Let me be clear: If I were a Republican strategist, I would be fully on board with focusing this year’s campaigns on all the failed policies of their Democratic opponents.
I would share their determination not to let Democrats use a singular focus on “abortion rights” to distract from the violent crime epidemic, spiraling inflation, the massive human tragedy on the border, the unchecked and dangerous aggressions of our foreign adversaries.
I would not, however, agree with how Republicans are going about that strategy—figuratively, if not literally, recoiling in apparent fright whenever abortion is mentioned, and responding, in effect, “We don’t want to talk about that!”
This does two things, neither of which is helpful to their campaigns.
First, it cedes the field on this issue totally to the pro-abortion absolutists who now run the Democratic Party.
This allows them to misrepresent the recent Supreme Court decision as a national ban on abortion, rather than what it is, a return of the issue to the democratic process.
It allows them to mischaracterize even tepidly pro-life Republicans as “extremists” on the issue, when in fact it has been pro-abortion Democrats advancing the most extreme measures: abortion up to the moment of birth; denial of care for babies born alive if they are disabled or were born following a failed abortion; forcing us all to be complicit in abortions through our tax dollars; and enacting policies designed to drive pro-life pregnancy resource centers out of existence, so women in crisis have no choice other than abortion.
While most Americans do not support these extremes, many are unaware of them, as Democrats and the media disguise their extremism, while Republicans refuse to engage the issue at all.
This GOP strategy of silence also enables Democrats to cast the Supreme Court ruling in human terms, as an attack on “women’s rights.” Republicans, when they talk about it at all, do so solely in the context of “states’ rights”—a legitimate constitutional principle, but an abstraction to most voters.
Sen. Lindsey Graham’s proposed national law restricting abortion after 15 weeks has generated much angst among Republicans and even some pro-lifers. But at least Sen. Graham, by calling for “unborn children” to be included in our “compassion for those who suffer pain,” is focusing some attention on the rights of the other human being involved in abortion: the innocent baby being killed, often with excruciating pain.
The second negative effect of this approach for Republicans is its potential to turn off voters—and not just hard-core pro-abortion voters, who are not going to support Republicans anyway, given the pro-abortion absolutism of the Democrats.
It also has the potential to lose voters—be they pro-life or “pro-choice”—for whom abortion is not the defining issue, but who may be turned off by what they perceive as political cowardice on the part of candidates unwilling to say where they stand on such a compelling moral issue.
And it could even lose some pro-life voters, who have long tired of having their support quietly solicited by candidates who counsel caution before elections, with the caveat that “we have to get into office before we can advance the cause.”
The problem with that, as my former boss, the late, ardently pro-life Nassau County, NY District Attorney Denis Dillon once remarked to me, is that once elected, such calculating politicians often turn their focus immediately to getting re-elected; and so they still don’t want to engage a controversial issue that might hurt their future prospects.
So my unsolicited advice would be for pro-life Republicans to continue focusing on all the critical issues currently confronting our states and nation; and when challenged on the abortion issue, to point out that Democrats are using that issue to distract from all their current policy disasters; and that in any event, it is the Democrats whose abortion policies are extremist.
At the same time, I would counsel pro-lifers to be cognizant of the political realities impacting our pro-life candidates and officials—understanding their need to prioritize other urgent matters, and also understanding the limitations they face trying to advance pro-life initiatives in hostile jurisdictions.
For example, here in New York I am ardently supporting Rep. Lee Zeldin for governor, both for his solid and consistent pro-life record, and because I see him as best equipped to address the many terrible crises currently afflicting our state, from rampant violent crime, to economic hardship, poverty, homelessness and mental illness, to our state government’s culture of corruption.
I do so aware that even his election will offer little hope for any significant change in New York’s radical pro-abortion laws, given the overall political and cultural climate in this state.
I am confident, however, that he will work to protect our pro-life crisis pregnancy centers—and all the mothers and children who depend on their loving care—from the onslaught of the abortion industry and its government enablers determined to shut them down.
That, I think, is a realistic expectation even in a rabidly pro-abortion state—and reason enough for pro-life voters to support Lee Zeldin.