Abandoning Pro-Life Issues Not the GOP Path to Victory

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 9, 2012   |   12:26PM   |   Washington, DC

In the wake of the defeat to pro-abortion President Barack Obama, Republican political consultants are calling on the GOP to abandon pro-life issues. But a pushback has already begun to say that would keep the Republican Party on the road to failure.

Some conservatives argue that social issues led to Romney’s defeat, but they ignore the fact that the pro-life margin has been helpful to every pro-life Republican presidential candidate since Reagan, even in elections where Republicans lost.

They also forget the fact that the campaign was fought not on ground that is favorable to pro-life advocates. Contraception and birth control — wrapped up in this facade about women’s health — were the main points of focus. Polls clearly indicate a majority of voters, even pro-lifers, are not opposed to birth control and contraception. The election never focused, on abortion, on Obama’s out-of-touch pro-abortion voting record.

Had the debate been more focused on issues like his support for taxpayer funding of abortions, his resistance to any limits on abortion, and how his position supporting unlimited abortions without limits is contrary to the views of 85% of Americans, that would have been a winning playing field. What GOP pundits calling for abandoning social issues don’t understand is the abortion battle was fought on a defensive and and not an offensive playing field.

The fact also remains that a majority of Americans are still pro-life. In May, Gallup reported that the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as supporting legalized abortion has dropped to a record low.

“The 41% of Americans who now identify themselves as “pro-choice” is down from 47% last July and is one percentage point below the previous record low in Gallup trends, recorded in May 2009,” the polling firm noted. On the other hand, 51 percent of Americans call themselves pro-life, one percentage point away from the record high.

Austin Ruse, the head of the Catholic pro-life group C-FAM, outlines the debate in a new column at Crisis magazine:

Television and the blogosphere were alive the day after the election with conservative pundits calling for the GOP to forget social issues, to walk away from abortion and marriage, because these issues lost Romney the election.

Big time political consultant Mike Murphy said on MSNBC that the GOP does not know how to appeal beyond its base.

Another GOP big foot consultant, Matthew Dowd, said on CNN that the GOP had to drop the social issues in order to appeal to the Obama coalition of young people and women.

Former Democrat and senior Bush adviser Mark McKenna said he joined the GOP because he was attracted not to the social issues but to George Bush’s innovative thinking on education and that the GOP stance on moral issues is a turn off.

But Ruse says any talk about abortion losing at the polls ignores that it wasn’t pressed much by the Romney campaign. Ruse contends that, although Romney took clear pro-life positions on the issue, he didn’t push them as much as he should have.

Exactly when did Mitt Romney campaign, I mean really campaign on the life issues? What ads did he run?

I might be able to understand these comments if Romney had actually run as a social conservative, but his race was first, last and always about the economy, smaller government, lower taxes, things to warm the cockles of almost any fiscal conservative. But where and when did he actually campaign as a social conservative?

And when it came to the battle with Planned Parenthood, Ruse says Romney didn’t make the case well.

Romney did say he would defund Planned Parenthood but he never said why. He could have pointed out that there are several thousand Title X clinics not connected to Planned Parenthood that do everything Planned Parenthood does except abortions. He could have pointed out that Planned Parenthood raises a billion dollars a year and in time of fiscal crisis perhaps our money is spent better elsewhere. He could have said Planned Parenthood does not do mammograms no matter what they say. He could have said losing federal funding would hardly close Planned Parenthood down. But he didn’t say any of these things.

Ultimately, Ruse says the way to reach the voters the GOP needs most — women, young voters and minorities — is via pro-life issues.

Here’s the thing. Most young people are pro-life. Most young women are pro-life. Most African-Americans are both pro-life and pro-family. These are three of the demographic groups Obama went after and won.

All along there was a war over women and it was fought exclusively by Barack Obama. There was a campaign run on the social issues but it was run exclusively by Barack Obama. Mitt Romney ceded the entire ground of the moral issues to Barack Obama and he ran right over Mitt Romney and his timid advisers.

Other conservative writers appear to agree with Ruse’s take on social issues and the election.

Erick Erickson of Red State, put it this way:

Mitt Romney won about a quarter of the Hispanic vote and a tenth of the black vote. Those numbers may not sound like much, but in close elections they matter.

A sizable portion of those black and hispanic voters voted GOP despite disagreeing with the GOP on fiscal issues. But they are strongly social conservative and could not vote for the party of killing kids and gay marriage. So they voted GOP.

You throw out the social conservatives and you throw out those hispanic and black voters. Further, you make it harder to attract new hispanic voters who happen to be the most socially conservative voters in the country.

Next, you’ll also see a reduction of probably half the existing GOP base. You won’t make that up with Democrats who suddenly think that because their uterus is safe they can now vote Republican. Most of those people don’t like fiscal conservatism either – often though claiming that they do….



In fact, if the GOP really wanted to expand with minorities, it’d keep the social conservatism and throw out the fiscal conservatism.

Conservative writer Matt Lewis also says abandoning pro-life issues is not a way to move forward in victory:

If conservatives want to win, we must broaden our appeal. But that doesn’t mean abandoning our core principles….

The notion that you can hurl trite, if patriotic, red meat and expect the red state masses to carry you over the finish line has been proven false. The public is more informed and sophisticated today, and it’s time Republicans realize that. Conservatism is, of course, a serious intellectual philosophy. It’s time we start acting like it….

It is entirely possible to preserve conservative values and ideas while simultaneously making them more appealing to a changing America.

Lewis is right. We don’t abandon pro-life principles to win elections, we package them better in a way that appeals to the majority of Americans who are pro-life.

The three-legged stool that Reagan campaign on is still the best way forward for the GOP.