The race for the Republican presidential nomination resembles a piety test over a single issue: the right to abortion.
The leading spokesmen of the Religious Right, Alan Keyes, and Gary Bauer, have brazenly pledged to outlaw all abortions. The once-promising Steve Forbes has joined them and seems to be campaigning on a “Holier-than-George-Bush” platform, demanding that Bush sign the Republican Party’s pledge against abortion. (George W. Bush and Senator McCain hold the compromise position that abortion should be illegal except in the cases of rape, incest, and danger to the mother’s life. Senator Hatch, whose anti-Clinton/Gore campaign theme dooms him to defeat, advocates tax credits for adoption in order to reduce abortion numbers.)
Not content with sacrificing the rights of all women–and, implicitly, the rights of all men–these candidates have betrayed any claim they may have made to represent the rights of Americans. They have effectively castrated their most important issues, and, ultimately, their chances of winning the presidency.
In denying the right to abortion, they seek to impose Christian morality upon all Americans and entrench the principle of government regulation of private life–all in the name of a non-existent, potential entity.
They claim to be “pro-life”, but the price of this linguistic perversion is the end of freedom. If a woman has no right to decide what to do with her body, then she has no rights at all–and neither have the rest of us.
With their in-fighting and chest-beating over Christian morality, the candidates undercut the importance of their better ideas — crucial, traditional Republican issues–most notably tax cuts.
While all except McCain support tax cuts, they appear to have acceded to the polls that indicate that Americans are less interested in tax cuts than they are in preserving Social Security and Medicare, and/or paying off the government’s debt. “Deprived” of this issue, they have manufactured one.
If Americans really want to save and preserve the welfare state–and, unfortunately, this may well be true–then it is the function of our political leaders to explain the crucial, moral significance of tax cuts, and the moral practicality of ending Social Security and Medicare–not saving them–not follow the bromides of the Left or the hasty opinions of the general public. It is relatively easy to explain that the less a government takes from its citizens, the more they have to spend on their own lives, including retirement and health plans.
The right kind of tax cuts, i.e., an end to the so-called “progressive” system that punishes you for working more efficiently, will even help to pay off the government debt. (When there is an incentive to work harder and make more money, people will do so. The actual volume of tax revenue can increase, while expenditures are reduced, simultaneously eroding the government’s power to regulate your life.)
Simple, isn’t it? And it even works in the realm the candidates value most–public opinion. It is precisely this kind of message that Republicans used to win control of Congress in 1994. (That they betrayed those ideals is properly the cause of much skepticism over whether such a message could be trusted in the future.)
Yet the candidates are locked in a doubly dangerous contest to end abortion; dangerous to their own chances of winning the White House–and more dangerous to us if they do. At present, they are preaching to the converted portion of conservative voters–and the issue plays well. When they have to confront the thinking men and women across the country who are not yet ready to entirely surrender their liberty, it will not be so popular. (And the Democrats will make it an issue.) The religious fervor may even spill over into the congressional races, legitimately scaring voters away, and we will face the specter of a Democratic president and Congress.
Either way, the vote goes on November 7th, the prospects are grim: a Republican with a religious agenda to end abortion, or a Democrat poised to sacrifice us all to the trees or each other.