Why Vote for Leftist Republicans?

Recently I’ve been debating with my co-host on a podcast whether American conservatives should have supported the overturning of Roe v. Wade. In my view, Clarence Thomas and the other justices who regarded the 1973 abortion decision as a fraud resting on a nonexistent constitutional right were absolutely correct. Thomas was also correct to see similarities between Roe and Obergefell v. Hodges, the latter decision mandating gay marriage for the entire country. If cultural progressives want to introduce social innovations, let them do so through the various state legislatures. The Supreme Court was not established to inflict on all our states a woke wish list that cannot be implemented through normal legislative means. 

What I did not initially recognize, however, is how hugely popular America’s grotesquely lax abortion laws are—particularly among younger women. The failure of Republicans to support abortion all the way through the third trimester (unlike the more limited abortion laws that operate in most other Western countries) may cost the Republicans big time, particularly among our radicalized female voters. Polls taken as in early August indicate that 73 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 49 consider abortion rights a “very important” issue motivating them to vote. 

At this point, abortion as a voting issue seems to tower even above crime and open borders. In fact, it ranks in electoral importance just behind inflation and gas prices. Contrary to my earlier belief, this wedge issue is benefiting Democratic candidates, who reflect the view of younger women, particularly the ones who attend or attended universities. According to my co-host, it would be best for conservatives or Republicans to take abortion and other cultural issues the Left has captured off the table. We can then move to a more favorable terrain and focus on what works in our favor, like lowering taxes and controlling urban crime. Just look at the electoral success of such “moderate” governors as Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Larry Hogan of Maryland, and Spencer Cox of Utah—all of whom usually stand with the Left on social questions.

I oppose this appeasement plan on several grounds. First, I think it’s a losing game to surrender to the Left on cultural and social questions. Are “conservatives” supposed to acquiesce in chemically changing the gender of elementary school students if the Left takes that stand? Exactly when do we stop making concessions to the other side? I’m not even sure that pursuing this strategy would allow Republicans to control spending, since the other side will demand the necessary funds to pay for the social programs that spring from these positions. Will Republicans be able to oppose those measures without being attacked in the media as racists and sexists? What about opposing giveaway programs to “reeducate” the public about LGBT and abortion rights? There’s no way our accommodationist conservatives would be able to stand their ground on strictly fiscal grounds, without being blasted by the Democrats and the media as homophobes, sexists, and white supremacists. Needless to say, the Left will also come after Republicans who complain about crime as . . . guess what?

Second, why would we think that leftist voting blocs, particularly blacks and feminists, would rally to the GOP if it espoused more fashionable social positions. Odds are these constituents would continue to vote for the party to which they are already attached. It is also the party that would easily raise the ante by pushing for even more radical social positions. Representative Liz Cheney’s (R-Wyo.) delusional relationship with the anti-Trump Left should teach us that these newly found friends are not going to cheer on compliant Republicans once they no longer have use for them. 

In any case the Left prefers to vote for Democrats. Although these voters may occasionally opt for a “moderate” Republican and although it may be impossible for Republicans to elect anyone but RINOs in some parts of the country, let’s not exaggerate the advantage of a general leftward turn for the GOP! Democratic partisans will gladly demonize any Republican who stands in their path, whether he’s named Donald Trump or Mitt Romney. Efforts to accommodate the Left on social questions will bring the Republicans only short-term, sporadic benefits. 

Three, why should social conservatives vote for a party that is defecting to the enemy?  Some of us vote Republican because although that party is nothing to write home about, it does defend our moral principles somewhat better than its opposition. I certainly do not vote Republican because I hope to give more tax breaks to large corporations or because I want to send armies to fight in foreign wars or build more military bases in Louisiana. There is a point at which even those who are voting for the “lesser evil” may decide the choice is no longer worth making. This puts me in mind of what R. L. Dabney, a 19th-century Southern theologian, said about “the conservatism of expediency, and not of sturdy principle.” I’m not sure woke Republicanism could meet even that minimal standard of a “conservatism of expediency.”   



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About Paul Gottfried

Paul Edward Gottfried is the editor of Chronicles. An American paleoconservative philosopher, historian, and columnist, Gottfried is a former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, as well as a Guggenheim recipient.

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