Inconsistency Sabotages the Peace Movement
Reminder: The Consistent Life Network’s blog is for the airing of a wide variety of views connected to the consistent life ethic. Therefore, the views are those of the author and not necessarily of the organization. Political elections are especially likely to elicit sharply differing perspectives from consistent-lifers.
On the Occasion of the 2016 U.S. Democrat Party Convention
by Rachel MacNair
There are many reasons to think Donald Trump’s electability is low. The alienation he causes is deep, including among conservatives who normally are comfortable voting Republican (see for example columns of Ross Douthat, David Brooks, George Will, and the National Review). Still, as long as he’s on the ballot, Trump winning possible, as polling is showing (though it’s not normally reliable until after Labor Day).
Several endorsers of the Consistent Life Mission Statement have signed on to an open letter entitled “Called to Resist Bigotry,” documenting that we have a candidate who’s far more problematic than usual.
What about Single-Issue Abortion Opponents?
I know from two recent pro-life conferences that many pro-life activists that Trump’s nomination is a harmful turn of events. So why might single-issue pro-lifers still vote for him?
Reason 1: The Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court has become a political football ever since it made a political decision in Roe v. Wade, taking the decision regarding abortion laws away from the state legislatures and taking away the right of the citizenry – including women who’ve had abortions – to petition their legislatures for a redress of their grievances.
Roe was a profound betrayal of democracy. The struggle to restore democratic debate, rather than imposition of top-down policy preferences, by elite judges who are out of touch with the harsh realities of abortion, is not a minor thing. Of course, even having the very right to life of human beings subject to democratic debate is a problem, since it should be a given. But at least that would be an improvement over the current intolerable elitist situation.
Trump knows the Supreme Court justice issue is crucial to a large portion of voters, which is why he’s already released his short list of names he might appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court, ones who may be anti-Roe. And even if he’s unreliable on doing what he said he would – he actually prides himself on being unreliable – at least he might still appoint one of those. And he might fight for their ratification, and not decide to negotiate them away in a deal.
But Clinton can be pretty well counted on to appoint judges that will strengthen Roe for decades.
(Neither candidate, of course, is likely to appoint consistent-life judges, which is what we naturally advocate for, but I’m discussing the reasoning of single-issue voters).
Reason 2: Fear of Clinton
Aside from court appointments, what could happen under Clinton?
- There are many things a president can do to block or water down good legislation.
- She could work hard to promote what from our point of view is bad legislation; she would be in an ideal situation to do so, and her strong advocacy indicates that she’s so inclined.
- Executive orders could be issued or maintained, such as pushing abortion legalization on other countries that accept U.S. aid.
- There have been fears that pro-life voices will be squelched under the idea that they’re “hate speech.”
We’ll be hearing much more of these and similar fears through the course of the election. The fears of what could happen under Clinton are very real.
Reason 3: The Closed Mind of Democrats
Democrats have gotten so they won’t give pro-lifers, including pro-life Democrats, a hearing at all. Many are the times when we can’t even avoid being insulted in the most shocking and unfair terms. Much as what Trump gives may be only lip service, he at least gives that much. Occasionally. Some pro-lifers have a sense that they can meet with him and educate him in a way that’s utterly blocked out for Clinton.
This goes beyond the abortion issue itself. Being closed-minded on any topic is not likely to be healthy.
If Trump Wins?
As usual, abortion defenders would blame pro-lifers for any pro-war and otherwise violent policies that Trump implements. This fits their stereotypes, and it’s a long-standing habit. The exit polls may well back them up on this, for the reasons stated above.
But if progressive people had advocated pro-life principles all these years, then this wouldn’t have happened. Tender-hearted people have been told their concerns for the lives of little babies aren’t welcome in many progressive circles. Therefore, they are told, those concerns must be taken elsewhere. Pro-lifers have been chased off. Not merely people whose only concern is abortion, but pro-life peace advocates have been chased off – see, for instance, how the Mobilization for Survival, supposedly a coalition of groups focused on the arms race, rejected the membership of our predecessor group, Pro-lifers for Survival.
As Mary Meehan put it in a classic 1980 article entitled The Left Has Betrayed the Sanctity of Life:
“If much of the leadership of the pro-life movement is right-wing, that is due largely to the default of the Left. We ‘little people’ who marched against the war and now march against abortion would like to see leaders of the Left speaking out on behalf of the unborn. But we see only a few . . . We are dismayed by their inconsistency. And we are not impressed by arguments that we should work and vote for them because they are good on such issues as food stamps and medical care.”
What if peace and justice advocates had included advocacy for nonviolent solutions for unintended pregnancies? If they had included the well-being of unborn babies, their mothers, families, and communities in their peace-and-justice concerns all along, then the politicians who oppose a peace agenda wouldn’t have been able to gain the foothold they have.
This is what we’ve been saying for years, and is now as urgent as ever: the inconsistency of many peace folks on abortion is causing great damage to other issues of peace and justice.
The solution is to be consistent instead. This is sound strategy on behalf of all peace issues: the more peace activists do this, the quicker we’ll make progress on everything.