The Spectacle Blog

Republicans and Roe

By on 4.3.08 | 4:24PM

Ross Douthat once again makes a strong argument as to why pro-lifers should want the next president to be a Republican. Any Democratic president will knowingly nominate only pro-Roe jurists to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court. An even nominally pro-life Republican president will nominate at least some anti-Roe justices and President McCain may have the opportunity to create an anti-Roe majority on the Supreme Court if just a single pro-Roe justice retires. Douthat stacks the deck a bit by assuming the next Democratic president will necessarily get two terms, that John Roberts and Samuel Alito would definitely vote to overturn Roe, and that a Democratic Senate won't be an obstacle to a nominee who isn't at least Roe-ambiguous, but his basic point is correct: Each pro-choice Democratic president makes Roe's reversal more difficult and therefore less likely.

Tom Piatak makes the strongest argument for why pro-lifers should be discontented with, and even distrustful of, the GOP: "Would economic conservatives have loyally supported the GOP for 28 years, if during that time the Republicans had failed to enact a single tax cut and the official to whom Republicans insisted on deferring on tax policy never wanted to make a decision on tax cuts one way or the other?" One could just as easily ask whether Cold War hawks would have stayed in the GOP for decades waiting for a Republican president to eventually begin an arms buildup against the Soviets. Many libertarian-leaning conservatives are already bolting the party after just eight years of big-domestic-spending compassionate conservatism. What other major GOP faction, much less the party's largest single voting bloc, would be satisfied with such thin gruel?

It is true that some pro-life goals are a.) difficult for the elected branches of government to achieve and b.) controversial or even unpopular, preventing any successful political party from realizing them. But part of this has to do with the way the GOP and organized social conservatives have gone about trying to accomplish those goals. Conservatives should have been promoting jurisdiction stripping years ago on uncontroversial issues, like deleting "under God" from the pledge of allegiance, or issues the Court hadn't decided on yet, like same-sex marriage, rather than constitutional amendents and national abortion bans. Had they done so, an abortion jurisdiction-stripping bill might be no more politically suicidal than appointing an anti-Roe majority to the Supreme Court.

On the other hand, President McCain would veto most pro-abortion bills passed by a Democratic Congress, some of them untrivial. And I agree with Douthat that antiwar conservatives who are hoping that a Democratic president will fundamentally change U.S. foreign policy are engaged in more wishful thinking than the most optimistic pro-lifer.

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