If you follow political news--and I don't blame you if you don't!--it looks like there's a roughly one-in-three chance that Rudy Giuliani will be the Republican presidential nominee in the 2008 presidential race.
This will put Catholics and other pro-life, pro-family voters into a terrible situation. Do we vote for Mr. Giuliani on the grounds that at least his party is pro-life? Do we consider, even for a millisecond, voting for the Democrat? (My personal answer: No.) Or do we vote for a third-party pro-life candidate, knowing that the Democrat may win if there's a mass exodus of pro-life voters from the GOP?
In answering this question, I think it's interesting to consider a bit of the history of the Republican Party.
The Republican Party arose in 1854. It was made up of a diverse group of people who had some differences in their politics, but they were united around a powerful issue: slavery. They didn't want slavery to spread throughout the United States, particularly in the new territories, and they were reacting in anger to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed settlers in the new territories to decide for themselves whether or not the territories would be free or slave states. Though the supporters of the Kansas-Nebraska Act may deserve to be considered the ideological forefathers of today's pro-choice movement, this Act was a repeal of the Missouri Compromise of 1820 in all but name, and those who didn't want to see slavery spread any farther in America were incensed enough about it to form their own, new political party.
Their first presidential candidate, John C. Fremont, lost. Their second presidential candidate was a man named Abraham Lincoln.
I think as the 2008 election approaches, the question Catholic voters--and others who share our values--should be asking ourselves is not which candidate we should support, or to what degree we'd be willing to 'hold our noses and vote for X.' I think we should be asking ourselves if the time for pragmatism and political expediency is over, if the time for a new beginning is at hand.
The people who feared the rise of powerful slave interests in 1854 knew that they had reached such a time. They knew that further compromise, further attempts to tolerate slavery would result in an America where slavery was legal from sea to shining sea. They were willing to pay the price of temporary loss and setback in order to gain the possibility of future action that would keep the stain of slavery from blotting out all that was good about the American experiment. Some of them may even have envisioned the day when slavery would no longer exist in America; whatever the case, they were willing to act to change the course of history--and change it they did.
Are we their descendants? Can we see the threat to freedom posed by the continued spread of the culture of death? Are we willing to stand now, to insist that those of us who don't believe in abortions shouldn't have to pay for them via our taxes? Are we ready to complain loudly about the violations of religious liberty that occur when church organizations must pay for abortifacient contraception, when pharmacists must fill abortifacient prescriptions or lose their licenses, when in a few years Catholic nursing homes may have to throw open their doors to the kind of doctors who believe in ending the suffering of their patients by ending the lives of those patients? Are we going to defend our children against this culture, when it seeks to indoctrinate them with the message that, as we're only animals anyway, they might as well be handed copulation instructions in kindergarten, condoms in the fifth grade, and easy access to abortion (no parental consent required!) by the time they're thirteen? Are we going to look the other way as more Terri Schiavos arise, as the euthanasia of the handicapped stops being a source of outrage and starts to be sadly commonplace?
If the Republican Party really does nominate Rudy Giuliani as its presidential candidate, the mantle of Lincoln will have slipped away from them forever.
And if that day comes, will we have the courage to put Lincoln's mantle on our shoulders?