Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / January 12, 1998 / 14 Tevet, 5758
Partial-birth abortions and the GOP's future
The "big tent" meets truth in advertising
WHEN THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE MEETS in Palm Springs, Calif., on Thursday, it will consider a resolution to deny RNC funding to candidates who support partial-birth abortions, which the 1996 GOP platform describes as "four-fifths infanticide." To defeat the measure, the usual cliches (big tent, litmus test, slippery slope) have been mobilized.
National Chairman Jim Nicholson sent a letter to all 165 members charging that the resolution pulls the props from the grand ideological tabernacle erected by the late Lee Atwater. "The question before us is whether we should establish a litmus test," Nicholson wrote. "The answer is no."
The question is whether the Republican Party will act in accordance with its declared principles (admittedly, a novel notion) -- in other words, whether its professed values are ever to have more than a pro forma existence.
Tim Lambert, national committeeman from Texas and sponsor of the resolution, notes that his party had no difficulty repudiating David Duke when the ex-Klansman ran for governor of Louisiana as a Republican. Are we less serious about infanticide than racism? Lambert wonders.
It's said the proposal will alienate nominal Republicans like New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. So?
Republican abortion advocates are manifestly unhappy with the pro-life plank in the aforesaid platform. If the Republican Party is to accommodate those at odds with 80 percent of the American people on a question of good and evil, then surely it must retreat here as well.
This isn't about abortion, per se. (Some prominent pro-choicers favor a partial-birth abortion ban.) And it doesn't involve just another controversial political question.
At issue is a matter that divides individuals with a basic concern for life from those who are willing to sanction human suffering ending in death for the sake of dogma or political expediency.
When a bill to outlaw the ghastly procedure was before the House in October, Republicans supported it by a vote of 217 to 8. Rarely has the party been so united.
There are those who believe that party designations should be no more than convenient labels providing vague philosophical descriptions. Others think it would be far healthier for the democratic process if parties offered clear-cut choices, if there were the political equivalent of truth in advertising.
The GOP leadership worries that denying funding on partial-birth abortion would establish a precedent. What's wrong with that?
Let's say one of its candidate for national office announced: "I'm a Republican because I like the party's stand on foreign policy. But I'm also a Great Society liberal. I think individual income taxes should be significantly higher. We need national health care, now! The economy is woefully under-regulated. Mega-deficits, which fuel spending on the poor, are compassionate." Would it be untoward for the party to withhold financial support from such a Republican?
Ah, but I forget. Republicans take economics seriously. Social positions are rhetorical devices to energize religious conservatives every two years.
The resolution would not be an order of expulsion. Whitman and Giuiliani could continue their charade. Those who agree with or are untroubled by their efforts to protect partial-birth abortions (Whitman vetoed a ban, but was overridden by the state legislature) could find other ways to fund them.
The resolution simply says that the national party cares deeply enough about ending a procedure which is an affront to humanity (jamming scissors into the skull of a baby born alive, but for its head, and suctioning out the brains) that it will deny contributions to candidates who insist on defending the outrage to show their lock-step allegiance to the abortion cause.
Lambert told me he doesn't expect his resolution to pass. "I want a debate and a vote. Some of these people (committee members) will find it difficult to go back to the rank-and-file and explain their vote."
Since the end of the Reagan era, the chief emotions engendered by the Republican Party are cynicism and ennui. The GOP majority in Congress has morphed into rabbits cowering in their hutch. The party's last two presidential nominees were severely vision-impaired.
If the Republican Party is to have a future, it will be because its Tim Lamberts prod it to relevance.
1/8/98: IOLTA: the Left's latest scam to crawl into our pockets