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A reader has a reasonable objection to my argument that Trump advocates every evil Hillary does

A reader has a reasonable objection to my argument that Trump advocates every evil Hillary does August 2, 2016

He writes:

Your claim that Trump and Hillary will do the same thing on abortion, namely maintain the status quo, is the biggest weakness in your nevertrumpness and the one place where a lot of reasonable pro-life people disagree with you.

You’re correct that, by all accounts, Trump doesn’t care about abortion and will do nothing about it.

But that’s simply not the case with Hillary. She will expand the abortion license, do all she can to roll back the life-saving pro-life laws that have been put in place over the last few years, give Planned Parenthood everything they want, repeal the Hyde Amendment (the abortion lobby’s stated next goal), and whatever other abortion supporting action she can push.

The one thing she will most assuredly NOT do is maintain the status quo. And while the status quo on abortion is horrible, it’s still not as bad as it could be. Maintaining it instead of letting it get much worse is an actual positive good that many people think outweighs many of Mr. Trump’s negatives.

I understand you don’t share that analysis, but under-selling the threat Hillary poses on the abortion front doesn’t help your case with those who disagree with you.

It is true that Hillary has made a great deal of noise about overturning the Hyde Amendment and that this distinguishes her from Trump, and not for the better.

The question is (and this is a prudential judgment), how likely is that to happen with a GOP-dominated Congress, and how serious is she about frittering away political capital just to please the fanatical 20% of her base that zealously want abortion on demand without apology, funded by the state, everywhere, always and for all time.  Recall:

20% of Americans want abortion on demand without apology. 20% want it outlawed. 60% of Americans don’t like abortion but also have no intention at all of telling some woman in a crisis pregnancy what she has to do. They don’t want to think about it and they wish it would all go away.

Our two major candidates have to navigate that to win and two basic strategies dominate (and have dominated for 30 years). Trump knows his audience. He speaks of abortion as little as possible and only to signal his approval of abortion and support for Planned Parenthood to the mainstream while lying to prolife people that he totally hears them and is on their side. His deluded “prolife” supporters then do the heavy lifting of rationalizing their support for him when he has, in fact, made clear he will not change a thing in the law and that he likes Planned Parenthood just fine. He makes crazy statements about punishing post-abortive women to please the fanatics out at the end of the bell curve and then, when normal people (including most prolifers) gasp in horror, he rescinds them quickly to tack to the center. He has to do this to fool a crowd of suckers that wants him to lie to them–a crowd which has demonstrated time and again that the most transparent cynic can get their passionate support if he just wears a Precious Feet pin (see, “Romney, Mitt”, “Cheney, Dick”).

Clinton, in turn, has to please her base so she signals her passionate support for theother 20% (early in the campaign). Then, later, she will likewise tack to the center and tell the mainstream (who don’t like abortion but don’t want to ban it) that she will keep it “safe, legal, and rare” as the campaign goes on. (Obama did the same stuff. Remember the Freedom of Choice Act he was going to sign on Day One of his Presidency? It vanished into thin air the moment he was elected.)

Hillary has been obeying classic Dem strategy so far: go to the Left and shore up the base out at the end of bell curve that are abortion zealots.  Now she will have to please the 60% of Americans who don’t like abortion and who also don’t want to get rid of it.  The classic Clintonian triangulation is “safe, legal, and rare”: a perfect reflection of the illusion that the bulk of Americans want to cocoon themselves in and one Clinton has done much to foster.  It’s her language after all.

So the question is, does she want to make a fight with an intensely obstructionist Congress over abortion–a hugely volatile issue with very little political payoff–something she really wants to piddle away her already miniscule political goodwill.  She will enter office as one of the most deeply disliked (even by her own party) new Presidents in American history.  Assuming she beats Congress (a big assumption) and forces the repeal of Hyde, a victory in which she forces 80% of the country to pay for something they feel very queasy about–and that 80% includes a 20% that regards abortion as the gravest moral issue of our time and is willing to fight and in some cases offer civil and uncivil disobedience in reply… well, what kind of victory will that be for her?  It will ensure bitter and even crazy hatred for her at worst, deep generalized resentment at best, from about 80% of the public.  Her party will suffer in the midterms as a result and the honeymoon, what little there was, will be dead as a doornail and the rest of her administration hampered by bad will.  And Trump will still be there, awaiting 2020 and ginning up half the country about the whole thing.

So I think she will drop the Hyde thing like Obama dropped FOCA.  The game’s not worth the candle.  That’s why she picked Kaine, just as Trump picked Pence.  Both are signalling to the center, “I don’t care about this crap.  I’m going to maintain the status quo and not rock any boats.  I have other fish to fry.”

It’s just an educated guess of course.  But it does have years of actual experience of Clinton behind it.

Meanwhile, reader points out the complete blind spot in the prolife movement’s analysis:

In the world of the status quo, Hillary has more potential to reduce abortion than Trump does. Women who get abortions do it mostly because they don’t see any other choice. Hillary has a history of supporting things like health insurance for poor children, which relieves some of the financial burden off of poor mothers. If she does manage to reduce higher-education costs or raise the minimum wage, that will also take pressure off of poor mothers. Women under less financial pressure are less likely to get abortions.

There’s more than one way to address an issue.

The prolife moment has had one strategy and one only for abortion since forever: Ignore demand and try to annihilate supply, especially through the fantasy of overturning Roe.

But as I have already pointed out (and this election abundantly illustrates) neither party cares about that fantasy and both work together to subvert it.  So I repeat. We are not going to overturn Roe.  Ever.  80% of Americans like Roe just fine and both political parties profit from it.  So they are not going to change it.

Therefore the question is, “Do you want to save lives or do you want to waste time on a quixotic quest?”  I prefer saving lives for a very simple reason taught to me incessantly by conservatives on every other issue of human life from war to gun violence: utopia does not exist.  The inevitable result of demanding utopia is failure.  The result of prudence, on the other hand, is a measure of real success.

Given that abortion is now at it lowest rate since 1973–now, under the Great Satan Obama–prudence suggests that the prolife movement swallow its pride and consider the possibility of looking, not only at reduction of supply, but at reduction of demand by considering the fact that poverty is the world’s biggest abortifacient and that social programs which address the poor–sometime Republicans hate and fight–are in fact a vital part of reducing abortion.

That would require a metanoia that the Party of Personal Responsibility hates, but which the power of the Holy Spirit can help Christians embrace.

In the end, what I am talking about, yet again, is comparing conservative politics, not with liberal politics, but with the teaching of the Church.  I’m talking about abandoning the utterly failed strategy of pitting the unborn against the rest of the Church’s teaching things like a living wage, respect for the poor, respect for the refugee, a massive arms budget and so forth.

 


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