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Life Issues

Ross Douthat has a thoughtful post concerning Andrew Bacevich’s endorsement of Barack Obama, challenging Bacevich to make a “more detailed case for why issues of war and peace ought to outweigh the abortion issue for pro-life voters in ’08.” Douthat points out for all the Republicans’ lip service on the abortion issue, twelve years of Republican presidents actually did put the Supreme Court just one vote shy of overturning Roe v. Wade in 1992 (had Robert Bork been confirmed or Anthony Kennedy stuck to his guns, the decision may have fallen). After seven-odd years of another Republican president, we may be just one vote away from overturning Roe once again. Electing Obama, Douthat points out, “is to give up on overturning Roe for at least a decade, probably for two, and possibly for all time.”

This is an argument that must be seriously grappled with by pro-lifers, not simply dismissed as the concerns of a “naif.” Writing in Taki’s Magazine earlier this week, Dan McCarthy did make a detailed case as to why the war should trump abortion. Ideally, McCarthy argues, the right should take a true pro-life position by being against both the war and abortion (or, if you prefer, a true anti-choice position: against both abortion choice and wars of choice).

Having said that, while pro-lifers and other social conservatives are often treated like Republican stepchildren, even they have more to show for their involvement in the GOP than antiwar voters so far have for their votes for Democrats. Rulings by Republican-appointed federal judges, including the disappointing Casey decision reaffirming Roe, increased the number of state-level abortion restrictions passed by mostly Republican legislators. This in turn has contributed to falling abortion rates. The Democrats can’t point to much they’ve done to mitigate the war. Half the Democrats in the Senate voted to invade Iraq; since the Democrats have controlled Congress we’ve gotten the surge, not any drawdown of troops. That Democrat who will end the war is as elusive as that fifth Republican-appointed Supreme Court justice who will overturn Roe.

Antiwar conservatives are a very small group, mostly intellectuals rather than a voting bloc. Conservatives as a whole are more likely to fall into Joseph Bottum’s pro-life, pro-war New Fusionism framework. But there are plenty of Catholic voters, a real swing voting bloc, who oppose both the Iraq war and abortion. How many of them will side with Bacevich and Doug Kmiec rather than the Ross Douthats who vote on the abortion issue?

Personally, I’m skeptical that Obama is going to improve foreign policy or that McCain is going to do very much about Roe (whether that means appointing an anti-Roe Supreme Court majority or doing something really serious, like jurisdiction stripping). So I’ll probably end up voting for one of these bozos. More from Daniel Larison here.

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