GOP tent: How big is too big?

By Kelly Hollowell

The GOP decision to place pro-choice Republicans like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki at the RNC podium this week has many pro-life Republicans feeling betrayed and abandoned.

In response, talking points have been given to the Republican mouthpieces to explain that the Big Tent Party has room for differing views on cultural issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. They also claim that the diversity of these opinions doesn’t change the pro-life position of the party platform or of the candidates running for office.

So, is this a strategic marketing effort of the GOP to expand the base of supporters, or dilution of a traditional value long held by the core constituency of the Republican Party?

On the one hand, who can deny the Republican failure to reach large blocks of women voters, moderates and independents who just can’t stomach the perceived pious overtones of strict anti-abortion laws? These people by and large don’t like abortion. They don’t think it should be used as a form of birth control. They agree third-party criminals should be held accountable for attacks on pregnant women that end the life of a child in the womb. But they don’t think the government has the right to an opinion in the case of rape, incest, birth defect or endangerment to the health and life of the mother. In these latter examples, they trust the would-be mom to make the right decision.

These commonly held views of the center are significant and should not be quickly dismissed by the religious right for at least two reasons. First, no man is all-knowing nor does he possess perfect understanding in all situations. Second, according to the Founding Fathers and the order established by the Constitution, the people are sovereign and their judgment is to be respected. From that perspective, no one corners the market on what is right or wrong without the consent of a plurality of the American people. Together, these arguments support the GOP expanding its base by embracing a people, a view and a compromise on a politically divisive and nationally polarizing issue.

Pro-lifers, on the other hand, will naturally argue against dilution of the core constituency beliefs on cultural issues. They claim any attempt to include those who don’t share their views and values is to follow the fatal path of many once conservative churches in recent years. That is, in an attempt to reach larger numbers of people, they diluted the message of Christ and the Cross to teach “church light” messages of prosperity, goodwill and good works. Most churches choosing that direction become little more than social clubs or simply cease to exist. Similarly, the high-profile involvement of pro-choice Republicans at the convention is viewed by many as dilution and a threat to the party as a whole, even to its very existence.

Additionally, pro-lifers argue abortion laws are a result of judicial activism, not the will of the people. This argument is strongly supported by the recent ban on partial-birth abortion passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush. This law, they argue, reflects the anti-abortion views of the nation but has lost two out of three current challenges in federal district courts due to judicial activism.

Pro-lifers also point out that Republicans for Choice is nothing more than a front group for Planned Parenthood and its ever-advancing agenda. Specifically, on the issue of abortion, pro-lifers argue that even in the cases of rape, incest and birth defect, the life of an unborn child must be protected and preserved. They argue the right to life is inalienable and endowed by God even if under the most hard to understand and difficult of circumstances. As to the health and life of the mother, it should be preserved; but there should never be the intent to take the life of a child.

All this is to say in many a pro-life mind there is no tent big enough to hold these specifically opposed views. So how will the core constituency respond to the GOP as it embraces moderates and independents that are fiscally conservative and strong on defense but also reject traditional moral values?

For now it might be prudent to remember pro-lifers are up against a well-fought, strategically patient and successful 100 year effort of the pro-abort movement that is now thoroughly entrenched in American jurisprudence. That means substantial victory for the pro-life movement will not happen overnight.

The winning agenda may therefore include, at times, strange bedfellows until equally strategic and substantial inroads can prevent judicial activism from overriding the will of the people and the core constituency of the Republic Party further mobilizes their beliefs into effective action. If this doesn’t happen, the only alternative is to abandon the Republican Party. So Republican leaders be warned: “Pro-lifers won’t turncoat to the Dems but neither will they support an unfaithful spouse.”