In the aftermath of Kansas voters’ rejection of a pro-life constitutional amendment on Tuesday, what should be the takeaway for the Republican Party?
Writing in The American Conservative today, Frank Cannon, founding president of American Principles Project and longtime pro-life political strategist, argues that the current GOP plan to ignore or deflect the issue won’t cut it. If Republicans refuse to articulate their own stance on abortion, they will lose:
[L]et’s state the obvious: Kansas isn’t a one-off. If Republicans can’t find a way to respond coherently to the left’s attack—if they continue to bury their heads in the sand and hope for better results—it doesn’t bode well for the GOP’s hopes of a red wave in November.
But if there’s anything that recent political history has demonstrated, it is the Republican establishment’s awe-inspiring ability to take all the available evidence and draw the stupidest possible conclusion. They see the loss in Kansas as a vindication, rather than a repudiation, of their strategy. Having lost an election because of their failure to set a concrete, coherent alternative to the Democrats’ proposals, Republican leadership seems ready to double down. Already you can see the Republican consultant class oozing its way back towards the tried-and-true game plan they know best: frame an election exclusively around fiscal issues, let the other side define you on social issues, and then blame the pro-lifers if and when you lose.
It’s clear by now that Democrats are going to run on this issue, using it to motivate their base and turn off swing voters. Yet Republicans have yet to come up with a concrete answer. Worse still, they don’t even seem to think they need one. That’s a mistake. The bleeding isn’t going to stop on its own. The issue will continue to be a vulnerability unless Republicans put forward a specific federal bill, either pain-capable or heartbeat, with explicit protections for the life of the mother, that they will champion in their elections and vote for if they win the majority. Republicans across the country need a bill that can serve as a pro-life North Star, providing a popular contrast to the Democrats’ radical extremism of supporting abortion up to the moment of birth.