By Nicholas Sanchez
For nearly three decades now, it has become a matter of doctrine that Republican presidential nominees be pro-life. This political orthodoxy was borne of the 1980 nomination of the oft-evoked, greatly-beloved, and highly-imitated Ronald Reagan. It was further cemented when his running mate, George H.W. Bush, a blue-blood from the liberal wing of the Party, announced that he, too, was an uncompromising defender of life—despite the fact he'd previously been resolutely in favor of abortion rights.
As questionable as Bush's "road to Damascus" conversion may seem, he did run as a pro-lifer in his bid for the presidency in 1988, and again four years later. This stance was one of the mitigating factors—according to the ever-helpful mainstream media—that led to his defeat to Bill Clinton in 1992. The hopes amongst mavens in the media was that, four years hence, Republicans would get with the zeitgeist and pick someone (e.g., former Gov. Pete Wilson, R-CA) more amenable to abortion rights.
However, the media's lesson didn't take in 1996, 2000, or 2004: of which, the GOP won two of those three presidential races. Now, in a startling reversal, the Republican Party—the present home of social and religious conservatives—seems to be inching toward anointing as Party leader a mushy-middle candidate, one who favors or is favorable to abortion rights. For proof, look at the top three candidates and the unannounced favorite. They are, respectively, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson.
Rudy Giuliani has proved himself to be a most formidable political figure and tactician, and here reference is not being made to his performance on 9/11 and the days following it. Nay, his credibility as a pol has increased simply by the fact that this thrice-married New Yorker, who is self-professed as pro-gay rights and pro-abortion, and is a lapsed Catholic to boot, maintains a startling lead in a Party wherein southerners, pro-lifers, and evangelicals hold a significant amount sway in the nominating process.
John McCain, meanwhile, has spent the better part of the past decade trying to annoy and legislate against pro-life activists. Putting aside McCain's puerile attacks on the late Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, his McCain-Feingold "campaign-legislation reform" bill—which, as it is put to the High Court, is being picked apart for unconstitutionality—has served little more than to muzzle groups like the Wisconsin Right to Life committee. His certainty as a pro-lifer can further be challenged given his past support of federal funding for fetal tissue research.
Mitt Romney's late entry into the pro-life cause seems contrived and unconvincing—even more so than Bush Sr.'s. When it suited him to run against Ted Kennedy in 1994, he was pro-choice; ditto in his bid for Governor of the Commonwealth in 2002. Now, for 2008, it's not quite so convenient to run as a Massachusetts liberal, so he's "pro-life." Right.
And this brings us to Fred Thompson. In addition to having been one of the leaders of the McCain-Feingold bill—one of his few legislative achievements—he has been described by editorialists in Tennessee and National Review magazine as "pro-choice." In response to a questionnaire from the Christian Coalition, Thompson said he would oppose a constitutional amendment that would protect the sanctity of human life. It would do him well to read the GOP platform sometime, the one he (presumably) wants to run on as the presidential nominee.
The dilemma, then, for pro-lifers is thus: Do they hedge their bets with one of the top-tier candidates, like Romney, and hope for the best? Or would it be more profitable to stick with principle and vote for one of the backbenchers? Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, and Tom Tancredo each are well settled on the question of life issues.
Although, it should be considered that only one in that litany has earned the sobriquet "Dr. No," Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. He's earned this name, in part, because he votes "no" on legislation that is not within the purview of the federal government to deliberate upon, including federal funding of fetal tissue research. What a refreshing concept. In addition, he's chalked up a 0% approval rating from pro-abortion groups such as NARAL.
While a vote for a hitherto little-known congressman from Texas might seem a politically-desperate act, given the "top-tier" choices, these times may well call for desperate actions.
Nicholas Sanchez is a professional fundraiser and conservative activist. After having worked for several years for a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., Mr. Sanchez now resides in Manchester, NH. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .