It has been clear for some time that pro-lifers simply don’t have a good choice for President in 2016.
Donald Trump is a liar and fraud, who spent nearly all of this life being “very pro-choice in every respect”—including when it comes to killing prenatal children when most of their body is outside of the mother.
No one should believe his far-too-convenient pro-life conversion, especially given his incoherent positions.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has gone from a moderate pro-choice position to leading a party which is about to have the most pro-abortion platform ever. The term “pro-abortion” is often misused, but in this case it applies.
The current language in the Democratic platform considers the killing of a prenatal child, rather than a tragic event to be minimized, a social good to be supported by our tax dollars.
The fact that 2016 marks a huge political realignment has now become a cliché. Trump’s ascendancy means the end of the Republican party as we knew it. Democrats are also in deep trouble: only 3 in 10 identify as members, and the party is at their lowest legislative numbers since the Hoover administration.
Young people are bolting both parties in huge numbers.
In response to all this, many in pro-life circles have been talking for months about the possibility of supporting a different party. And in the last month, we’ve discovered that these conversations are far more serious and broad-based than anyone knew.
Indeed, it is now fair to say that the question is not, “Will there be a new political party for pro-lifers?” Rather, the questions is, “What will the new pro-life party look like?”
Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, wrote a ground-breaking piece calling for a new “Party of Life” which harkens back to third parties of old:
Abolitionist third parties like the Free Soil Party and the Liberty Party elected multiple Senators and Congressmen who fought against slavery in the years before the Republican Party’s formation, and ultimately saw a founding member become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Prohibition Party elected a governor and helped compel the passage of the 18th Amendment, and the National Women’s Party helped push through women’s suffrage. And we have the Populist Party, which elected 11 governors, 45 members of Congress, and carried five states in the presidential contest of 1892, to thank for the national income tax.
Domenech’s new party would focus on a single social justice issue: equal protection of the law for prenatal children.
Beyond that, his vision would welcome diverse opinions on other issues—having a true big tent, marshaling tens-of-millions of pro-lifers: from libertarians to socialists.
Got a district in New York dominated by pro-choice Republicans? This new party could give financial and other support a pro-life Democrat—or run its own candidate. Targeted flexibility with regard to a single political goal would be the name of the game, and history shows this approach can work.
But are you thinking what I’m thinking?
This party, while exciting and perhaps politically smart, misses a golden opportunity to found a party consistently pro-life in the tradition of Roman Catholic concern for the vulnerable. It also plays into one of the most damaging stereotypes of pro-lifers: that we only care about government protection and support of people before they are born.
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry wrote about this limitation in responding to Domenech’s proposal. Noting that African and Latino Americans are disproportionately pro-life, Gobry insists that a new pro-life party—if it is to create a broad and diverse coalition of pro-lifers—must take positions which support the welfare state in protecting mothers, families, and innocent human life.
Gorby also notes that, while urban and coastal elites pine for the opposite, the actual political center of the US is fiscally liberal and pro-life.
In response to the strong rumblings of a new party on the way, I’ve had multiple pro-lifers write me who would like to see it stand firmly against aggressive violence in multiple forms: war, torture, the death penalty, and the like. Again, this would better-reflect Catholic teaching.
So, what should the new pro-life party look like?
In thinking about the answer, I honestly feel torn. On the one hand, we need to be honest about the fact that the massive death toll of the most vulnerable in abortion brings with it a special urgency. A party with a single focus on that issue not only honors this urgency, it is politically clever and historically aware.
But on the other hand, the Consistent Ethic of Life is a far-better reflection of Catholic moral theology, and the political opportunity to reflect this set of values will not come again for some time. Furthermore, resisting abortion on all fronts requires more than simply making the practice illegal—it requires creating better social conditions for women and families.
But a Consistent Ethic party of life, despite reflecting the views of a large and diverse political center, would likely alienate a very large number of (otherwise) small-government pro-lifers, and hurt the party’s chances of getting off the ground.
Is it possible that the new party could start with Domenech’s vision and, after the most persuasive vision rose to the top, end up with Gobry’s?
I honestly don’t know the answers to these questions, and would like feedback from Crux readers. What do you think the new pro-life party should look like? E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org and/or Tweet me @CCamosy.
I’ll write a follow-up piece next month, after the conventions, based in part on the feedback I receive.
Charles C. Camosy is Associate Professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Fordham University.