In August I did a piece for Crux which addressed the growing calls for a new pro-life party. Democrats now have the most pro-abortion rights platform in history, while the GOP has nominated a pro-torture, anti-immigrant presidential candidate with an incoherent abortion position.
Those who are calling for a new “party of life” rightly see this situation as presenting us with a very important opportunity.
Over 70 percent of Americans want prenatal children more legally protected than they are now, but they currently have limited political options for advancing such an agenda. The current instability of both parties may be precisely what a new pro-life party would need to get off the ground.
Of course, pro-lifers don’t agree on what such a party would look like. Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, wrote a piece which argued for an anti-abortion party—mirroring the single-issue parties of old which brought attention to issues like slavery, prohibition, the vote for women, and a national income tax.
Others, such as Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, note that the political center of the U.S. is both fiscally liberal and anti-abortion, and have called for a new pro-life party which goes beyond abortion.
In my piece, I asked for feedback from Crux readers on these alternatives and got nearly 30 pages worth of responses. The overwhelming majority were enthusiastic about such a party, with many saying that this would finally offer them hope in the midst of a totally depressing political situation.
Unprompted, several offered help in getting it started. One reader wrote, “There is no limit to the amount of free time I would devote to such a cause.”
Over 90 percent of respondents advocated for some version of a pro-life party which went beyond abortion, but beyond that readers didn’t agree on much.
A good chunk wanted the party to focus on Laudato Si’ and ecological justice, while a similarly-large chunk never mentioned these issues. Some thought the party should advocate against same-sex marriage, while others through that it should have tolerance for (or even support) such developments.
Some thought it should promote the growth of federal government programs, while others thought it should curtail such growth and focus on local institutions.
This is just a taste of the wild diversity present in the responses.
So we consistent ethic folks have a problem: there is no agreement about what a pro-life party with a consistent ethic should look like. It is a particular problem for groups like the American Solidarity Party, which has received some attention as a pro-life alternative.
Their party platform, despite not having a policy position on abortion (or even mentioning the word “abortion”), takes policy positions on a huge list of other issues: everything from property taxes to governance of the airwaves to community-ownership of professional sports teams.
It is against same-sex marriage and the criminalization of prostitution. It advocates for “amnesty and a path to citizenship” for all immigrants regardless of legal status and a “decentralized single-payer” health care system, but calls for an end to payroll taxes. It fails to mention gun policy.
Many respondents to my piece would agree with several positions found in the platform, but many would also be aghast both at what is included and what is not. For me, the mealy-mouthed language which supposedly addresses abortion is a deal-breaker.
While there is a huge amount of enthusiasm from a large number of people for a pro-life party which goes beyond abortion, we just ‘aren’t there yet’ when it comes to getting consensus in moving forward.
Given that this is where we find ourselves, let me offer two proposals.
In the short term, pro-lifers of all persuasions should support Domenech’s proposal for getting anti-abortion pro-lifers back on the political map. This is where the energy and opportunity is in the here and now.
Anti-abortion pro-lifers are a huge proportion of the electorate, but current political arrangements don’t allow us to get anything like a political foothold.
Many respondents to my piece criticized his proposal for being “single-issue,” but Domenech points out that plenty of political parties have historically had this kind of single-minded focus with regard to getting a social justice issue on the political agenda of the country.
Furthermore, Consistent Ethic pro-lifers should welcome the kind of party he proposes, as it would give pro-life Democrats and other non-conservative pro-lifers a fighting chance. As a board member of Democrats for Life, I’m made aware of many races that could be won by Consistent Ethic pro-lifers if they just had the resources.
The current political arrangements mean that such candidates don’t get support from any party.
Domenech’s new party, though appearing to be single issue, would actually have the net effect of broadening out what it means to be pro-life by supporting a diverse range of pro-life candidates.
During this first stage, however, those of us who want a Consistent Ethic pro-life party should get busy doing the grassroots work of building one. We should begin by creating forums for exchange about the many different kinds of ideas in play and think both creatively and systematically about what kinds of values and principles would animate the party.
Much of this could take place online at first, but eventually a foundation and think tank should be created—mirroring, for instance, what Heritage and the American Enterprise Institute did for the Reagan revolution in proposing a new set of ideas and getting people excited and motivated to advocate for them.
I’m in the process of working on a book manuscript tentatively titled Resisting the Throwaway Culture, and I will do a series of weekly posts here at Crux from now until the election that will outline my particular vision.
But if a new Consistent Ethic party is to be authentic, it will need to listen to multiple voices and allow for many different kinds of seats at the discussion table. If you would like to be a part of such discussions, or have ideas about how they might go, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A political opportunity like this may well not come again.
Charles C. Camosy is Associate Professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Fordham University and author of Beyond the Abortion Wars: a Way Forward for a New Generation.