May 13, 2008

As someone who originally got engaged in politics because of the Life issue, it might sound strange that I am desperately eager for the issue to be rendered moot. Or at least non-partisan. I am always happy, for instance, when pro-life Democrats win“€”as a good one did recently in my beloved 2nd home, Louisiana. Best of all, he beat Woody Jenkins, the kind of piranha who gives us right-wing nutjobs a bad name. (Imagine Gordon Liddy without the humor”€”no “€œStacked and Packed“€ calendars for Woody.) I know a good bit about Jenkins because one of my friends used to date his daughter. He told me that on the land that surrounded his McMansion, Jenkins used to keep a few head of cattle”€”so the place could qualify as a “€œfarm,”€ avoiding real estate taxes. (I wonder if he applied for agricultural subsidies, too.) Oh, and Woody used his church connections to sign up hundreds of clueless churchgoers as distributors for a network marketing company”€”building a nice little pyramid for himself along the way. But at least Woody was a good Christian, right? My friend rolled his eyes at this question, explaining: “€œI don”€™t know if Woody believes in God. But I know he hates black people.”€ No wonder Jenkins tried his best to paint pro-life Democrat Don Cazayoux in blackface, to look like Jeremiah Wright. I”€™m delighted he failed, and that instead of that plastic Oliver North knock-off, we have one more of what this country really needs”€”a conservative Democrat.

Of course, as others on this site have pointed out, such Democrats once elected tend to “€œgo native”€ and start toeing their party’s mass-murderous line. Still, this doesn”€™t have to happen, and wouldn”€™t happen as often if conservatives weren”€™t so wretchedly tame and partisan. (Remember when National Review used to criticize Reagan from the right? When Rush Limbaugh savaged George Bush I, and offered initial enthusiasm for Pat Buchanan’s run?) It would be a very good thing indeed if pro-lifers and social conservatives sometimes had the option to choose between two different candidates based on… I dunno, considerations such as their character, competence, prudence, judgment, and all those other “€œside”€ issues which our Founders naively thought might come into play in American elections. However, since the Democrats managed their slow but effective purge of social conservatives, and Republicans learned to take “€œvalues voters”€ for granted, this hasn”€™t been an option for voters like me. Each election, I march into the voting booth with a gun to my head, since life and death are at stake.

It’s worse, in a way. Were the gun to my head, I might feel more at liberty to shrug and say “€œShoot!”€ Instead, it’s to the head of a million or so innocent children. To make a grim jest out of this (and if you can”€™t joke about national tragedies what can you joke about?), I”€™ll remind the reader of the famous cover of National Lampoon which read “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine We’ll Kill This Dog.”€ That’s pretty much been the theme of American politics for me since the Democrats drove out the Evangelicals and serious Catholics in the 70s and 80s, replacing them with the likes of Geraldine Ferraro, Barney Frank, and Hillary Clinton.

I”€™ve said it a dozen times, so I won”€™t harp on how miserable a set of choices we face this year. But now I have friends who are emailing me to remind me that I have a “€œduty”€ to vote for John McCain, on the off chance he might just appoint some pro-life justices to the Court. Now I”€™ve written before about why I”€™m skeptical this would happen. Apart from questions about McCain’s actual commitment on the issue, it isn”€™t in the Republican leadership’s self-interest to see the issue of abortion taken out of politics. It’s the carrot that keeps jackasses like me pulling the cart for Halliburton, for the warmongers, cheap labor and open borders maniacs, and all the other groups whose interests dictate dominate what the Republicans actually do when they”€™re wielding power.

Imagine what would happen without the carrot. The donkey might start looking around, and noticing that the party of “€œfiscal conservatism”€ has been living for 8 years on credit cards, running up debts that his grandchildren will have to pay back to China. That the president lied us into a pointless war that we might still be waging in 20 or 30 years, while the next nominee pores over battle maps of the Middle East looking for still more tar babies to tackle. That we face spiraling energy prices and a real environmental crisis from our reckless use of fossil fuels, and the best thing the Republicans can think of is to rape our country’s remaining wilderness to drill for still more oil. (We tried to steal it fair and square, but the Iraqis just didn”€™t cooperate.) That we respond to a natural disaster by warehousing helpless poor people in trailers reeking of formaldehyde, which is giving them cancer”€”all to save a few measly dollars, so we can pour it into Cold War era weapons pointed at a Russia which we”€™re provoking for no good reason. And so on.

So yes, I would very much love to see the carrot taken away, to see the abortion issue returned to the states, and the battle over the sanctity of life fought state by state in legislatures. Beyond saving some unborn lives in “red states,” it would also drain away the resources the Left is currently using to push for gay marriage, affirmative action, and other measures designed to chip away at the bourgeois, Christian America it hates. Even pro-death Republicans should be able to understand this one”€”think of it as a second front. The soldiers Hitler had to use defending Italy and Normandy couldn”€™t be used against the Russians.

But the better reason to hope that the pistol will someday be taken away from that poor dog’s head is that it will free up millions of principled Americans from the grim captivity of single-issue politics. Were abortion not a presidential issue, we could have looked at two men like Al Gore (for instance) and George W. Bush and considered: Which of them seems more civic-minded? More concerned about the common good? Harder-working and morally serious? More competent and cautious?

I remember with bitter shame my own reaction to the denouement of the 2000 election, my desperate hope that Katherine Harris would find more hanging chads, that enough alter kockers had voted for Pat Buchanan by accident… all to make sure we had a pro-life president. Other issues paled to insignificance.

And now in retrospect, I can”€™t help thinking: Would Al Gore have blown off those security briefings about Osama bin Laden? He’s much too anal for that. Gore might not have captured that mass murderer, but he might have intercepted and perhaps prevented 9/11″€”if only because he didn”€™t think of the business of governing as a cynical joke, a chance to give jobs to all his incompetent cronies, and to pack our top foreign policy positions with chicken hawks and pathological liars. Even had those illegal aliens managed to hijack the planes, who out there thinks that Gore would have responded to an attack by Saudis based in Afghanistan by invading… Iraq? Never mind other brilliant post-war moves like dissolving the Iraqi army and handing the country to the Shiites (and thus to Iran), then turning around and threatening war with Iran. No, it takes a mixture of anti-government ideology, “€œgentleman’s C”€ mediocrity, and callous chutzpah to accomplish policies as crazy stupid as Bush and Cheney have pursued”€”and then to “€œSwift-Boat”€ all us lemmings into re-electing them, so they could keep on herding us over the cliff for another four years. I”€™m actually impressed.

On the critical issue of environmental stewardship, whether or not Gore gets every detail right, I can”€™t help admiring his earnest efforts to wake up Americans to the price our progeny will pay for our Humvees and RVs and SUVs. Such farsighted prudence used to motivate conservatives. (Remember when liberals were the reckless, out-of-control, free-spending “€œwhat-the-Hell-do-we-care, let’s-try-it”€ politicians?) Were the abortion issue removed from national politics, we could once again look with an honest eye at which candidate was in fact the better man. In 2000, that decision would otherwise have been obvious. Which is why the Republicans will do their best to make sure we never have such a choice. Instead, they”€™ll appoint more Souters, and Kennedys, and O”€™Connors and (if we let them) more Harriet Myers.

It would take a president who’s a deep-down true believer on this issue”€”a Ron Paul, a Mike Huckabee, even (God help us and millions of innocent Arabs) a Rick Santorum”€”to defy his party’s interests by actually burying Roe v. Wade. It would take someone who loves innocent life as much as John McCain loves war.


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