Ann Coulter has had a few unpleasant weeks. Her political hero fraternized with the enemy, her presidential pick lost the election, and her media buddy gave up the ship to the pirates. Imagine the insufferable commentary that she has to hear now from her friend Bill Maher. Tant pis pour elle.
Though I feel for my favorite lioness, I am saddened by her column this week: “Don’t Blame Romney.” After lamenting that America will not benefit from Romney’s executive talents, Coulter attacks Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock for their giving the Democrats two seats in the Senate:
The last two weeks of the campaign were consumed with discussions of women’s “reproductive rights,” not because of anything Romney did, but because these two idiots decided to come out against abortion in the case of rape and incest.
After all the hard work intelligent pro-lifers have done in changing the public’s mind about a subject the public would rather not think about at all, these purist grandstanders came along and announced insane positions with no practical purpose whatsoever, other than showing off.
While pro-lifers in the trenches have been pushing the abortion positions where 90 percent of the country agrees with us—such as bans on partial birth abortion, and parental and spousal notification laws—Akin and Mourdock decided to leap straight to the other end of the spectrum and argue for abortion positions that less than 1 percent of the nation agrees with.
In order to be pro-life badasses, they gave up two easy-win Republican Senate seats.
No law is ever going to require a woman to bear the child of her rapist. Yes, it’s every bit as much a life as an unborn child that is not the product of rape. But sentient human beings are capable of drawing gradations along a line.
Just because I need iron to live doesn’t mean I have to accept 100,000 milligrams, which will kill me. If we give the guy who passed bad checks a prison furlough, that doesn’t mean we have to give one to Willie Horton. I like a tablespoon of sugar in my coffee, but not a pound.
The overwhelming majority of people—including me—are going to say the law shouldn’t force someone who has been raped to carry the child. On the other hand, abortion should be illegal in most other cases.
Is that so hard for Republicans to say?
Purist conservatives are like idiot hipsters who can’t like a band that’s popular. They believe that a group with any kind of a following can’t be a good band, just as show-off social conservatives consider it a mark of integrity that their candidates—Akin, Mourdock, Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell—take wildly unpopular positions and lose elections.
It was the same thing with purist libertarian Barry Goldwater, who—as you will read in my book, “Mugged: Racial Demagoguery From the Seventies to Obama”—nearly destroyed the Republican Party with his pointless pursuit of libertarian perfection in his vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
I like a band that sells NO albums because it proves they have too much integrity to sell out.
We have a country to save. And just as the laws of elections generally mean the incumbent president wins, they also mean the party out of the White House typically stages a big comeback in midterm elections. BIG. Don’t blow it with purist showoffs next time, Republicans.
Coulter has long been consistent in her political advice, following Buckley’s venerable rule of supporting the most conservative politician electable. I do not fault Buckley or Coulter for this view. In terms of political strategy, it seems sensible. However, one of the roles of law is to teach men what is right and what is wrong. Truth matters in the practical world. When a society leaves the golden path and heads toward perdition, righteous men should speak out against such aberrations and their consequent wickedness. In the United States, we find much evil accepted and celebrated. Just men may argue how best to address the times, but, heeding Isaiah’s warning, they should be unanimous in their commitment to call that which is good good and that which is evil evil. If Republicans aim for the outlawing of abortion at the State level but grant exceptions for the cases of rape, incest, and mortal danger, then such may be an acceptable policy for our society now. However, leaders should not hesitate to point out to the public—to teach the people—that such exceptions are a condescension to a sickness in our society. They should admit and instruct that the basis of the prolife position—that there is an innocent human being whose life is at stake—does not lead to the first two exceptions.
The Republicans’ exceptions are less logical and less morally defensible than the Clintonian Democrats’ goal of making abortion “safe, legal, and rare.” If abortion is a hunky dory medical procedure “between a woman and her doctor,” then why should it be rare? No one says that periodic tooth cleaning should be rare or that colonoscopy should be rare (well, many may wish otherwise, but . . .). However, one could say that abortion should be rare because it is a medical procedure to “fix” an unfortunate situation (unwanted pregnancy), and we should reduce the frequency of that unfortunate situation. In this way, abortion would be like cancer treatment—it should be rare not because the treatment is objectionable but because we want to eliminate the condition. The Republicans admit that they oppose abortion because it kills innocent children. They acknowledge the salient fact. Nonetheless, they then proceed to justify murder in certain cases that do not weigh a life against a life. In the cases of pregnancy by rape or incest, we weigh an innocent human life against a victim of sexual abuse’s aggrieved state. What exactly are we supposed to achieve by killing the unborn baby in such cases? The removal of a painful reminder? A rape victim is not going to forget the trauma of sexual assault, pregnant or not. The removal of miasma? If we accept spiritual purity as a legitimate basis of law, then we must do quite an extensive revision of our legal code. Even so, capital punishment for the perpetrator and handing over the child to a convent appear better solutions to miasmic contamination than compounding the offense with innocent blood. The removal of an unjust burden? Unfortunately, bad things sometimes happen to good people, though laws and political policies may temper the effects of bad fortune. Instead of killing babies conceived in horrid circumstances, our society could recompense the victim, preferably by confiscating the property of the perpetrator (or wages earned in slave labor, if the vicious is allowed to live).
I was raised in a prolife home. My mother began toting me to anti-abortion marches in elementary school. However, I always heard the unquestioned acceptance of the “hard case” exceptions, together, of course, with the relevant statistics—the percentage of abortions that involve the “hard cases” is quite small. So, I accepted the exceptions, as well, never thinking more about the issue. When I was a fourteen year old high school freshman, I befriended a girl whom I met in a religious youth group. She was from a troubled family, and she told me more and more of her story as we got to know each other better. I remember well the night that she told me she had suffered sexual abuse by her stepfather. She had become pregnant, and her mother made her get an abortion to “fix” the problem. My friend told me that she was haunted by her action—and by the thought of her child. She suffered every day; abortion did not solve her “hard case.” Her grief struck me profoundly. Of course, I sympathized with her. I wished that I could have removed her from the trauma that she experienced. Yet, her personal story made abortion in “hard cases” real to me. A pregnancy from rape was still a pregnancy, and an abortion of a baby conceived after rape was still an abortion. Such is obvious, but my mind had relegated the phenomena into their own special unexamined state until my friend’s pain reified them. How could I deny the humanity of such children? How could I consider murder an acceptable therapy for a victim of a horrific crime? From that night, I rejected the “hard case” exceptions. I knew no one who thought similarly until I went to college, where I encountered others who analyzed morality from principle rather than from politically useful myopia.
That said, I support incremental approaches to legal reform because such saves lives and moves the national conscience closer to where it should be. I moreover recognize that our laws cannot instill perfect virtue. Thomas reminds us of such in the Summa Theologiae (I-II, 96-2):
The purpose of human law is to lead men to virtue, not suddenly, but gradually. Wherefore it does not lay upon the multitude of imperfect men the burdens of those who are already virtuous, viz. that they should abstain from all evil. Otherwise these imperfect ones, being unable to bear such precepts, would break out into yet greater evils: thus it is written (Psalm 30:33): “He that violently bloweth his nose, bringeth out blood”; and (Matthew 9:17) that if “new wine,” i.e. precepts of a perfect life, “is put into old bottles,” i.e. into imperfect men, “the bottles break, and the wine runneth out,” i.e. the precepts are despised, and those men, from contempt, break into evils worse still.
It is for this reason that I find Republicans’ condescension morally acceptable to support, though only strategically and, ideally, temporarily. Even so, I support an unwavering fidelity to solid moral reasoning and sound principle. By contrast, Coulter’s damns intellectually consistent prolifers. Consider the “disaster” of Richard Mourdock. Mourdock stated, “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” The dishonest minions of hell twisted Mourdock’s wholly mainstream Christian understanding of God’s role in the proliferation of the human race by stating that Mourdock’s God intends rape. Mourdock’s Democratic opponent and eventual victor Joe Donnelly shamelessly reponded, “The God I believe in and the God I know most Hoosiers believe in, does not intend for rape to happen—ever. What Mr. Mourdock said is shocking, and it is stunning that he would be so disrespectful to survivors of rape.” The alinksied Mourdock clarified his remarks, “What I said was, in answering the question from my position of faith, I said I believe that God creates life. I believe that as wholly and as fully as I can believe it. That God creates life. Are you trying to suggest that somehow I think that God pre-ordained rape? No, I don’t think that. That’s sick. Twisted. That’s not even close to what I said. What I said is that God creates life.” Instead of attacking the Democrats for their bad faith and instead of defending a normal Christian understanding of God’s role in life, the Right from Romney’s campaign to pundits like Coulter denounce and blame Mourdock. Rather than sinking to the lowest level of idiocratic pandering, conservatives could ask Mourdock’s “Christian” detractors how they conceive of divine providence in a fallen world. It is not a simple issue, and I have never been able to get a satisfying grasp on the issue. Yet, Mourdock’s position appears to be a standard theologoumenon. In our age of the anti-Christs, though, fundamental Christian doctrines—and those who espouse them—are anathema.
Though of lesser importance, Coulter’s swipe at Goldwater disheartens me, as well. Goldwater’s courageous and prophetic opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an attempt to defend the American constitutional regime from a bloodless revolution that has rendered us ever more shackled by intrusive statists (well, not so bloodless, actually . . .). American conservatives should never have accepted the leftist attack on the freedom of association and the freedom of contract. They should have never accepted the underpinning mechanism of racial Marxism, whereby the government tramples on American liberties—and American individuals—in its interminable quest to “close the gap” between different ethnic groups. For all his faults, Goldwater’s stand should remain a source of pride and inspiration for American conservatives, even a touchstone in determining the proper role of government in a liberal republic of the Anglo-Saxon tradition. If we are unable or unwilling to defend the basic principles of the traditional American regime, what good is there in scraping over policies to which those neglected principles redound? In Christian theological terms, Coulter would have had the Boston Congregationalists reject trinitarianism but argue vociferously with the Unitarians about hymnography.
Goldwater and his supporters were the Spartans at Thermopylae. Would Coulter counsel Republicans to follow Ephialtes?