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In Romney They Trust

April 12, 2012

Not to my surprise, several pro-life leaders and organizations have endorsed the once questionable Mitt Romney quickly following Rick Santorum’s unceremonious departure from the field. The National Right to Life Committee, Susan B. Anthony List, and Jill Stanek have each taken hold of the Romney banner in their battle against President Obama and his policies related to abortion.

Given their priorities and their expectations for a president, their support makes sense: little doubt Romney will prove more of a friend or at least less of an enemy to their cause than the sitting president, whom they’ve deemed “the most pro-abortion president ever” (a title they’d no doubt have given to Hillary Clinton had she won). What’s remarkable about their endorsements is the absence of all nuance and reservation.

Politically, Romney isn’t a man of principle or even an ideologue. He lies regularly and with an obvious indifference to the truth. He’ll say what he thinks will get him elected. He’s the model of the untrustworthy politician, and yet these pro-lifers have given him their complete trust. They express absolute confidence that he’s a genuine convert.

In so doing, they’ve made an unwise but for them typical political move: they’ve given up any pressure they may have later put upon the Republican nominee. He’s got their endorsements. And if these groups have influence over the votes of anyone, they’re not the votes of people who’d consider supporting Obama. They’d have been wiser to go on the offensive against Obama while putting continued pressure on Romney to strengthen his pro-life credentials.

In my experience, a lot of pro-lifers believe the the GOP at least minimally serves their interests. The reverse is more the case: politically-active pro-life leaders and groups serve the interests of the party. They help mobilize the base for nothing more than the latest GOP offerings being nominally or minimally better than the Democratic candidates on their non-negotiable issues. They’re pawns in the game of thrones. With Romney, they had an obvious political opportunist and therefore the opportunity to gain power within the party by withholding their endorsements pending demands being met. Instead, they became willing tools for an empty suit.

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(Photo via NPR)

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  1. Dave Bjerklie permalink
    April 13, 2012 7:26 am

    As far as I know, the only policy decision Obama has made regarding abortion is to issue an executive order to prevent federal tax dollars from going towards abortions in the affordable care act. So looking at the record, he is no more pro-abortion than any other presdient. He has stated that he thinks the decision on Roe vs Wade was correct, but this is not policy. I would like to see a renewed debate about abortion that would lead to a general agreement that it is not a womens rights issue because it involves another life, that of the child. To have this debate in a meaningful way requires both sides to see the others point of view and see the reality of the issues in peoples lives.

  2. Thales permalink
    April 13, 2012 7:52 am

    Eh. [shrug] No politician is perfect; all politicians are flawed. But on the subject of abortion, it’s clear that Romney is less worse than Obama, and so if you have to pick one on the abortion topic, the obvious choice is Romney. And I think this presidential election, the contrast presented by the two candidates on the abortion issues is starker than perhaps it has ever been before, considering that the HHS rule has been added to the mix of the old regulars (like the Mexico City policy, federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, appointing pro-life judges, etc.).

    It sounds like you agree with this point and that you’re not criticizing the fact that they endorsed Romney over Obama — you’re criticizing the fact that they endorsed Romney now and not X months in the future after having gotten additional concessions from Romney. I guess I see that can be a valid argument, but I’m wondering, what else are you looking for from Romney? It seems that over the last year of campaigning, especially because he’s been going against other pro-life opponents, Romney has strengtened his pro-life credentials. What else do you want Romney to do in order “to strengthen his pro-life credentials”?

    • April 13, 2012 8:22 am

      Right now, all they can hope to get are his words, maybe in the form of specific, concrete promises. Long term, however, they could potentially get more than that if Romney were to be elected president.

      The pro-life movement has been around for quite some time, and yet it’s never mobilized itself into something akin to the Tea Party or OWS, a movement that the GOP really has to take seriously because it has stong and lasting power within the party. Right now, the pro-life movement, as illustrated by these organizations endorsing Obama, will line up and cheer with little more than lip service. Romney may well be a friend to their cause, but that’s up to him. He loses nothing by being less pro-life than he says he is.

  3. Brian Martin permalink
    April 13, 2012 8:05 am

    “Politically, Romney isn’t a man of principle or even an ideologue. He lies regularly and with an obvious indifference to the truth. He’ll say what he thinks will get him elected.”

    Really? Not to be cynical, but no kidding…delete Romney, insert Obama…or Santorum, or most any recent president or presidential candidate.

    • April 13, 2012 8:23 am

      Romney seems to be especially indifferent to the truth, but yes, lying is a job requirement.

  4. April 13, 2012 8:19 am

    He’s the model of the untrustworthy politician…

    But you repeat yourself.

    Honestly, this seems like concern-trolling to me given the legal status of abortion in the U.S.

    Look, your argument makes a lot of sense for tea partiers and fiscal conservatives more generally. The balance between taxes/spending has a thousand possible permutations and the goal is to drag the nominee as close to your side as possible by demanding concessions.

    But that’s just not how U.S. abortion law is structured. The extremist position taken by the Court in Roe preempted the democratic process and overturned the laws of 46 states. In order for substantial progress to be made on the objectives of pro-life groups, they need one more vote on the Court for overturning or scaling back Roe. That’s the whole game. So, of course they are going to endorse the Republican candidate who has pledged to appoint judges that will overturn Roe. What other concession would they hold out for? He already promised to deliver what they want.

    • April 13, 2012 8:30 am

      What other concession would they hold out for?

      Influences within the party so that they can 1) pressure Romney later if he becomes president and 2) shape actual GOP policy towards their tenets. By lining up uncritically now, they make themselves instruments of the party, rather than the party an instrament for their goals.

      • April 13, 2012 8:32 am

        You’ll have to help me out on the “influences” they will be able to extract by holding out. What are you talking about? Obviously, who the HHS Secretary is matters, but other than that, what are they supposed to accomplish?

      • April 13, 2012 10:16 am

        Their agenda would be served better by building a coalition within the party whose wishes politicians actually had to honor in order to earn the coalition’s support–support the politicians would need in order to win. At present, their support is a given, and so their influence is minimal.

  5. April 13, 2012 8:45 am

    Let me phrase my question more broadly: What makes you confident enough to substitute your judgement about how internal GOP politics and coalitions operate for that of the people who run these organizations? You could be right, but you also could be wrong. It seems to me that your answering a question that requires a pretty intimate inside baseball knowledge about how these groups collaborate with campaign staffs and candidates, as well as the history between these groups and the candidate. And opinions could differ even with that knowledge. On what are you basing your conclusion? And what specific things should they hold out for from the Romney campaign (given that he has already said he will appoint their type of judge and worked with them against embryonic stem cell research as governor in Mass.)? Given your typical beat of emphasizing epistemological limitations, I am surprised to see this post from you; it appears to me to be based on a lot of questionable assumptions and confident assertions.

    • April 13, 2012 10:22 am

      Given your typical beat of emphasizing epistemological limitations, I am surprised to see this post from you; it appears to me to be based on a lot of questionable assumptions and confident assertions.

      Ouch, John Henry. Very ouch. ;-)

      Granted, I don’t know what’s taking place behind the scenes, but I am confident that what I see on the surface has ramifications for what’s happening there. They’ve publicly given Romney everything. They can take their endorsements back, I suppose, but not without looking like they’ve been played. In giving him their endorsement, they’ve given away the power they may have had to pressure him to keep his word.

    • Sean O permalink
      April 16, 2012 12:48 pm

      Since Reagan, the GOP has “talked” up a Pro-Life agenda in election cycles and delivered next to nothing except for a few crumbs. There has been essentially no “action” on rolling back the abortion regime.
      That is the real truth.

      Given this, pro-life groups would do well to hold back any endorsements until very late when maximal demands can be made for real pro-life “actions” and legislation and not hollow chat. Regular meetings and a seat at the governing table must be demanded and extracted. Otherwise history shows the GOP will ignore Pro-Life until election time rolls around again. It’s a weak hand so they must play it with strength & intelligence to leverage it as much as possible.

      So unlike your IRA prospectus, with the GOP past performance IS a good guide to future performance. So the Pro-Life movement must act accordingly & play smart & tough, and not get played like they have been for the last 3 decades.

  6. April 13, 2012 9:05 am

    “and yet these pro-lifers have given him their complete trust. They express absolute confidence that he’s a genuine convert.”

    I think you’re trusting THEIR word too much.

    I doubt these people have “given him their complete trust.” I’m sure many of them are as cynical about him as all of us. That’s why they didn’t go with him before Santorum dropped out. Endorsing him now isn’t “giving complete trust” as if they’ve actually bamboozled.

    They may “express” absolute confidence, but I doubt they really HAVE absolute confidence. They just know that, to have the maximal effect in terms of defeating Obama, they need to endorse enthusiastically and not half-heartedly. But the enthusiasm may well be feigned for that reason.

    I think lots of people believe they’re only choosing the lesser of too evils. But if you go out there and campaign for your lesser evil with the slogan, “Meh. He’s not great, but he’s the lesser evil”…then surely the greater evil will win. So you have to pretend to be more enthusiastic than you really are.

    That doesn’t mean you’ve actually been fooled, however.

    • April 13, 2012 10:27 am

      I doubt these people have “given him their complete trust.”

      In their hearts, maybe not, but publicly they have.

      They just know that, to have the maximal effect in terms of defeating Obama, they need to endorse enthusiastically and not half-heartedly.

      This illustrates my point: they’re not so much players as the ones being played.

  7. Jordan permalink
    April 13, 2012 9:25 am

    It’s important to mention the well known fact that a SCOTUS overturn of Roe will not result in a drastically changed political landscape. The end of Roe would only result in a division of the country into states which allow abortion on demand for at least part of pregnancy (the “solid blue” states), and states which will ban abortion outright or severely curtail it (the “solid red” states). The “purple” states will have political convulsions not unlike the battles over same-sex marriage. If anything, the current political fault lines will become more, and not less, entrenched if Roe is deemed unconstitutional.

    The root problem here is the American political system and its “duopoly”. The lack of true center-left and center-right parties as found in parliamentary governments has created a centripetal force which only encourages extreme political positions on almost any hot-button issue. NRLC and other pro-life advocacy groups must play the duopoly game even if doing so compromises social justice, of which pro-life is but one component.

  8. April 13, 2012 9:38 am

    What’s themain difference between the Obama and Romney healthcare reform laws? Romney’s included taxpayer funding for elective abortion. These so-called pro-ife organizations are hyprocrites of the highest order.

    • April 13, 2012 1:17 pm

      What, MM? You don’t buy the argument that Romney shares absolutely no responsibility for this?

    • Greg permalink
      April 16, 2012 11:22 am

      I never have voted for a Democrat. The party of Death and intrinsic evil.
      I have in the past voted for Republicans while pinching my nose.
      The party of unjust war and torture and big government.

      This time, I will not vote for Romney or Obama.
      Both are unfit & can not be trusted.
      A vote for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for EVIL the way I see it.

      Its a raw deal we are being herded into.
      me? I choose none of the above.

      Truthfully, the establishment Republicans like Rob Portman & John Boehner and friends deserve to lose for their stupidity in promoting Willard. Not a electable.

  9. Kurt permalink
    April 13, 2012 9:59 am

    The mentioned groups are secular political organizations with positions on a self-chosen numbers of issues. It would seem they have made the appropriate endorsement based on those issues they have taken a position on.

    But just for the record, those issues include: 1) opposition to campaign finance reform; 2) opposition to any universal health care because of the claim that it must lead to rationing; 3) opposition to government funding of non-profits because of certain (exotic) claims of indirect abortion funding or the fungibility of monies but a refusal to apply the same (or lesser) standards to commercial enterprises such as defense contractors; 4) opposition to a woman seeking a procured abortion but no opposition to abortion by Mercury toxins carried out by private enterprise, as well as different standards for the same actions by the Bush and Obama administrations.

  10. April 13, 2012 10:08 am

    The powder was spoiled long ago. The histrionics of the most pro-abortion president evah! and the wailing and gnashing of teeth over phantom abortion funding in the health care bill have made this a rather anti-climatic event. I’m confident the determination on whom to endorse was made with the same sober analysis as was offered with the present President and his policies, which is to say none. Quite frankly one is more surprised when a prostitute goes past third base. As for whether they could have held out for more, I’m doubtful. They had already gone further than any number of other groups had been willing to go. Perhaps there would have been more honor in holding out, but I think that only comes about if you really, really want to support the pro-life leadership, like your mother being a drunk but still not that bad of a drunk. I’m not one to tell you to hate your mother, but she has a problem and she won’t get better until that major problem is addressed. You can try to mask the problem by wishing she had only withheld the endorsement, but I’m afraid you are only fooling yourself to the size and extent of the problem.

    • April 13, 2012 1:24 pm

      I’m not “wishing” they’d withheld endorsement; I’m pointing out that it was politically foolish for them to endorse now given their stated aims.

  11. Julia Smucker permalink*
    April 13, 2012 1:18 pm

    I’m struck by the NRLC’s statement that all of the Republican candidates have “kept the life issues at the forefront of the race.” Clearly they are defining “the life issues” more narrowly than I would from a consistent life perspective. The only one of these candidates who has accentuated the life issues (plural!) with any consistency is Ron Paul.

  12. digbydolben permalink
    April 14, 2012 5:55 am

    To the anti-abortion, “pro-life” party in the Protestant Christianist wing of the Republican Party, to be “pro-life” is to be “pro-preventive wars,” “pro-capital punishment,” and “pro-ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people” from “Eretz Israel,” as well as “pro-Social Darwinism.” THAT is what the Catholic bishops have, by their Machiavellian political alliances with that crowd, boiled “life issues” down to, and it will wash, with a lot of stupid, Fundamentalist “papists” (as Gary Wills likes to call the Santorum crowd) UNTIL the See of Rome passes into the hands of a South American or a Black African. THEN you will see how far American Catholicism has passed into schism vis-a-vis the World Church.

  13. Bruce in Kansas permalink
    April 14, 2012 9:56 am

    There’s not much to disagree with that’s been said here. But is calling the policitally active right-to-lifers foolish helpful either? Folks who trust President Obama are called foolish by the other side. Does this rhetoric produce anything approaching a productive dialog for those on both sides who agree that abortion is evil?

    In summary, to quote my eight-year-old: “I know you are, but what am I?”

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