by James Hitchcock
Recent Elections Demonstrate Pro-Life Majority
November 20, 2002
Doing a postmortem on the recent elections, a journalist titled her article "Losers for the American Way", a pun on the name of a liberal organization called People for the American Way. She pointed out that, in a number of key races, pro-abortion candidates were defeated by pro-lifers, with pro-lifers making solid gains in both houses of Congress.
The immediate practical effect of this is significant, since the one-vote Democratic majority in the Senate has been blocking nominees for judgeships solely because those nominees were pro-life. Already since the election, the nomination of a distinguished pro-life constitutional scholar, Michael McConnell, has gone forward, and the new Republican majority will make it easier to achieve this in the future.
The election results are significant apart from their immediate impact because liberals have been rejecting judicial nominees precisely on the grounds that McConnell and others are "outside the mainstream" of American society, as asserted in the arrogant title "People for the American Way". Now the voters have demonstrated that it is the pro-abortionists who are on the margins.
Obviously abortion was not the only, or even the chief, issue. But in my own state of Missouri, for example, pro-life James Talent defeated pro-abortion Senator Jean Carnahan by a fairly close margin. Polls showed that l9 percent of Missouri voters thought the economy was the major issue, while l7 percent thought it was abortion, and in the latter category voters went 4-l for Talent.
The polls seem to show that the country is split about evenly between those who disapprove of abortion completely and those who accept it under some circumstances, results depending on how the questions are framed. However, polls also show that a solid majority of people would restrict abortion in ways pro-abortionists find unacceptable. (They find any and all restrictions unacceptable.)
Since at least l980 prominent pro-abortion politicians have been going down to defeat over the issue, yet still the idea persists that a pro-life stance is political poison. What accounts for this illusion?
As a commentator has recently suggested, the pro-abortion bias of the media may, paradoxically, contribute to these defeats, since politicians who pay attention to the media get the impression that their position is indeed the mainstream. Neither the media nor the politicians can imagine that most people may disagree with them.
Perhaps we should respect politicians who commit political suicide over a matter of principle. However, I don't think that is really what is involved. The simple truth is that the pro-abortion lobby is so deeply entrenched in the Democratic Party that few Democratic politicians are free to take a pro-life position. If they tried, they would be cut off from party support, even if their stance were popular with the voters. The abortion lobby's response to the recent elections was to demand that Democratic Senators redouble their fight against pro-life judges!
As various people have pointed out, most Democrats do not oppose President Bush over a war with Iraq, nor are most Democrats opposed to capital punishment, which might be a significant divider between liberals and conservatives. But on abortion, with a few marginal exceptions, the party is immovable.
During the recent campaign the party listed on its web site, as a link, the organization Catholics for a Free Choice, a group that has no members but that receives huge sums of money from non-Catholic sources to undermine the pro-life position. When Catholics protested this link, party spokesmen expressed bewilderment as to why anyone should be offended. For many Democrats the right to abortion is simply a self-evident truth, to the point where, until the electorate raps them over the knuckles, they cannot even imagine that anyone disagrees with them.
As the Democrats try to assess what went wrong in 2002, this seems to be an excellent place to start.
James Hitchcock, professor of history at St. Louis University, writes and lectures on contemporary Church matters. His column appears in the diocesan press. Dr. Hitchcock's The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life, Vol. 1 The Odyssey of the Religion Clauses and Vol. II From 'Higher Law' to 'Sectarian Scruples', were released by Princeton University Press September 2, 2004.
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