The Uses & Abuses of the Pro-Life Cause

For as long as I can remember, being pro-life has been a hygiene issue for Republican office seekers, and in particular for those seeking the presidency. In one way or another, they had to affirm that they were some brand of “pro-life,” usually with some kind of compassionate exemptions in cases of rape and incest.

Dutifully, candidates for high office checked the box and affirmed their dedication to the cause. Readily, the professional pro-life activists rallied behind them, and the professional pro-life pundits made their case to the Christian Right. Theologians and pastors explained to their flocks that we had a moral duty not to vote for a candidate who supported abortion, and even a moral duty not to abstain from voting.

Never mind that George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney all belonged to a class of professional politicians dedicated to the same basic goals and principles of the Democratic Party–but with tax cuts! They had checked the pro-life box, and as good Christians, we had a sacred obligation to do our civic duty and vote for the candidate most likely to appoint constitutionalist justices to the Supreme Court. If we balked, we were sternly reminded of the babies who were depending on us.

I can’t be the only one who remembers this, right?

But like so many other things in the Current Year, Donald Trump has ripped the mask off this wing of Conservatism, Inc. as well. It turns out that when the pro-life candidate in the race disagrees with the nominee of the other major party on more than abortion and tax cuts, the old rules don’t apply.

One of the major services that Trump did for the public in this election cycle was to expose the charade of the ruling party and the phony opposition. By playing a game that only a privileged few are allowed to win, Trump upset the apple cart: he exposed  our elections for the pro-wrestling matches that they are by throwing real punches. He began by raising issues that he wasn’t supposed to touch, and went on to call out the approved, establishment politicians for being the weak charlatans that they were.

None of this is supposed to happen, because everyone who is allowed to play this game knows the rules. The punches aren’t supposed to land when you’re all on the same side. But Trump wasn’t on their side. He strolled into the political arena and didn’t like the way the table was set, so he flipped over the table. Our professional political class has been scrambling ever since.

What does this have to do with abortion? By now you’ve probably seen Trump’s exchange on abortion with Hillary Clinton in the third debate. It couldn’t have made the difference between the two candidates more crystal clear: one forthrightly defended partial birth abortion, the other categorically affirmed his intention of appointing justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade and denounced the practice of partial birth abortion in classically Trumpian terms as “terrible,” “not acceptable,” and something “nobody has business doing.” But the way that he said it was even more striking. It was like he didn’t know that polite Republicans are supposed to be apologetic when they talk about abortion. But he neither hemmed nor hawed: he just said it.

Yet today, the scolds who practiced emotional blackmail against Christian conservatives for every election in my political memory are still dead set against us voting for the only person with a shot at the White House who wants to overturn Roe v. Wade. Why? As far as I can tell, from the most idiotic piece of the day, there are two reasons: one, because we don’t believe he’s really pro-life, and two, because even if Trump does appoint pro-life justices to the Court, “any anti-abortion measures will have to overcome the gravitational force of his sleaziness to get anywhere.”

A thousand think-pieces have been written explaining the “conservative” case against Trump, and I’m sure there will be a thousand more before Election Day. And yet I have yet to meet anyone whose antipathy to Trump doesn’t boil down to one of two things: either an abiding sense that their livelihood in the established political system is threatened by the Trumpian movement, or a disdain that verges on hatred for what they perceive to be Trump’s past flashy vulgarity (now turned political showmanship). The latter is the reason people will actually admit to.

Neither of these things is an argument against Trump: one is fear derived from the perception of threat, and the other is an emotional reaction based either in feigned virtue or sincere prissiness.

And yet, I can’t greet the assertion that “we could trust flip-flopping Mitt Romney on abortion but we can’t trust Donald Trump” with anything but gales of laughter. It all boils down to feelings rather than a clear-eyed assessment of the situation. That assessment seems as clear to me as it did in previous elections, which is why I voted for the Republican nominees of the past. But like millions of other conservatives, I just so happen to finally agree with this nominee on all the other issues I care about.

The sad truth is that the pro-life “movement” has become an industry, just like the rest of Conservatism, Inc. That industry would thrive far more under a Clinton presidency than a Trump administration. That’s why they call a liar the man who has released a list of judges from which he promises to draw his appointments. That’s why, strange as it seems, it is principally members of the pro-life cause who are doing all they can to ensure his defeat. As long as there are a minority of pro-life justices on the Supreme Court, the Republican Party has a cattle prod to turn out good-hearted Christian conservative volunteers and voters.

In some ways, keeping the Court from overturning Roe v. Wade is essential for keeping the GOP coalition together. In darker days, before the rise of Trump, I reflected upon all of the worthy, sincere conservative pro-life activists I had known, and realized that the sum total result of all the hours they spent in their lives campaigning for Republican politicians would be nothing more than George Soros receiving tax cuts. It’s in the interests of the GOP and Conservatism, Inc. to keep it that way.

But because Trump is the ultimate outsider (currently fighting an election against both parties, the media, Wall Street, etc.), he doesn’t care about GOP coalitions or milking church-going donors for all they’re worth. Here it is just as it is on the issues of immigration and tradebecause he owes nothing to the elitesthat we might expect him to do what he says he’s going to do for the people.

That’s why they think he’s dangerous. And he is: To them.

About Marjorie Jeffrey

Marjorie Jeffrey is a PhD Candidate in Political Theory and International Relations and a veteran of Conservative, Inc. You can connect with her on Twitter @MarjJeffrey.

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14 responses to “The Uses & Abuses of the Pro-Life Cause”

  1. I totally agree, and it appears that a lot of other Americans do too. Contrary to the media-associated polls, three polls, Dornsife, TIPP and Rasmussen, all show Trump leading by 1-3 points. Incidentally, the TIPP is THE most accurate of all polls. Dornsife, which is conducted by the University of Southern California, has been showing Trump favored for more of the past four or five months. The media has crowned Clinton queen, while they’re all over her in her bed, but voters haven’t. Even if she does win, it’s going to be by a very slim margin.

  2. Excellent. I’m so glad to read this analysis and similar pieces that have exposed the fraudulent “pro-life” position of the Republican Party as the total sham it always was. We could compile a list of the worst hypocrites, but suffice it to say those pundits and politicians who have intoned so-and-so was “insufficiently pro-life” over the decades largely were liars and frauds and have been exposed due to Trump. I have developed tremendous respect for Evangelicals this cycle because they have stood with Trump and against the deceitful political class who used them like prostitutes. For the sake of full disclosure, I’m pro-choice for the first trimester but appalled by late-term abortion, which Clinton and her #NeverTrump sycophants fully support either directly or vicariously. Nonetheless, I always respected the sincere beliefs of others such as yourself and devout Catholics and Evangelicals. You have seen what many of us saw some time ago now.
    While I still hold out some hope Trump will prevail, even if he loses two things will occur. First, “life” issues will be taken off the table permanently as the Supreme Court probably will find a constitutional right to outright infanticide and physician-assisted suicide. Secondly, the sincere people who oppose abortion will realize the solution is not political (this will be the case regardless of the election outcome).
    True Conservatism, Inc., largely is a corporate/military lobbying firm that mouths fealty to positions it secretly abhors. It’s all out there to see now.

  3. Marjorie has clearly identified one of the major problems inside the Grand Old Party as an institution. They are most comfortable as the “loyal opposition” and terrified of actually having to govern and produce results.
    This is particularly true for the professional political class, and the organizations that make a living, in fact a very good living, raising money from lists of issue oriented true believers. Lists they consider cattle in their own barn to be milked every two years, and jealously guarded from poachers.
    About twenty years ago I needed another car to drive. I saved my money, walked on to a car lot owned by a friend, and after some negotiations, paid cash for a very clean, used, Ford Thunderbird that was low miles. I later met the owner of this car lot in a social situation and bragged to some mutual friends I had to be his best customer. I knew what I wanted, a blue Thunderbird, I knew I would buy it from my friend rather than a stranger, I had the cash in my shirt pocket, and once I got a decent price I concluded the transaction quickly and drove out of the dealership with my car. I continued to brag like Donald Trump, I bet he wishes all his customers at the car lot were good for business as I am.
    My friend who owned the car lot smiled, sipped his beer, and said, Dean you are not my best customer. In fact, if all my customers were like you, I could not make a living and would soon be out of business! I was stunned by that statement and asked the dealer to explain why selling cars would be bad for his car lot? That was certainly counterintuitive to me. He explained that a major profit center of his business was lending money, at hefty interest, to purchasers who did not qualify for bank loans. He further explained that his real “best” customers were the ones with $500 or $1,000 to put down on a car he financed, and then defaulted on the loan after a few months. He explained he only paid his repo man $25 to go get the car. He got to keep the down payment and few months of payments, and he got the car back so he could “sell” it over again. He concluded “Dean, because you paid cash, I had very little bargaining power in the price we agreed to. Because you researched the Kelly Blue Book prices on the car, being well informed made you harder to BS. Finally, when you paid cash and drove off the lot, I had made very little profit on the deal, and I just lost some inventory I will have to replace. Believe it or not, I ‘sold’ that car twice, and repossessed it twice, in the year before you bought it and took it off the lot for good. I made a lot more profit on both those repo situations, and I got to keep the car.”
    The Republican Party, and the conservative movement work the same way. My friend was not really in the business of selling people used cars. That’s just what the sign said. He was really in the business of loaning money to people who were probably going to default on those loans, so he could repossess the collateral for those loans.
    The Republican Party runs a political used car lot. The sign out front says we sell freedom, security, free enterprise, and traditional values. What they really do is make money off people who want freedom, security, free enterprise, and traditional values, then cave in to the other party like a Paul Ryan budget deal, and everything we the people voted for disappears like cotton candy. The cotton candy looked good, even tastes sweet, but most of it ends up all over your face, and it is really just mostly air.
    Along came Donald Trump, just like me as a cash purchaser on that car lot. I showed up with more money than the typical purchaser, did not need any financing, and reduced the inventory. Trump showed up, also with his own financing, so he was not beholden to the donor class. Then, worst of all, he wants to actually deliver on promises, and FIX problems. If you make your living as the loyal opposition, delivering on promises, and actually fixing things, is horrible because the elite establishment has never been selling freedom, only promising it, making money on the promise, allowing the Democrats to repo the freedom, so these professional “Republicans” can sell the ephemeral promise to us again in the next election.
    Now that I have bought a steak dinner from Donald Trump, and enjoyed it with a good glass of wine; it will be almost impossible for a worm like Reince Priebus, to sell me political cotton candy (Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Mitt Romney, Juan McCain, ad nauseum, ad infinitum). When Trump actually starts keeping promises, and fixing problems, the professional political class is screwed, and they know it.

    • What a what a good analogy! I’m in the car business and that description of how retail used car sales work is absolutely correct.

    • I didn’t vote for Trump, but you’re right about a lot of this. I remember in the mid ’00s seeing the Wall Street Journal inveigh against “credit snobs” who believed that loans at credit cards should only be issued to those who could afford to pay. Like Elizabeth Warren. It was clear that a. credit, not religion, was the new opium of the people, and b. We were never going to get budget conservatism out of these people. C. Fiscal conservatism now meant “ever lower taxes” and too hell with the budget. We know how all that turned out.

  4. A splendid invective. In the past 15 years it has become undeniably clear that the emphasis is on “Party” in “Republican Party.”

  5. For the GOP, abortion is an issue for campaign funding, nothing more. Who sets the jurisdiction of the federal courts, including SCOTUS? Congress. If Sen Daschle could remove brush clearance in S Dakota from federal court jurisdiction (he did), then any GOP Congress/Presidency, from Reagan to Bush43, could have made abortion illegal and removed it from the jurisdiction of the federal courts. Why didn’t they? It brings in campaign cash and voters. To think the GOP cares about this issue is ignorant.

  6. Yes, Trump’s candidacy has revealed the obvious. But Pat Buchanan’s did earlier and nobody learned the lesson. And even in 1994 there was a revealing fight over the abortion plank in the platform. The usual “big donors” wanted to get rid of it. At the last minute, a conspiracy was formed of seemingly pro-life pundits to help the donors. Bill Bennett, William Kristol, Ralph Reed(!!) of the Christian Coalition were in on it. Columnists like Tom Sowell and Cal Thomas who had attacked abortion rights many times in their columns suddenly changed face and argued that we “shouldn’t impose our religious views on others”, an argument that they had rejected many times in earlier columns. Why? In Kristol’s case, this red-diaper baby is pro-choice at heart. As for the others, their livelihoods were at stake. Sowell has a sinecure with a conservative think-tank and those same ‘big donors’ probably gave him an ultimatum. This would be worth researching.

  7. One of the strongest NeverTrumpers out there is Ben Shapiro. He is also strongly opposed to abortion. Paul Ryan, as Speaker of the House, rammed through a 1.1 TRILLION dollars omnibus that gave the Democrats EVERYTHING they wanted, which included full funding for Planned Parenthood. What did we get? A lift on the crude oil export ban.

    Now during the WI congressional primary, Ryan was facing a challenger. I’ll give you three guesses who Little Ben supported and the first two don’t count.

  8. I have long thought that the wedge issues like abortion were merely tools used by the elite to divide the people. The pro-choice and pro-choice camps help to separate people into either the Democratic or Republican parties and drive them to the polls. The people on both sides are manipulated with fear. As such, reasonable regulation is impossible, as both camps would lose their jobs and the parties would lose an issue.

    This election has been good to clear the air here and help prioritize non-wedge issues.

  9. Well, she’s right. If the GOPe ever won on the social conservative issues that unite the party, the party would no longer have any reason to exist. You can’t unite us flyover proles around tax cuts for the rich, especially not now that the Fortune 500 are the New Left. So the GOPe’s betrayal of its constituents values is a feature, not a glitch. It’s baked into the cake.

  10. You are certainly right about some people in the pro-life movement and most of the political class. Nearly everything they say about Trump besides “He’s a meanie” could be said of Romney and McCain but both were backed by Conservatism Inc.

    I think, though, that the pro-life movement might not be as bad as you claim. National Right to Life, for instance, has this guide on their website They can’t endorse any candidate because of 501c-3 laws, but this is as close to an endorsement of Trump as any non-political non-profit can give. My local and state pro-life organizations link to this same page for information about presidential candidates. They all seem to be making the same calculus you are and taking Trump at his word.