, the pro-life vote would surely go to a third party and the election could well be handed to the Democrats.

Since the election there has been much hand wringing on the part of Democrats about what went wrong. Democratic presidential nominee Senator John Kerry (Mass.) has pointed out that with a switch of 60,000 votes in Ohio he would be President. It is not as if Democrats suffered a 49-state landslide as Ronald Reagan inflicted on Walter Mondale. Democrats have enough Senators to threaten to shut down the Senate if Republicans re-instate the 220-year tradition of requiring a simple majority vote to confirm federal judges. In the House, a switch of 17 seats out of 435 seats would put the Democrats back in control. Democrats are much stronger than they are made out to be.

Republicans must decide who they are. If they agree with President Bush that the Party should contribute to a "culture of life" then it will continue being the pro-life party with a pro-life Presidential nominee. If not and they become like the Democrats on the life issue, no doubt voters will choose the genuine article. The best way to bring back the Democrats is for the Republicans to abandon the life issue.

Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.


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