Abortion and the 2010 Elections

It is a sincerely regrettable fact that less than three weeks after a monumental election for the GOP we have found it necessary to repeatedly engage in fratricide with some of our whilom coalition partners. However, some of some of our libertarian brethren have been feeling their oats since the election and have taken to throwing around wild and unsupported ipse dixits about how they won the election all by their lonesome and if the GOP wants to win in 2012 it better throw all the ugsome social conservatives under the bus where they belong. It is important to realize that they brought the fight to us; social conservatives did not stand up after the election and loudly proclaim 2010 as a referendum on abortion and declare that everyone who wants to talk about the flat tax or social security reform should sit down and shut up.


We have already addressed that this contention is completely unsupported by, you know, facts. Erick has also written a great piece about the folly of the argument as a philosophical matter. I think it is necessary to point out, however, that the suggestion that social issues did not play a role in the GOP’s victories this year is also completely untrue.

What libertarians conveniently forget is that abortion – particularly taxpayer funding of abortion – was a huge issue in the fight over Obamacare. In fact, it threatened to derail the entire legislation and a number of blue dogs insisted on language (which came to be known as the Stupak Amendment) to protect their backside in a number of districts where they knew taxpayer funding of abortion (which is broadly opposed nationwide) would not ultimately cost them their jobs. However, when the Stupak Amendment threatened to unravel the Democrats’ reconciliation end-run around the filibuster, the White House applied massive pressure to the Blue Dogs and they caved.

Pro-life organizations such as the Susan B. Anthony List and Americans United for Life pounced, attacking the Blue Dogs with multi-million dollar ad campaigns, billboards targeting vulnerable democrats for their vote in favor of taxpayer-funded abortion, grassroots tours, and radio ads. Ultimately, 15 of the 20 Democrats targeted by the Susan B. Anthony List lost and 11 of the 12 Democrats targeted by Americans United for Life lost (as a side note, I would encourage pro-life conservatives to consider either organization for donations if you want to donate to effective pro-life activism. The NRLC crapped the bed on the Obamacare bill, and SBA List and AUL got it right).


The point, however, is that to suggest that abortion played no role in GOP victories is deeply dishonest. It’s just as dishonest as viewing the elections as vindication of hardcore libertarianism. Politics is a complicated business and although everyone likes to pretend that elections went a certain way because voters across the nation suddenly believe in all their issues, it’s seldom true. Although abortion without a doubt was not the biggest issue on election day, there is no doubt that it made a measurable difference in a number of key races, and that social conservative activists played a key role – as they always do – in Republican victory.


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