Perhaps understandably, my thoughts this week have tended to be on the issues surrounding life and death.
Like most of you, I read this news yesterday; setting aside such questions as whether or not Pat Robertson still has much influence and whether or not he was motivated by his belief that Islamofacism is the biggest threat America will face in the next four years, there remains the reality that the biggest disappointment for conservative voters in this next election has been that most of the candidates running for the GOP nomination are barely even pretending to care about the social issues, issues like abortion, assisted suicide/euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and the like. There's been a growing pressure on conservative voters to decide that none of these issues really have a political solution, anyway, at least not on the federal level, and that therefore we should be willing and even eager to set our passion for these issues aside in favor of more "realistic" issues like terrorism, health care reform, immigration, education and the like.
Mr. Robertson may or may not agree with that position, but his action reflects that attitude, an attitude that is becoming more and more common. It is an attitude that says, in effect, that esoteric questions about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are all very well and good for philosophical types, but that Americans need to learn to be practical, to understand that in our diverse and pluralistic society everyone's views of those sorts of things are quite likely to vary, to recognize that we're not supposed to impose our morality on the entire country, and to accept the fact that while we may be able to change people's hearts on questions like abortion or ESCR, we shouldn't be trying to change laws to reflect our own narrow sectarian ideas about when life begins or how much legal protection needs to be available at each stage of development.
This, of course, is utter poppycock.
It's very convenient poppycock, though, because it puts our politicians in the position of being able to make the right sort of vague sympathetic noises in our general direction without having to expend any political capital on these issues, or deliver any sort of tangible results that would enshrine in our laws a commitment to the protection of innocent human life from conception to natural death. It also places these issues completely outside the realm of politics, by branding them as entirely too dreamy and idealistic to find real-world solutions, and too dependent on Christianity's definitions concerning the sanctity and value of human existence to appeal to a broader swath of society.
Of course, looking at abortion or ESCR factually doesn't require any dreaminess or idealism--all that's really required is to understand that every abortion, every destruction of every human embryo, ends the life of an innocent human being at the earliest stages of his or her development. And determining that these lives have intrinsic value doesn't depend on Christian teaching, either--but it does depend that we reject the creeping utilitarianism that only views lives as valuable when those lives meet some arbitrary standard of productivity, a view which ultimately puts the lives of all children, born or not, as well as those of the elderly and the handicapped, at risk of random extermination.
Nevertheless, our politicians have all but abandoned the fight to ensure the protection of innocent human life, and it's hard not to hear the sighs of relief beginning to spread over the GOP, as it realizes that it is one presidential nomination away from being able to drop even the tiny lip service and scattered handfuls of pro-life largess they have been expected to dispense (albeit infrequently and with attention all out of proportion to the size and sincerity of these 'gifts') up to now.
Because the Republican Party is not the Party of Life, not anymore. Few Republicans at the national level care anything at all about making significant changes to the laws concerning abortion, or challenging Roe v. Wade (and Doe v. Bolton, etc.). Most Republicans are uncomfortable with "life issues" and are overeager to avoid giving even the slightest impression that they would end all abortions, or even see that as a desirable political outcome. Our current crop of GOP presidential candidates have, in the main, spotty records on the issue of abortion; and the man often touted as the "most pro-life" candidate supports lifting the restrictions on federal funding of ESCR.
The reality is that the GOP took pro-lifers for granted for so many election cycles that they've become cynical and arrogant, believing that we will line up to vote for whomever they nominate, believing that all they have to do is pretend to have some minimal respect for our issues to gain our full-fledged votes and support. Now, in this election cycle, they're ready to stop pretending. They're ready to admit that they don't care about the unborn; they may even be ready to nominate a pro-abortion candidate who doesn't even find partial-birth abortion worthy of a ban (unless by the time of the election he's decided to pretend in that one area). And they are demonstrating the kind of overweening vanity and confidence that shows how little they respect us, for they expect--they are counting on--our votes, on the grounds that we won't, after all, vote for a Democrat.
Pat Robertson has demonstrated what the Christian conservative voter is supposed to do in the next election: hold his conscience, and vote for Giuliani. The GOP is swaggering around, fully expecting that all of us will be ready to be good little quislings and argue ourselves into some kind of faux-moral position that makes support for Giuliani somehow acceptable to us. Some, of course, will do so.
Not me. If Giuliani really does become the Republican Party's nominee for the election of 2008, I stand ready to abort my support for the GOP. Because, after all, if there's no political solution to the terrible problem of abortion on demand, if the politics of poppycock prevail, I see no need to participate in an election where a vote for either candidate is a vote against the unborn.