The GOP's Abortion Anxiety
The pro-life movement is on a roll. So why are the Republican Party's top guns suddenly so shy on the subject?This has been predicted by many, including yours truly, for more than a year. The overturn of Roe V Wade could be the end of the Republican party as we know it. Over at Running Scared last October I wrote the following:
March 20, 2006 issue - When South Dakota approved a law sharply restricting abortion last week, many pro-life Republicans around the country sounded a loud hallelujah. But at least one very senior Republican did not seem at all eager to join in the chorus. As Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, flew to Memphis to attend the first gathering of potential GOP presidential candidates for 2008, a NEWSWEEK reporter asked him if he had anything to say about the South Dakota law. "No," he said. Did he plan to make a statement on that topic at the Republican gathering in Memphis? "No" was the answer. Would he ever be willing to comment on the topic, other than to say that it's up to the states to make their own choices on abortion? Again, the answer was "no." The look on his face was more expressive. It appeared to ask, "Are you kidding?"
The Republicans now find themselves between a rock and a hard place. The evangelicals see this as the moment they have been waiting for, a time for the promises of the last 25 years to be fulfilled. If Republicans fulfill the promise the evangelicals will start voting their economic interests again or simply not vote at all. At the same time the Republicans will lose the middle; remember a majority of American support Roe VS wade.In November of 2004 I reported on a post by Marshall Wittmann:
Bull Moose thinks that an overreach by the Religious Right could be a serious negative to the Republican Party. A reversal of Roe V Wade would have little actual impact in much of the country but would eliminate the main cultural issue the Republicans have been using the last few years. In addition it could tear the Republican Party itself apart.Fineman I think does correctly point out the the South Dakota law may be too much too early.But, don't think for a moment that the country is prepared for a radical shift in the cultural correlation of forces. For instance, if a Supreme Court actually negated Roe v. Wade, that could potentially be devastating to the elephant. First, it would not outlaw abortion, the ruling would only return the issue to the states where it would be made legal in most of the country. Second, it would energize the Democratic base and force it to build a grass roots network to defend abortion. Third, and most important, it would precipitate a huge split in the Republican Party. The center would no longer hold - social moderates would be at war with the social conservative base of the party.The Moose says bring on the "culture war" it's a war the Republicans will end up losing.
Some of the Republicans' most ardent right-to-lifers are not embracing the South Dakota law. "It could backfire," says Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, if the courts strike it down—a near certainty, since the Supreme Court still lacks the votes to reverse Roe (and Justice John Paul Stevens, widely viewed as the vote that would maintain a 5-4 majority in Roe's favor, does not show signs of slowing down, despite being 85 years old). Virginia Sen. George Allen, a former governor, is firmly anti-abortion. But he told NEWSWEEK that if a similar bill had come through his own state's legislature, he would have vetoed it.The South Dakota law itself is an issue. It is more Draconian than most pre Roe V Wade laws. Another failure by the SC to overturn Roe would be just one more precedent in its favor.