The old fusionist alliance took social conservatives for granted. The pro-life community, in particular, was long expected to vote straight ticket GOP in national elections with little to show for it; the speed with which Republican officials gave up the fight for marriage in the lead-up to Obergefell was just another reminder that social cons were not in the driver’s seat. Donald Trump took the arrangement at face value, however, and held up his end of the bargain, appointing—and standing by in the midst of controversy, more importantly—the judges who would help overturn Roe.
Now as the Republican party continues to transform in the aftermath of the 2016 election, and the Dobbs decision has returned the cause of life to legislatures, both state and national, the question of where social conservatives in general and pro-life activists in particular fit in a new GOP coalition has returned. Some of the New Right would like to see abortion reduced to a state issue, to let states ask and answer the question of human personhood while they reorganize the American regime. Some of the old establishment would prefer that, too, as we saw on the RNC debate stage last week, kicking hard conversations down the chain. Donors and armchair campaign pragmatists alike wonder if the restriction on the murder of children isn’t a losing issue, and wish presidential candidates would focus on other big stuff, like the rule of law and dismantling the administrative state.
But as my colleague Jude Russo pointed out in his column this week, those causes are, fundamentally, all of a piece with one another, in a country ruled by courts and regulation. Russo writes,
If the pro-life cause is at the mercy of a politicized law enforcement regime, gains in law are not secure. A friendly administration should not be a cause for complacency; if your safety depends on the policeman liking you, you are not in fact safe. You are certainly not free. The struggle to enshrine the right to life for the unborn has an identity of interest with the struggle to revive the ancient liberal principles of rule of law and equality before the law. In our own time, that struggle takes the form of the war on the administrative state—trimming its powers and increasing its accountability to the actually political portion of the state. Popular sovereignty and the primacy of the political are, as things stand, allied causes to the right to life.
Read the whole thing.