The Hole Gets Deeper, the Faithful Keep Digging

I don’t know that the Right has entirely given up their “it’s still a center-right nation” argument, but lately another talking point is elbowing its way to the center of the rightie attention span. The new argument is that it was the Republican Party that voters rejected, not conservatism.

E.J. Dionne has a slightly different take on this. He notes that McCain picked a right-wing running mate and ran a classically “conservative” campaign against Obama. Yet he got clobbered on election day. Dionne continues,

Note that I have been using the word “conservative,” not “Republican.” This is because the Republican Party is now wholly owned by the conservative movement. The new Democratic majority is built in part on voters who once thought of themselves as moderate Republicans but have abandoned the party in large numbers.

In other words, voters rejected the Republican Party because of the extreme conservatism it has come to represent.

Dionne goes on to say that the GOP is splitting between the “ideological” conservatives and the “dispositional” conservatives.

The ideological conservatives hold to a faith linking small government and tax-cutting to extreme social conservatism. That mix is increasingly incoherent and out of step with an electorate that is more diverse and more suburban than ever. Ideological conservatives talk obsessively about returning to the glory days of Ronald Reagan and sometimes drop Sarah Palin’s name as a talisman.

Dispositional conservatives have leanings and affections but not an ideology. They have had enough with rigid litmus tests, free-market bromides irrelevant to the current economic downturn and anti-government rhetoric that bears no relationship to the large government that conservatives would inevitably preside over if they took power again.

Dionne says, and I agree, that the dispositionals will win out eventually, but not right away. In the short term, the ideologicals will still be in control and calling the shots. The GOP hasn’t yet stopped digging the hole it’s in.

Shifting gears just a bit — a few days ago, Dionne wrote another column in which he expressed hope that the Obama administration will help the nation find common ground on abortion.

“There surely is some common ground,” Obama declared toward the end of the third presidential debate.

He argued that “those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, ‘We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby.’ ” Obama added: “Nobody’s pro-abortion.”

To which I said, yeah, right. Wake me up when it happens. There have been several attempts to create a “common ground” movement going back to the 1980s, and every time it is attempted it quickly falls apart. Essentially, someone on the pro-choice side makes the same speech Obama made in the third debate. And then the anti-choice side proclaims it doesn’t negotiate with baby-killers. End of attempt.

But today I read at that some on the anti-reproductive rights side are waving a white flag and expressing a willingness to talk. Jacqueline L. Salmon writes,

Frustrated by the failure to overturn Roe v. Wade, a growing number of antiabortion pastors, conservative academics and activists are setting aside efforts to outlaw abortion and instead are focusing on building social programs and developing other assistance for pregnant women to reduce the number of abortions.

Some of the activists are actually working with abortion rights advocates to push for legislation in Congress that would provide pregnant women with health care, child care and money for education — services that could encourage them to continue their pregnancies.

The day after the election I explained why I believe abortion is done as a national issue. That doesn’t mean we won’t still be hearing about it on a national level, and in some regions of the country it still has some clout. But the last election revealed that opposition to abortion has no power whatsoever to swing a national election. If anything, I believe their rigid anti-reproduction rights position cost the GOP quite a bit.

The hard core of the anti-reproduction rights movement is unmoved, of course.

“It’s a sellout, as far as we are concerned,” said Joe Scheidler, founder of the Pro-Life Action League. “We don’t think it’s really genuine. You don’t have to have a lot of social programs to cut down on abortions.”

Tons of data collected around the world over many years reveal that there is one sure way to reduce abortion — increase the use of contraception. From Alan Guttmacher:

Publicly funded family planning clinic services already enable U.S. women to prevent 1.4 million unintended pregnancies each year, an estimated 600,000 of which would end in abortion. Without these services, the annual number of unintended pregnancies and abortions would be nearly 50% higher. Among many other benefits, family planning clinic services also save $4.3 billion in public funds each year.

The irony is that Planned Parenthood may very well prevent more abortions than all of the anti-choice organizations combined.

Anyway, whether pregnancy assistance programs will make any measurable difference in abortion rates remains to be seen, but as long as they aren’t coercive, hey — give it a try.

See Steve Benen.