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Congratulations Brown

January 20, 2010

First, I would like to write my own congratulations to Scott Brown. Whatever else that can be said, it was quite an accomplishment for him to win in Massachusetts. Obviously there were many factors involved in this, and the arguments will go back and forth as to what they were.

Second, I would like to say that it is understandable, and acceptable, for individual voters to follow their prudential reason to vote for a candidate they thought was better. Whether or not that one agrees with their choice, one should be able to see that prudential reason was used to justify it. It is a part of what Vox Nova has been about since the beginning: to acknowledge the role of prudential reason when engaging politics. No candidate is perfect, and from a Catholic standpoint, all the candidates in Massachusetts had serious flaws. This can be shown by the fact that both Brown and Coakley were pro-choice, and have worked to strengthen the pro-choice cause in their own ways (Brown, for example, supported laws that lengthened the distance from which pro-lifers would have to be from clinics at their protests).

But now, I would like to ask a serious question. What happened to all the pro-life advocacy groups? It is one thing to suggest people can make prudential decisions, it is another for groups founded on the issue of life to give direct support to candidates whose policies are completely contrary to the pro-life cause. Any advocacy group which supports a candidate directly in contradiction to their advocacy has been compromised. What happened? When and how did  many of the pro-life movement become compromised? Can those pro-life groups which, as a group, promoted and supported Brown be taken seriously again?

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99 Comments
  1. January 20, 2010 5:20 am

    “Brown, on the other hand, despite not being opposed to abortion, has the endorsement of pro-life groups in the Bay State,” As Kathryn Jean Lopez said.

    Again, how can this be? If the groups were about life, how can they endorse someone who is not pro-life and show that they have lost their essence as a group for life?

    This is not to say individuals and people cannot do so for prudential reasons. The issue is how one is to accept an advocacy group which endorses someone whose position is contrary to their own. There has been all kinds of talk about groups with the name Catholic in it as not being Catholic.

    I think many groups with the claim of being Pro-Life must now being fake pro-lifers. Again, we are talking about the group and their advocacy. This is not about private individuals making decisions based upon how they reason out their ideals in a given election. This is about how groups reason out decisions to act contrary to their advocacy policies.

  2. January 20, 2010 5:25 am

    In the interest of fairness, there are some pro-lifers who reject the GOP logic of this out there too. But your point is to be reckoned with by those who do not.

    • January 20, 2010 5:32 am

      Sam

      Yes, I am not saying all pro-lifers supported Brown, nor that as individuals, they could not. The issue is the advocacy groups who endorsed him- – that is to me the big contradiction.

  3. Steve permalink
    January 20, 2010 7:13 am

    I think you’re trying to make a distinction without a difference. I don’t claim to possess first hand knowledge as to the reasons why these groups supported Brown, but their reasons for support are likely the same reasons as individuals. Namely, Brown is considered to be more pro-life than Coakley (which, admittedly, isn’t saying much as it would be hard to imagine someone being more pro-abortion than Coakley,) Brown likely wouldn’t oppose pro-life appointments to the courts where Coakley would, he supports laws which may restrict abortion such as parental notification, etc, etc.

    • January 20, 2010 7:25 am

      Steve

      There is a big difference: promotion of an individual candidate by a political organization, no matter what prudential reasons they use, should at least be done by someone who follows the organization’s principles. If they do not, the organization should either say “we cannot support anyone” or recommend someone who they could, even if the recommendation has no chance in winning. As long as the pro-life cause is willing to cooperate with pro-choicers, then their arguments against others doing so completely vanishes. The organization should be about the promotion of its values and ideals, while individuals then decide in their own private individual actions how they apply. But when an organization can say “no need to follow our principles in selecting our candidate” it says that the organization has lost its principles.

      • January 20, 2010 7:37 am

        Steve

        To go further; if someone said they would only vote for a pro-life candidate and then votes for someone who is pro-choice, what does that say about their insistence? So, of course it could also apply to individuals, depending upon how they reason things out in their prudence. But the concern is with what it means to be pro-life; according to those pro-life groups which supported Brown, it means pro-choice is now an approved option.

  4. January 20, 2010 8:00 am

    Have any of the pro-life groups that endorsed Scott Brown argued in the past that you many never cooperate with pro-abortion candidates?

  5. Steve permalink
    January 20, 2010 8:34 am

    Henry:

    The highest principle of most pro-life organizations is to limit and eventually end abortion. Your reasoning assumes that pro-life organizations’ principles dictate that they can only support purely pro-life candidates, even if supporting those candidates harms the pro-life position politically. It’s a wrong assumption. Now, you may question the wisdom of taking such an approach, and the argument may have merit, but it isn’t reasonable to inject your idea of what their principles should be then decry pro-life organizations as hypocrites for not following your principles.

    • January 20, 2010 8:37 am

      Steve

      So if a pro-life organization said they supported Obama because they believe his health care plans would best end abortion, it’s ok? While I agree with people making prudential decisions so that they vote according to those they think will end up the best, it is quite different to vote for someone on prudential decisions, and another to actively support and promote someone as an organization, if their positions are contrary to the essence of your organization. A pro-life organization should only support candidates for life; a Catholic organization should only support candidates which meet all moral qualifications for Catholics. Anything less than this, and then the organization becomes a tool for other interests – which is what we have here, I am afraid.

  6. phosphorious permalink
    January 20, 2010 8:52 am

    Apparently conservatives hate health care reform more than they love the unborn.

    I have stopped trying to understand conservatives.

  7. Kurt permalink
    January 20, 2010 8:53 am

    The real news story is the death of social conservatism in the GOP, and the ascent of a populist semi-libertarianism. The “tea-party” element is quite diverse in their views on abortion (except when it can be linked to an anti-government issues such as taxpayer funding). No doubnt that the Right to Life Mocvement acted as a god “team player” in the conservative coalition in the past. But its standing on the team is now way down. The GOP is nominating pro-abortion candidates in many of the hotly contested races, not just in Mass.

    That being said, A Brown victory kills off Stupak and makes the Senate language most likely. Too bad, because I think Bart could have otherwise won the day.

  8. David Nickol permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:10 am

    Apparently conservatives hate health care reform more than they love the unborn.

    phosphorius,

    Here are a couple of excerpts from the Massachusetts Citizens for Life website:

    Each and every one of you can be so proud! You got with Scott before anyone else and never took your eye off the prize! I heard Pat Buchanan say today what we have been saying all along, that we have literally saved this country.

    Envision us all at the March for Life with our signs. One I had thought of: “MA = 41st vote”. If you have any ideas for signs, please let me know. I can also see everyone from all over the country, at the top of Capitol Hill, turning left to the Senate to go in and demand that Scott Brown be seated now before there are any more health care votes.

    The MCFL PAC has been working since last September to elect the candidate it describes as a “pro-life vote in the Senate” and the “vote that will defeat the health care bill”

    If you read what seems to me a quite reasonable article by Phil Lawler that MCFL links to, it is very clear that Scott Brown is far from “pro-life.” He may be the least objectionable candidate from the pro-life point of view, but that is far from being “a pro-life vote in the Senate.”

    The whole thing does seem to be largely about opposition to the current health care reform bills.

  9. Steve permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:17 am

    Henry

    Well, yes. In principle, if Obama’s health care plan would end abortion then that would be a very good reason to support it. Practically speaking however, it won’t end abortion, and could arguably increase abortion, so the wisdom of such a position would be suspect. Don’t get me wrong, in essence I agree with you. But in political reality if we take the all-or-nothing position, we usually end up with nothing. In an alternate reality where all Catholics vote as Catholics, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. But in this reality sometimes we have to make decisions to try to save a few lives as opposed to saving no lives. You may say that the wisdom of this thinking is counter-productive in the long run, and I may even agree with you, but it’s a politically tactical decision, not philosophical. I guess all I’m trying to say is that it’s not as cut-and-dry in the trenches as you have tried to portray here.

    • January 20, 2010 9:23 am

      Steve

      One could argue, in all likelihood, pro-lifers choosing pro-choicers as the pro-life candidates to support as their pro-life pick will end with more abortion, because it means no side thinks pro-life organizations need to be courted anymore. In this way, it only weakens them, in the same way calling Pepsi “Coke” at a restaurant weakens the brand name and association with it. Indeed, giving support to someone who has already worked against life is indicative of how far the pro-life movement has fallen. The point is: once it finds itself accepting this position of finding which pro-choice candidate to accept, is it really a pro-life organization anymore? I don’t think so.

  10. phosphorious permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:21 am

    If you read what seems to me a quite reasonable article by Phil Lawler that MCFL links to, it is very clear that Scott Brown is far from “pro-life.” He may be the least objectionable candidate from the pro-life point of view, but that is far from being “a pro-life vote in the Senate.”

    The whole thing does seem to be largely about opposition to the current health care reform bills.

    Right. Being only mildly pro-abortion is fine, as long as you are hysterically against health care reform.

    Whereas being enthusiastically pro-torture was, if I recall correctly, was fine, as long as you were also anti-abortion.

    If there is a recognizably “pro-life” position in there, I can’t see it.

    It’s probably about time that Christians. . . and Catholics. . . started admitting that Christinaity in America is a tool of the GOP.

  11. Steve permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:31 am

    Henry

    Yes, I agree. But on the other hand, one could also argue that if pro-lifers only support purely pro-life candidates then only pro-abortion candidates will be elected. It’s a conundrum that many, and I, struggle with.

  12. phosphorious permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:31 am

    I find it very odd to hear conservative Catholics now recommending prudence when dealing with pro-abortion candidates.

    Four years ago prudence was a dirty word.

  13. Zak permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:36 am

    Kurt,
    How does Brown’s victory make the Senate language more likely. Do you think Pelosi has the votes in the House to pass the Senate bill?

  14. phosphorious permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:38 am

    It’s a conundrum that many, and I, struggle with.

    Really? A struggle?

    When Doug Kmiec made the same argument. . . but in favor of a democrat. . . I don’t recall conservatives using the word “conundrum” to describe it.

  15. David Nickol permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:40 am

    But in this reality sometimes we have to make decisions to try to save a few lives as opposed to saving no lives.

    Steve,

    The issue, it seems to me, is that Massachusetts Citizens for Life didn’t present Scott Brown as the most acceptable (or least objectionable) candidate for pro-lifers. They presented him as “a pro-life vote in the Senate” (patently false). The also presented him as the “41st vote,” which has to do with health care reform, not abortion. And they also criticized Coakley for statements she made about whether or not al-Qaeda was in Afghanistan.

    As I quoted above, their victory message on the front page of their website says, ” I heard Pat Buchanan say today what we have been saying all along, that we have literally saved this country.” Clearly they don’t believe they have saved the country by helping elect someone who is not quite as pro-choice as his opponent, but still pro-choice. It just doesn’t look like abortion was that significant a factor. You don’t jump for joy and claim you have saved the country when you elect the lesser of two pro-choice evils.

  16. Steve permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:43 am

    Is liberal Catholics’ snarkiness a new thing?

    • January 20, 2010 9:51 am

      Steve

      Define “liberal.” If you mean classical liberalism, which is what American democracy is about, then I think it always had a play in the system — look to Adams vs Jefferson and the kind of snarkiness you could find there! But, if we went back before there was such a thing as modern liberalism, we will note: even then, snarkiness existed. Read St Thomas More’s response to Luther! What snarkiness is that! Great stuff, too. But I think this shows it is not a new thing – it is rather, a human thing, for good or ill.

  17. Blackadder permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:44 am

    Coakley favored taxpayer funding for abortion. Brown is opposed. Brown favors a ban on partial birth abortion, and parental consent for abortion. Coakley is opposed. To say that pro-life groups shouldn’t take account of these facts in deciding who to support is just silly.

  18. Kurt permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:49 am

    I do.

    The House will pass the Senate bill and concurrently pass a corrections bill. The Senate GOP is then stuck with the reality of the Senate Demcoratic health care bill and the opportunity to make changes in it that at least some of its caucus supports. The corrections bill might even include Stupak. If the GOP is inclined to filibuster the corrections bill, most of what the Democrats want (the compromise on the excise tax, etc.) could be done under reconciliation rules — i.e. 51 votes.

    Brown’s victory certainly is a set-back for Stupak.

  19. Cathy permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:51 am

    Regarding a pro-life senator, what is the difference between Brown and Kennedy? Kennedy held the seat for years and openly supported abortion. So I see no difference between the past and present in regard to support for abortion.

  20. Cathy permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:53 am

    Now, I see Blackadder’s explanation. It appears that Brown’s victory is a step forward in the pro-life movement when you consider Kennedy’s views on abortion.

  21. January 20, 2010 9:53 am

    I’m not sure why exactly you’re finding this particularly surprising. Brown is a highly imperfect candidate, and you may be assured that after a few high profile votes many of the same people hailing his victory will be calling him a RINO. Similar races will play out in other very progressive states in November. For instance, it’s almost a sure bet that whoever wins the GOP nomination for the senate seat from California will be fairly liberal on abortion and other social issues, though he or she will probably be slightly better than Boxer. (After all, it would be hard to be worse.)

    It’s always possible for pro-life groups to simply sit out such an election, and I wouldn’t blame them if they did. But one of the things that such a group exists in order to do is to endorse candidates whom they believe will advance their agenda. Given that Brown supports some elements of the pro-life agenda (supports partial birth abortion ban, supports conscience exemptions, etc.) I don’t find it surprising that they endorsed him over someone who opposed them on everything.

    Now, if the contest had been between a pro-choice Republican who opposed health care reform and a pro-life Democrat who supported it, and pro-life groups had endorsed the Republican, not only do I think you’d be right to complain, but I’d join you. As it stands, however, I don’t see what there is to be upset about here.

    That it may be acceptable to vote for a pro-choice candidate when all the viable candidates are pro-choice is something our bishops have said, and which hardly think is controversial.

  22. Steve permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:54 am

    Well, no. I didn’t mean classical liberalism. But my response was probably snarky itself, so I find myself in great company!

  23. grega permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:56 am

    While I very much dislike the outcome of this election and what it perhaps means for this country for years to come I find it more than a bit tangential to try to rope some neo stalinistic approach to the ever elusive ‘perfect’ pro -life agenda into the mess.
    We have pro-choice and pro life because there are very good arguments for either. Thus chances are our society will keep oscillating ever so modestly along a middle line.

  24. phosphorious permalink
    January 20, 2010 10:03 am

    Coakley favored taxpayer funding for abortion. Brown is opposed. Brown favors a ban on partial birth abortion, and parental consent for abortion. Coakley is opposed. To say that pro-life groups shouldn’t take account of these facts in deciding who to support is just silly.

    Sure. . . take it into account. Take everything into account. Honest people can honestly disagree. Let your judgment be formed by all the facts. Don’t insist on perfection in your candidates, let prudence be your guide.

    But vote republican, or else.

  25. Steve permalink
    January 20, 2010 10:13 am

    They presented him as “a pro-life vote in the Senate” (patently false).

    I don’t know what they were thinking with this either. Why would they even want to promote Brown as pro-life in the state of Mass (of all places) anyway, even if he is pro-life? I would think that it would hurt his chances. They would have been better off to tell the truth, that he favors certain limited restrictions on abortion.

    IMO, one of the greatest weaknesses of pro-life organizations is that they often aren’t very politically savvy.

  26. David Nickol permalink
    January 20, 2010 10:13 am

    To say that pro-life groups shouldn’t take account of these facts in deciding who to support is just silly.

    Blackadder,

    It is one thing to take those factors into account. It is another thing to present someone who is by any definition of the word pro-choice as a “pro-life vote in the Senate.” Massachusetts Citizens for Life supported Brown with great enthusiasm, and invoked issues other than pro-life ones to promote his candidacy. It is difficult to see them as a pro-life organization recommending the lesser of two evils.

  27. phosphorious permalink
    January 20, 2010 10:29 am

    One more point that needs to be emphasized:

    Liberal Catholics went through precisely the sort of “struggle” that is now being recommended, back in 2004 when they voted for Kerry. They supported a pro-choice candidate, one who was refused communion by his own bishop, because they were so adamantly opposed to the war in Iraq.

    They compromised (the vile brutes) on one part of Catholic social teaching in order to be faithful to another.

    Whereas the conservatives who voted for Brown voted for a pro-choicer. . . in order to prevent health care reform.

    All snark aside, I am genuinely curious as to how this is supposed to make sense.

  28. Peter Farley permalink
    January 20, 2010 10:50 am

    Prudential reason? More like self-justifying rationalization.

  29. M.Z. permalink
    January 20, 2010 10:50 am

    Silence is golden, and this is indeed one of those instances where it would have been. As I said when Sebelius was nominated for HHS:

    ”It could be worse” is no way to go through life, not that the endorsers seem to be making anything near as guarded of an endorsement. Even if you are personally thrilled that Sebelius was chosen, there are plenty of good reasons to lay low and keep your mouth shout. I can appreciate that one isn’t likely to stop any nominee given the make up of the Senate. And perhaps there is an argument to be made that gross sychophancy puts one in a position to get concessions later on. I more inclined to the belief that the squeaky wheel gets the greese. I’m inclined to believe that those that lay down will be walked over.

    The plain truth is that “pro-life” organizations are ecstatic over the election of Brown because they are little more than fronts for the Republican Party.

  30. phosphorious permalink
    January 20, 2010 11:09 am

    While I very much dislike the outcome of this election and what it perhaps means for this country for years to come I find it more than a bit tangential to try to rope some neo stalinistic approach to the ever elusive ‘perfect’ pro -life agenda into the mess.

    No. The problem is that, suddenly and without explanation, the “neo stalinistic approach to the ever elusive ‘perfect’ pro -life agenda” was no where to be found. Pro-lifers who used to insist on absolute purity where overtaken by an outbreak of the “goodenuffs.”

    Astounding.

  31. Kurt permalink
    January 20, 2010 11:10 am

    I think Right-to-Life arguements for Brown are very weak. The partial birth abortion issue is now settled in favor of the anti-abortion side and Brown’s oppositon to taxpayer funding of abortion is simply based on his objection to taxpayer funding of anything.

    It is very clear that RTL is simply oppose to health care reform. I never believed they would ever support any version of it. But, they are a secular, private political organization and are free to do as they choose. Certainly they will be rewarded by the Republican Party and business interests for their asssitance in the Brown camapign.

    Maybe the real issue are Catholic conservatives. If there was ever any doubt before, it is now clear that support for the Right-to-Life Movement is not obligatory to Catholics. Far from being a “non-negotiable” issue, the leadership cuts deals and negotiates with the best of them.

  32. January 20, 2010 11:28 am

    Apparently conservatives hate health care reform more than they love the unborn.

    I agree 100%.

    • January 20, 2010 11:33 am

      What I wonder is — why wasn’t there a “Catholics Against Brown” this year, to make sure a more pro-life candidate won the Republican nomination? And, thanks to one comment on facebook, I would like to add: should those who knowingly voted for a pro-abortion candidate (Brown) now go to confession; sure, you might have reasoned out that he was the lesser of all evils, but he was still pro-abortion, and if you voted for him you voted for someone who supports abortion!

  33. Steve permalink
    January 20, 2010 11:31 am

    Apparently conservatives hate health care reform more than they love the unborn.

    Could you flesh this out? Why is this so? Or are you guys just blowing off steam from last night’s devastating loss to the democrats?

  34. phosphorious permalink
    January 20, 2010 11:42 am

    Could you flesh this out? Why is this so? Or are you guys just blowing off steam from last night’s devastating loss to the democrats?

    Because abortion, the “non-negotiable” sin was suddenly negotiated.

    Conservatives could have stayed home in disgust, but they voted for a pro-abort who essentially guaranteed the failure of healthcare reform instead of the pro-abort who would have helped it pass.

  35. Steve permalink
    January 20, 2010 11:57 am

    You guys can’t be serious. Conservatives are generally pro-life and against the socialistic tendancies of the current power brokers in Washington. Compared to Coakley and Kennedy, Brown is at least a step in favor of those conservative principles. It’s that simple. But you guys already know that. Sour grapes.

  36. phosphorious permalink
    January 20, 2010 11:58 am

    I’m trying to work out the logic here. It’s like a casuistic game of rock/paper/scissors:

    If a pro-torturer opposes a pro-choicer, the catholic votes pro-torture

    If a pro-choicer opposes a pro-health care reformer, the catholic votes pro-choice

    I wonder what would happen if a pro-torturer ran against a pro-healthcare reformer. . .

  37. Kurt permalink
    January 20, 2010 11:58 am

    Steve,

    I have to think even the most anti-abortion conservative has to admit the conservative movement has put far more energy and resources into fighting against health care reform as to fighting abortion. And it has made opposition to health care reform far more of a litmus test issue than abortion. Does anyone really dispute this? Measure by the TV buys, the candidates nominated, the number of floor speeches in the House and Senate, the press releases from conservative organizations.

    And, on top of it all, the conservative plan for health care reform would be the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade, far beyond the Senate Democratic bill.

  38. M.Z. permalink
    January 20, 2010 12:01 pm

    You seem to be under the impression that many of us are bothered by Brown’s win. For the record, I’m not particularly bothered.

  39. Steve permalink
    January 20, 2010 12:21 pm

    This election wasn’t about abortion. It was about democrats attempting to force what is perceived as an unfair socialistic health care system down the throats of Americans, even progressive Americans from Mass. The election was about Americans being ignored. It wasn’t necessarily against democrats per se, it was against elitist attitudes in Washington. The “conservative movement” saw an opportunity to protest this attitude with a viable candidate that is more conservative on any issue that the opposition – and they took it and ran with it and won with it. Conservatives now have a Senator that they didn’t have yesterday that is more pro-life than they could have even dreamed of at this point in time, especially coming from Massachusetts.

    Sour grapes. Get over it.

  40. Phillip permalink
    January 20, 2010 12:21 pm

    Perhaps its like the Catholic Hospital Association’s stance as articulated by its president Sister Carol Keehan, DC. They supported the Health Care proposal even with its abortion previsions. The rationale was that they were not compromising principles, only priorities. It was of greater priority to have universal health care than to get abortion out of the plan. Perhaps for pro-lifers in Mass. it was more important to have the less pro-abortion Brown than the more pro-abortion Coakley.

  41. phosphorious permalink
    January 20, 2010 12:24 pm

    Conservative are NOT “generally pro-life”. They enthusiastically voted for war and torture.

    They are anti-abortion.

    Or at least they were!

  42. phosphorious permalink
    January 20, 2010 12:25 pm

    This election wasn’t about abortion.

    And this is what galls me. . . because every single election up until now HAS been about abortion.

    Abortion was the issue that trumped all others. You could torture a man to death as long as you promised not to abort a fetus.

    But now. . .

  43. January 20, 2010 12:27 pm

    Because abortion, the “non-negotiable” sin was suddenly negotiable.

    The 2004 “Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics” that popularized the “five non-negotioable issues” included this paragraph:

    “In some political races, each candidate takes a wrong position on one or more of the five non-negotiables. In such a case you may vote for the candidate who takes the fewest such positions or who seems least likely to be able to advance immoral legislation, or you may choose to vote for no one.”

  44. phosphorious permalink
    January 20, 2010 12:29 pm

    The election was about Americans being ignored. It wasn’t necessarily against democrats per se, it was against elitist attitudes in Washington.

    THIS is the big lie that will kill us all.

    Bush wasn’t an elitist? Bush didn’t add an expensive prescription drug entitlement to Medicare? Bush didn’t spend us all into the poorhouse?

    But not a word was said against him. You waited until a democrat was in the White House, and didn’t even wait a full year before declaring yourself “sick and tired of government.”

    “It wasn’t necessasrily against democrats.” Yeah, right.

    You’re as bi-partisan as you are anti-abortion.

  45. Steve permalink
    January 20, 2010 12:33 pm

    Conservative are NOT “generally pro-life”. They enthusiastically voted for war and torture.

    When the only other viable alternative is not only radically attached to killing 4000 unborn per day, but also was against giving medical care to babies born alive as the result of botched late term abortions, there seemed to be little choice. But hey, that’s just me…

  46. Steve permalink
    January 20, 2010 12:35 pm

    And this is what galls me. . . because every single election up until now HAS been about abortion.

    My comment wasn’t meant to be a moral one, but based on political reality.

  47. phosphorious permalink
    January 20, 2010 12:40 pm

    Perhaps its like the Catholic Hospital Association’s stance as articulated by its president Sister Carol Keehan, DC. They supported the Health Care proposal even with its abortion previsions. The rationale was that they were not compromising principles, only priorities. It was of greater priority to have universal health care than to get abortion out of the plan. Perhaps for pro-lifers in Mass. it was more important to have the less pro-abortion Brown than the more pro-abortion Coakley.

    There’s no perhaps about it: exactly this sort of calculation was made.

    But when similar calculations were made in favor of Obama, conservatives were not quite so open-minded.

    Once more: no one is claiming that Brown was the “bad” vote or that “Cloakley” was the “good” vote from a catholic perspective.

    But is worth mentioning. . . over and over. . . that conservatives compromised in this election. They settled for a pro-abort, because it would stop the democrats health care reform.

    I’m actually rather glad to see prudence officially reinstated as a virtue!

  48. Steve permalink
    January 20, 2010 12:41 pm

    You’re as bi-partisan as you are anti-abortion.

    I am bi-partisan in the sense that I hate both parties. But I am glad Brown won. Sometimes constipation is better than the runs.

  49. phosphorious permalink
    January 20, 2010 12:43 pm

    When the only other viable alternative is not only radically attached to killing 4000 unborn per day, but also was against giving medical care to babies born alive as the result of botched late term abortions, there seemed to be little choice. But hey, that’s just me…

    Ahh yes. . . the usual lies. Kerry was “radically attached” to abortion, meaning that he would do it just for fun, right?

    But I’m sure Brown is a “good” pro-abort, the kind that only aborts those babies that deserve it.

  50. Pinky permalink
    January 20, 2010 12:46 pm

    All other things being equal, in a race between a Democrat and a Republican with the same position on abortion, a vote for the Republican is inherently more pro-life. That’s fact. From committee assignments to cloture votes, the pro-life party is strengthened by increased officeholders. There are two exceptions to the rule, two sides of the same coin: a pro-life Democrat can aid in the emergence of a pro-life voice in his party, and a pro-choice Republican can water down his party’s pro-life message. Both deserve watching. In this case, I don’t see how either exception applies.

    [I let this through for the LOL. Sorry, but if a Republican and Democrat is of the same view on abortion, the Republican is more pro life. WHAT?! LOL. So the only thing which matters is what party they are in. Will people say a pro-choice Republican is more pro-life than a pro-life democrat? -HK]

  51. phosphorious permalink
    January 20, 2010 12:49 pm

    My comment wasn’t meant to be a moral one, but based on political reality.

    But that’s the point, isn’t it? Christianity provides the moral cover for whatever the GOP wants. The pro-life movement was loud when it meant keeping Bush in office, and it’s quiet when it means defeating health care reform.

    I’m afraid I am going to have to stop arguing on this thread. I am quickly devolving from snark to uncharitableness.

    • January 20, 2010 12:51 pm

      Phosphorious — the only thing I would say is it isn’t Christianity which provides the cover you suggest, but some Christians who are not interested in some aspects of the Christian message and its social teachings. A difference. Otherwise, I think your comments are often in the right direction.

  52. Steve permalink
    January 20, 2010 12:49 pm

    meaning that he would do it just for fun, right?

    I doubt if the dead care what the sentiments of the killers are.

    BTW, my reference was to Obama.

  53. Steve permalink
    January 20, 2010 1:05 pm

    the only thing I would say is it isn’t Christianity which provides the cover you suggest, but some Christians who are not interested in some aspects of the Christian message

    Neither party even comes close to representing the Christian message. Neither represents enough of the moral high ground to claim superiority in the realm of the Church’s social teachings. You’re not proposing that republicans are less in line with Christian principles than democrats, are you?

  54. Kurt permalink
    January 20, 2010 1:19 pm

    Neither party even comes close to representing the Christian message. Neither represents enough of the moral high ground to claim superiority in the realm of the Church’s social teachings.

    Not only is this true of both parties but it is true of the Right-to-Life Movement.

    We are left to our wits, gut feelings and private judgments.

  55. Steve permalink
    January 20, 2010 1:25 pm

    Maybe it’s true of all of us…

  56. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 20, 2010 1:30 pm

    You don’t jump for joy and claim you have saved the country when you elect the lesser of two pro-choice evils.

    Well put, David.

  57. January 20, 2010 2:12 pm

    People would be foolish to claim they saved the country with Brown’s win, because clearly the country is not “lost” or “saved” either way. This will almost certainly mean that a different and more modest health care reform bill is passed than either of the current ones, but aside from that, things are very much as they were.

    That said, I don’t think it’s necessarily harmful for people to jump for joy a bit. Keep in mind, conservatives do, in the main, think that the current health care proposal (which was the main national issue in this election) would be seriously harmful to the common good. Given that viewpoint, it’s fairly reasonable for conservatives to be pleased, even though Brown is by no means entirely to their taste.

  58. johnmcg permalink
    January 20, 2010 5:41 pm

    I’m more concerned that the Brown victory is being seen as, “Waterboarding Wins.” http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=NzI1Y2RkMWE3ZjE4M2QzMzdjZjgyYTEzNWU2MmZhZGQ=

    Again if the pro-life movement is little more than a front for the Republican Party, and you want that to change, is complaining about it from here likely to bring about that change?

  59. johnmcg permalink
    January 20, 2010 5:43 pm

    What I wonder is — why wasn’t there a “Catholics Against Brown” this year, to make sure a more pro-life candidate won the Republican nomination?

    Because you didn’t start one.

  60. phosphorious permalink
    January 20, 2010 6:00 pm

    I had asked:

    I wonder what would happen if a pro-torturer ran against a pro-healthcare reformer. . .

    I didn’t rea;ize there was already an answer.

    Congratulations to conservatives everywhere. You’ve won.

  61. Kurt permalink
    January 20, 2010 8:35 pm

    Again if the pro-life movement is little more than a front for the Republican Party, and you want that to change, is complaining about it from here likely to bring about that change?

    tried to change it. didn’t work. moving on.

  62. johnmcg permalink
    January 21, 2010 10:14 am

    The obvious reason that the pro-life advocacy groups did none of the things HK suggests is that pro-life individuals did not move it in that direction.

    I suggest that one reason for that is that HK and other pro-life people who share his sensibilities are content to write posts like this rather than join the pro-life movement, and have it better reflect his sensibilities.

    • January 21, 2010 10:20 am

      John

      So you are saying I am not a a part of the pro-life movement because I disagree with organizations when they claim to be pro-life and yet encourage anti-life positions? That’s rather odd. I would say I am a part of the real pro-life movement, one which doesn’t get caught denigrating its positions for the sake of political expediency. Somehow Pro-Life Organizations supporting pro-choice candidates sounds like Catholics for Choice: an oxymoron.

  63. johnmcg permalink
    January 21, 2010 10:21 am

    Another reason this didn’t happen is that the Democrats did not nominate a pro-life candidate.

    • January 21, 2010 10:24 am

      John

      Why do organizations have to support any candidate? Why does it have to be a Democrat or Republican? If there are no candidates to support, none which meet the ideals of the organization, I think the organization has a duty to say “none of the above.” When it doesn’t, one can begin to deconstruct what the organization is really about, and it tends not to be what it claims to be about. That’s the problem.

  64. phosphorious permalink
    January 21, 2010 10:29 am

    Another reason this didn’t happen is that the Democrats did not nominate a pro-life candidate.

    Ahhh. . . back to blaming democrats. Whew! That was close. For a second it looked like pro-aborts on the right were going to have to admit to “committing evil, that good might come.”

    Those rotten democrats! Look what they made conservatives do!

  65. Kurt permalink
    January 21, 2010 10:52 am

    Another reason this didn’t happen is that the Democrats did not nominate a pro-life candidate.

    True. A leading anti-abortion Democrat, Congressman Stephen Lynch, made his interest in the seat known. However, he received no encouragement and no support from MassRTL and decided that running as a pro-life Democrat means having opposition from the pro-choice groups and no assistance or support from the Pro-Life groups and therefore, why bother.

    The fact MassRTL can support Brown but not Lynch tells the story.

    Lastly, to Henry Karlson — Henry, you have my respect and admiration for the thoughtfulness and deep Christian faith I have seen from your writings here. However, may I share an experience with you? In my previously life with the anti-Communist Left, it was simply a source of rhetorical frustration dealing with self-described Communists who took no ownership for the evils of Communism, claiming they followed some quirky tendency within Communism. To save time from worthless debates with these armchair Communists, we invented the phrase “actually existing Communism” (ie. the USSR, China, Cuba, Poland and the political parties of the Third International).

    My advice to you is to join me in giving up the self-definition of “Pro-Life.” The actually existing Pro-Life Movement is not a force for justice. Like with the Communist Party, good people should leave rather than try to reform it.

    • January 21, 2010 1:49 pm

      Kurt

      I know you might think that, and I respect that, but I entirely disagree. I am pro-life and will not be co-opted out by people who use the name and are not, just like I will keep pointing out I am a conservative despite so-called American conservatives trying to co-opt the name with their brand of liberalism.

  66. johnmcg permalink
    January 21, 2010 12:14 pm

    I am just saying that there is rich irony of a blog that has taken great pains to distance itself from pro-life oragnizations to then be surprised that these organizations are drifting away from them.

    I am not defending their endorsement of Brown, or their apparent unfettered glee at his election.

    But, IMO, posts like this make the problem worse rather than better, because they deepen the rifts that already exist.

    And I am calling us to instead of asking why other organizations didn’t act differently, that we ask ourselves what *we* could have done differently.

    How is it that a very Catholic state nominates two pro-choice candidates such that we are in a “less of two evils” situation?

    But this is the cycle I seem to be obseriving:

    1. RTL organizations take some actions that appear more ordered toward the Republican Party’s interests than the unborn.

    2. Politically liberal and moderate pro-lifers criticize them for it, and distance themselves from these organizations.

    3. RTL organizations become increasingly marginalized and associated with Republican partisanship.

    4. Repeat with a more egregious example than #1.

    Unless something better rises up in the place of these RTL organizations, it seems to me that we are locked into a vicious cycle, where these RTL organizations lose more and more politically moderate and liberal people, and thus become increasingly aligned with the Republican Party.

    If you’re working on building something better, then great! Otherwise, it seems to me that this type of commentary is counterproductive.

  67. Kurt permalink
    January 21, 2010 12:27 pm

    John,

    I think you are a little behind in the times. The vicious cycle has completed its spin. There is nothing repairable. It would be more productive to work at putting Czechoslovakia back together.

  68. johnmcg permalink
    January 21, 2010 12:31 pm

    One idea I have for bridging this gap would be for RTL to spend the next 5 years focusing exclusively on abolishing the death penalty in all 50 states.

    Some reasons I like this idea:

    * It would unify the currently diffuse Catholic activism.
    * It is IMO an achievable goal in the current environment.
    * It would re-build trust between progressive and conservative pro-lifers.
    * It would require state-level action and organization, which could be leveraged in post-Roe world.
    * It is pretty clear that the death penalty in the US is both arbitrary and unncessary.

    The assumption is that once this goal is achieved, then we would in unity focus on the unborn. But I think this could be a meaningful step.

  69. David Nickol permalink
    January 21, 2010 12:43 pm

    If you’re working on building something better, then great!

    There should be no RTL (right to life) organizations, there should be CEL (consistent ethic of life) organizations.

  70. Kurt permalink
    January 21, 2010 1:17 pm

    John, David —

    Give it up. If your judgment has led you to be an anti-abortion, conservative Republican, you have a movement to advance your views. It is totally understandable that you would support and be involved in the RTL Movement. God be with you.

    If you don’t hold all three of those positions, just go find something else to do — take up gardening, tutor a child, work to end torture, learn watercoloring, volunteer for the missions.

    But stop torturing this issue. Its over.

  71. johnmcg permalink
    January 21, 2010 1:40 pm


    There should be no RTL (right to life) organizations, there should be CEL (consistent ethic of life) organizations.

    I’m not sure that’s the case. As people around here never tire of pointing out, not everyone who opposes abortion shares other consistent ethic of life concerns.

    They should be challenged on that, but I’m not certain that changing that need be a prerequisite for opposing abortion.

  72. Pinky permalink
    January 21, 2010 1:44 pm

    I was talking with one of the other contributors to this site, I don’t recall whom, about this problem. There’s no point in being angry with the Republican Party for finding its pro-life voice, and there’s no reason to begrudge conservatives the organization that allows that voice to be heard. Conservative pro-lifers effectively made the argument that support for a pro-choice Republican would aid the pro-life movement.

    What the liberal side needs to do is find its pro-life voice. Found your own movement based not on strict constructionism and federalism, but on the civil rights of the most helpless. To do that, you need to develop your own feminism. If I knew how to do that, I’d help you, because the country would be better off having two life-friendly parties. (Maybe the key to a pro-life feminism lies in the writings of the early feminists.)

    But until you have a viable pro-life option, you’ve got to recognize that a vote for a Democrat in, say, the Senate is a vote for Harry Reid. Anyway, Brown/Coakley isn’t the hill you want to fight this battle on. Brown approves of some restrictions on abortion; Coakley doesn’t. She doesn’t even approve of the conscience clause. Brown was the better choice.

    • January 21, 2010 1:47 pm

      Pinky

      Please, read the post carefully. I did not say people should not have voted for Brown over Coakley because they think he is the lesser evil. I only pointed out that calling him the pro-life candidate, when he is not pro-life, and gaining the support of right to life groups while not being pro-life totally throws out the value of such pro-life organizations. It is about the organizational approval of something contrary to their very essence which is disturbing.

  73. johnmcg permalink
    January 21, 2010 2:42 pm

    Though I must admit this post (http://blog.masscitizensforlife.org/2010/01/congratulations-now-lets-finish-job.html) imagining the Right To Life March ending with a demand that a pro-choice Senator be seated surpassed my gag threshold.

  74. David Nickol permalink
    January 21, 2010 2:50 pm

    I am pro-life and will not be co-opted out by people who use the name and are not . . .

    Henry,

    I at least play devil’s advocate for the pro-choice position, and maybe even defend it some times out of conviction. But I am willing to admit that “pro-choice” is a propaganda term, like “Peacekeeper Missile” or “Patriot Act.” And so is “pro-life.”

  75. Pinky permalink
    January 21, 2010 2:59 pm

    Henry, I wasn’t rebutting any specific statement you made. Sorry for the confusion.

    I do think it’s fair to use terminology as you find it, though (I’m addressing your last comment). I find that arguing about terms like “liberal” and “conservative” only muddle the conversation. I know a few conservatives who insist on calling themselves classical liberals, and it only confuses things.

  76. Kurt permalink
    January 21, 2010 4:41 pm

    Today’s press conference held by the NRTL Committee made it quite clear that they are simply an organization dedicated to oppose universal health care with abortion as a secondary concern. Here is their offical statement on the Senate race:

    What matters today is Scott Brown ran on a you-know-my-meaning opposition to health care restructuring. He would be vote “41,” he vowed, meaning the Democrats would no longer have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Those 60 votes had proved an irresistible temptation to try to ram through a proposal with no Republican input and no public mandate.

    Don’t forget, Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi intended to pass this legislation by last August. No matter where you are coming from politically, the notion of refashioning a sixth of the entire economy with virtually no in-depth conversation and analysis ought to send chills up and down your spine…

    Obama and his apologists are furiously spinning last night’s outcome as the product of a flawed candidate (Coakley) and an opponent (Brown) whom Massachusetts’ voters didn’t “really” know. (Hint, hint: extremist). It was nothing of the sort, any more than were the elections of Bob McDonnell for governor of Virginia and Chris Christie for governor of New Jersey.

    To the contrary these were referenda on Obama and his health care “reform” about clear as it is humanly possible to get. The American public, as measured by a raft of opinion polls, had already signaled its rejection of Obamacare.

    So, too, have the voters of Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

  77. johnmcg permalink
    January 21, 2010 5:14 pm

    Well, they can never claim with credibility that abortion ought to be the only, overriding issue ever again.

    I do plan on writing them, because this is a scandal.

    • January 21, 2010 5:28 pm

      John

      It is indeed a scandal, and I think we have come to some agreement on that point — and why, even if we might not agree as to when that scandal became evident and a line was crossed. But I do think this is a concern with the pro-life cause and why I think organizations should always remain pure to their essence and not support anyone if there is no one to support; people can make prudential decisions without the organization giving a recommendation, and indeed, if they don’t always do so, they become someone to be courted instead of the one doing the courting, as I fear we see going on now.

  78. Pinky permalink
    January 21, 2010 5:20 pm

    Kurt – link?

  79. Gordie permalink
    January 22, 2010 1:34 pm

    Excerpt from “Mission Statement for the National Right To Life Committee”

    http://www.nrlc.org/Missionstatement.htm

    “The National Right to Life Committee has been instrumental in achieving a number of legislative reforms at the national level, including a ban on non-therapeutic experimentation of unborn and newborn babies, a federal conscience clause guaranteeing medical personnel the right to refuse to participate in abortion procedures, and various amendments to appropriations bills which prohibit (or limit) the use of federal funds to subsidize or promote abortions in the United States and overseas.

    The ultimate goal of the National Right to Life Committee is to restore legal protection to innocent human life. The primary interest of the National Right to Life Committee and its members has been the abortion controversy; however, it is also concerned with related matters of medical ethics which relate to the right to life issues of euthanasia and infanticide. The Committee does not have a position on issues such as contraception, sex education, capital punishment, and national defense.”

    I think based on their stated mission statement that supporting Brown as a Senator is plausible, since the Healthcare Bill would more likely than not include the “use of federal funds to subsidize or promote abortions in the United States and overseas”

    I couldn’t find a press conference or release from the National Right To Life Committee substantiating what Kurt wrote.

    Is this a scandal? Nope, they are just following there mission statement.

  80. Kurt permalink
    January 22, 2010 2:32 pm

    Gordie —

    I’m not of the school that thinks it is a scandal.

    They are a right-wing, multi-issue organization. They take positions on campaign finance reform (against), negotiating cheaper drug prices for seniors on Medicare (against) Childrens Health Insurance program (against). They work with the Republican Party but not with the Democratic Party to recruit favorable candidates and follow a generally anti-government action/pro-private enterprise philosophy.

    They have every right to exist and promote their views.

    I happen to disagree with them and view them as a force for injustice in our society. And I have a right to promote my views as much as they do.

    They have gone on my list (Planned Parenthod has been there for decades) of groups that when they send me solictations, I ripped them up and send it back using the Business Reply enevelope they send me. That 50 cents less they then have to advance their right wing agenda.

  81. Pinky permalink
    January 22, 2010 2:42 pm

    NRLC’s “Today’s News and Views” included the quotes that Kurt cited. It also contained passages about abortion that don’t appear in Kurt’s citation. The portion replaced by ellipses which follows “chills up and down your spine” reads as follows:

    One outcome of last night’s special election is to increase the likelihood that the public has a chance to digest this massive initiative.

    Second, debate over the abortion issue–which took place, thanks to you–was absolutely critical to slowing down the out-of-control Obama/Reid/Pelosi train. Pelosi made it clear that she had no intention of allowing a vote on the Stupak-Pitts amendment which would prevent federal subsidies for abortion by applying the principles of longstanding federal laws such as the Hyde Amendment to the new programs created by the health care legislation.

    When this stance proved untenable, Pelosi reluctantly agreed to allow a vote, all the time making it clear she opposed it and would try to defeat the amendment. The Stupak-Pitts amendment passed 240 to 194 . An equivalent was defeated in the Senate. Which brings us back to “the morning after.”

    Contrary to what some are saying, we are not “back to square one,” because of last night’s stunning victory by Brown. (And it was amazing. Republicans had not won an open Senate seat in Massachusetts since 1966; the entire congressional delegation is Democratic; and Coakley was ahead by 30 points in polls taken just a few weeks ago.)

    I don’t know if Kurt deliberately removed the portions of the statement (which apparently was NOT made at their press conference, and appears in a blog, not as an “official statement”). I’ve seen excerpts taken from the original piece elsewhere. It could easily be that someone else cut-and-pasted the parts that interested them, which excluded the detailed discussion of the status of abortion in the health care bill, and passed it around the internet. But this version doesn’t do the NRLC justice.

  82. David Nickol permalink
    January 22, 2010 2:56 pm

    Pinky,

    It seems to me the pieces you quote that were missing from Kurt’s version are as damning as the rest of it. The value of the abortion debate was not in placing restriction on abortion, or raising awareness, or getting the Stupak Amendment passed. The abortion issue was “absolutely critical to slowing down the out-of-control Obama/Reid/Pelosi train.”

    The statement in its entirety clearly emphasizes the value of killing health care reform, not limiting abortion. Abortion is at best a secondary issue.

  83. Kurt permalink
    January 22, 2010 4:07 pm

    I pared down the statement in the interest of brevery. But David is right. Wading through NRTLC official website, it is clear they simply do not want 30 million uninsured Americans to have health insurance. To do so could mean that the rich and big corporations might have to pay slightly higher taxes for the benefit of people other than themselves. Much more importantly, it would give workers and the unemployed some security that their health care needs would be taken care of rather than living one lay-off notice away of being uninsured. With that security, they might actually feel more confident to speak up on the job, to report workplace safety and fair labor standards act violations, to expect to be treated with human dignity by their bosses and to object to abuse, sexual harrasment and racism.

    And that, the NRTLC and the rest of the right wing finds unacceptable.

  84. Pinky permalink
    January 22, 2010 5:34 pm

    Kurt, you pared down the statement to eliminate mention of abortion, then used the statement to show that the NRLC doesn’t care about abortion?

  85. Kurt permalink
    January 22, 2010 6:07 pm

    Pinky,

    I think the NRTLC’s views on abortion are well known. I showed that they can run for four paragraphs harranging about the need to elect a pro-abortionist in order to stop 30 million Americans from getting health insurance.

    My point is that when you are buying in to the leading (and one of the more moderate) Pro-Life organizations, you are also signing up to oppose health care reform, oppose campaign finance reform, oppose reducing the costs of prescription drugs for seniors and for the support of the election of Republicans be they pro-abortion or anti-abortion.

    For those who hold all of those views, they have a great organization in the NRTLC. For many of the rest of us, they go on the list of organizations we oppose.

    I am not asking or expecting you to quit the NRTLC. I am just explaining why I oppose them.

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