Yin-Yang Republicans face Roe

Here's a question for you, as you wade into the waves of press coverage of the battle for the U.S. Supreme Court and, thus, the moral and cultural dimension of American law. If opposing abortion on demand is the stance of radical conservatives who are out of the mainstream (even if they are Democrats) and defending abortion on demand is the stance of moderates (and even of sane conservatives), then what is the stance of liberals and progressives on this complex issue?

I ask this because it is very hard to find political compromises on this kind of hot-button issue when the principalities and powers of public discourse -- that would be the MSM -- have already decided that the middle ground is occupied.

Stop and think about that: What is the liberal stance on abortion rights? Have you read about it in your local newspaper in the past few days? On the issue of abortion, what is the difference between a faculty-club Democrat and a country-club Republican?

I bring this up because of a Los Angeles Times story -- a "news analysis" actually -- by Peter Wallsten that perfectly describes the message the MSM will deliver to the Republican leadership over and over during the weeks ahead. The headline says it all: "If Ax Falls on Roe, It May Also Split GOP."

Here's the heart of the story:

But the prospect of progress toward overturning Roe -- and the realization that President Bush could have at least two chances to make transformative appointments to the court -- has exposed a disagreement between conservatives who want abortion criminalized and pragmatic Republicans concerned that shifting the issue from the courts to the ballot box would lead to massive GOP losses.

Of particular concern is the party's fate in closely contested battlegrounds such as Ohio, Florida and Michigan, where the resurgence of the abortion issue could alienate moderate voters who have helped Republicans make gains on all levels.

"Smart strategists inside the party don't want the status quo changed," said Tony Fabrizio, chief pollster for the 1996 Republican presidential campaign of Bob Dole.

"This may cause Republicans like Arnold Schwarzenegger -- who are strongly committed to being pro-choice -- to flip or to push for a third-party movement," he added. "If they did outlaw it, it would ultimately turn the Republican Party into a theocratic-based party rather than an ideological party, and the party would necessarily start shedding people."

Now this is not the story where you are going to read about the high cost that Democrat leaders have paid -- especially in the House of Representatives -- for their decision to drive all but a handful of Democrats for Life out of the party.

But Wallsten's point is valid. The Democratic Party knows what it believes about abortion. On this issue, there is absolute truth and the party leadership is willing to defend it. This is a black and white issue. There is no way to compromise. The press affirms the Democratic position on this issue.

It is the Republicans who are the yin-yang "What is truth?" party on the big life issues, the party that is trying to find a way to keep James Dobson and The Terminator in the same tent. And everyone knows -- see this Washington Post story -- that the barbarians will be firing live ammunition in this battle.

This is the game of chicken that Beltway politicos have been anticipating for five years. What would happen if Roe fell and voters were able to cast votes on abortion? I think we know the answer to that: Compromise and moderation, state by state. Basically the same thing that we see happening on gay unions.

The right would not be happy. The left would not be happy. The MSM would be very, very unhappy, because there might actually be a right, center and left to cover. Compromise would be possible.

But right now, there are only radicals and moderates and the action is all on the Republican side of the church aisle. Will George W. Bush knock down the big revival tent? Wallsten writes:

As a candidate, Bush sent plenty of signals that he agreed with that approach, even calling the two men examples of his ideal nominee. During his reelection campaign last fall, the president referred repeatedly to a "culture of life," and he thrilled religious conservatives during a campaign debate when he described the 1857 Dred Scott decision affirming slavery as an example of a bad court opinion. Abortion foes view Roe as the Dred Scott decision of its time, and said after the debate that they saw the reference as a deliberate signal.

But Bush -- aware of the need to attract votes from women and moderates -- has stopped short of endorsing Roe's reversal. Two prominent abortion rights supporters, Schwarzenegger and former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, were given prime speaking roles at last summer's Republican National Convention.

Bush told Danish television last week that although he believed abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape and incest or when a mother's life was at risk, he understood that the nation was not ready for Roe to go away. "I'm a realist as well," Bush said. "I mean, this is an issue that has polarized the American political society. And in order to get good policy in place that protects the life of a child, we're going to have to change hearts."

True, but that is another story, one with a Hollywood dateline.

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