Libraries will be written trying to explain why Donald Trump won last November. The reasons were many but one of the key factors that drove Evangelicals and Roman Catholics to overlook Donald Trump’s many, many moral failings was the issue of abortion. In an election that had two moral cripples locked in a death struggle, the bright line for many came down to Hillary Clinton’s advocacy for anywhere-anytime abortion and Donald Trump’s new found enthusiasm for the pro-life agenda. It became critical because even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, she lost in a handful of key areas dominated by what used to be a solid Democrat bloc in a way that implies abortion was the reason. That reason for her loss has become so obvious that hardcore Democrats are urging the party reconsider its support of abortion. And they have done so in the New York Times: To Win Again, Democrats Must Stop Being the Abortion Party.
When I came to this country from Ireland some 45 years ago, a cousin, here 15 years before, advised me that Catholics vote Democratic. Having grown up in the Irish Republic, I was well disposed to Republican Party principles like local autonomy and limited government. Yet a commitment to social justice, so central to my faith, seemed better represented by the Democratic Party. I followed my cousin’s good counsel.
But once-solid Catholic support for Democrats has steadily eroded. This was due at least in part to the shift by many American Catholic bishops from emphasizing social issues (peace, the economy) to engaging in the culture wars (abortion, gay marriage). Along the way, many Catholics came to view the Democrats as unconditionally supporting abortion.
This is true. I find myself very much at odds with the root-hog-or-die mentality of a lot of my nominal political allies. The actual adults that I hear spouting Ayn Rand as a serious political philosopher are never extremely successful people, if she’d named a novel after them it would be “Lilliput Shrugged.” I can show you nations that have bounced back from depression and bankruptcy, but not a single one that has recovered from moral rot. What has kept me a loyal Republican voter for decades is the bright line Reagan laid down when the GOP placed a pro-life plank in its 1980 platform:
The first appearance of the abortion issue represents a party very much split between business-oriented moderates and religious conservatives: Abortion “is undoubtedly a moral and personal issue” on which Republicans disagree, the 1976 plank says.
Four years later, the issue has been settled: The GOP seeks a constitutional amendment protecting “the right to life for unborn children.” By 1992, the platform includes a call to appoint judges who oppose abortion.
When reading the next part, keep in mind that the writer, Thomas Groome, a laicized priest who now teaches Catholic theology, is a fundamentally evil man who has devoted his professional life to attempting to destroy orthodox Catholicism (hence his shot a the American bishops who, in his view, are “engaging in culture wars”).
Last year’s election was a watershed in this evolution. Hillary Clinton lost the overall Catholic vote by seven points — after President Obama had won it in the previous two elections. She lost the white Catholic vote by 23 points. In heavily Catholic states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, she lost by a hair — the last by less than 1 percent. A handful more of Catholic votes per parish in those states would have won her the election.
Her defeat is all the more remarkable considering that Mrs. Clinton shared many Catholic social values. By contrast, Mr. Trump’s disrespect for women, his racism, sexism and xenophobia should have discouraged conscientious Catholics from voting for him. So why did they? Certainly his promises to rebuild manufacturing and his tough talk on terrorism were factors. But for many traditional Catholic voters, Mrs. Clinton’s unqualified support for abortion rights — and Mr. Trump’s opposition (and promise to nominate anti-abortion Supreme Court justices) — were tipping points.
In its directive, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops make clear that American Catholics do not need to be single-issue voters. The bishops say that while Catholics may not vote for a candidate because that candidate favors abortion, they can vote for a candidate in spite of such a stance, based on the totality of his views. Yet despite that leeway, abortion continues to trigger the deepest moral concern for many traditional Catholics, including me.
Though it is difficult to credit Groome’s newfound opposition to abortion he is right that abortion is opposed by bishops who, in every other way, are dyed-in-the-wool Democrats. And this opposition has made most Catholic parishes steadfast in opposition to abortion. Then he comes to the crux of the problem:
Amid Mr. Trump’s dysfunction as president, Democrats may have a chance to reclaim their Catholic base in the 2018 midterm elections. By tradition and by our church’s teaching on social justice, many Catholics could readily return to voting reliably Democratic. But for this to happen, their moral concerns regarding abortion must get a hearing within the party, rather than being summarily dismissed. How might that happen?
Groome goes on to offer some small-ball things like acknowledging there is a moral dimension to child-murder, making adoption easier, and improving access to birth control. At no point does he actually present an argument for limiting the act of abortion. And that is the philosophical problem that Democrats face on the issue which makes otherwise seemingly sane elderly white women claim a baby isn’t a baby until it pops out of the womb with the consent of the mother. The whole choice argument is specious nonsense. If “choice” and “body autonomy” were really choices then Democrats wouldn’t be making a big deal about women who choose to stay in abusive relationships and they would be in favor of prostitution and drug use. The real issue is that once they agree that abortion can be forbidden at any point they no longer have a defensible fallback position. The science that established the benighted trimester system is woefully outdated. And, philosophically, there is no reason why a viable fetus is more deserving of life than a non-viable fetus. Their human nature is immutable.
Poll after poll shows that younger people are less in favor of abortion than the elderly harpies who were of childbearing age when Roe was decided. That pro-life ethos is going to force the Democrats to either open their party to pro-life people or they are going to be in for a very hard time where the only thing that can save them is the incompetence of the GOP. So they really aren’t in a lot of danger…