The Catholic Thing
Will the Republicans Abandon Pro-Lifers? Print E-mail
By George J. Marlin   
Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Since Mitt Romney went down in flames last November, there have been demands, mostly from the left, that the GOP “re-examine their divisive policies” in order to broaden their ballot-box appeal. The New York Times recently advised the party to move “much further from its extremist tendencies” to achieve that end. In other words, if the GOP is to survive it must abandon its pro-life, pro-traditional-family values.

Such outbursts are not new. In fact, every time the GOP has lost a national election in modern times it has been characterized as on the edge of extinction for clinging to conservative principles.

In November 1964, after Senator Barry Goldwater was creamed by President Lyndon Johnson (61 to 38.5 percent), James Reston of the Times wrote, “Barry Goldwater not only lost the presidential election but the Conservative cause as well. He has wrecked his party for a long time to come.” The GOP’s “real leaders” (a/k/a liberal Rockefeller Republicans) were called upon to “build anew.”

Because up and coming GOP stars like Ronald Reagan refused to surrender to the left, the party picked up forty-seven Congressional seats in 1966, plus three in the Senate, and eight governorships.

Two years later, Richard Nixon, running on a socially conservative platform, beat Democratic Hubert Humphrey in the race for the White House. And in 1972 Nixon trounced leftist George McGovern, carrying forty-nine states.

Despite the cries from the mainstream media and academia in 1964 that the GOP was out of touch, in four short years they were able to put together a winning coalition. Interestingly, a key component was middle-class and inner-city ethnic Catholics, who felt alienated by the Democratic Party’s elitist ideology and the constituents it embraced.

Nixon was perceived as the protector of the interests of these second- and third-generation ethnic Catholics while the Democrats were perceived as cultural elitists who scorned them. This explains why in 1972 Nixon was the first Republican to receive a majority of Catholic votes.

In 1976, after President Gerald Ford narrowly lost to Democrat Jimmy Carter (49.9 percent to 47.9 percent) there were, once again, calls that the GOP ditch the agenda of social conservatives, particularly opposition to abortion.

What most pundits missed, however, was that Gerald Ford lost precisely because he was squishy on issues that mattered to Catholics.  While Reagan forces imposed a pro-life plank in the 1976 GOP platform, Ford was mute on the subject in the campaign and his wife, Betty, was a vocal proponent of a woman’s right to choose.  Also Ford upset anti-Communist ethnic Catholics during the presidential debate. Discussing the Helsinki Accords, which legalized Soviet Control of the so-called Captive Nations, he said, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and never will be under a Ford administration.”

As a result, Carter received 57 percent of the Catholic vote to Ford’s 42 percent.  Analysts agreed that Catholic defections had cost Ford the election.

President Nixon and Pope Paul VI

Four years later, Ronald Reagan, running proudly on a pro-life platform, beat Carter handily receiving 49 percent of the Catholic vote to Carter’s 42 percent and third party candidate John Anderson’s 7 percent.  In 1984, Reagan won 49 states and racked up 61 percent of the Catholic vote.

An important reason why GOP standard bearers lost their presidential races in the post-Reagan era (George H.W. Bush ’92, Robert Dole ’96, John McCain ’08, and Mitt Romney ’12) is that they did not understand that cultural issues matter and were either embarrassed by or could not articulate pro-life and traditional family arguments.

In order to placate liberal GOP governors (Christine Whitman of New Jersey and William Weld of Massachusetts)Bob Dole back-pedaled on the pro-life platform plank in 1996, saying platforms don’t matter much, and that abortion “was only a moral issue.”

McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012, unlike their shared opponent, Barack Obama, were deathly afraid to talk about social issues. This led to losses in tightly contested swing states (i.e., Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania) where disenchanted older practicing Catholics stayed home on Election Day.

George W. Bush, on the other hand, managed to win the White House twice precisely because he ran as an unabashed social conservative. He was not embarrassed to defend in the public square the rights of the unborn or his Christian beliefs.

So here we are in 2013. And many in the Republican hierarchy are once again listening to the left and “soul searching.” Last month, Republican Party chief Reince Priebus released a 98-page study he commissioned that calls on party members to show greater tolerance on social issues, particularly on gay rights and same-sex “marriage.”

Republicans do need to re-examine some positions, particularly on the immigration problem.  (Senator Rubio is the right guy to lead such reform.)  But any compromise with the Democratic social agenda would be disastrous.

Just look at the condition of the Republican Party in my home state of New York.

During the past twenty years, New York Republicans abandoned long-time constituencies, particularly Catholics, in an effort to appeal to liberal voters.  In the state legislature they supported: gay rights, same-sex marriage, bias-crime bills, financing of abortions, and restricted medical insurance “conscience clauses” for religious institutions.

The results:  the party has lost every state-wide election since 2002 and has lost its long-time control of the state senate.  Republicans have proven to be nothing more than useful idiots for lefties who have been laughing up their sleeves.

After Richard Nixon lost the 1962 California governor’s race, owing to a split in the GOP’s conservative base, he concluded that while Republicans can’t win with just the support of the right wing, they also can’t win without it.  Similarly, in our time Republicans can’t win without the support of pro-lifers and Catholics.

So, as the GOP struggles to devise plans to expand its voting base, it best not offend or marginalize these core constituents.  If it does, it’s headed for the ash heap of history.

George J. Marlin is an editor of The Quotable Fulton Sheen and the author of The American Catholic VoterHis most recent book is Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative.
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Comments (15)Add Comment
written by Ken Tremendous, April 16, 2013
This is a spectacularly unconvincing piece. It's a variation on the oft repeated claim by Rush Limbaugh that Republicans win when they are conservative and lose when they are moderate. Rush never attempts to muster any evidence to support this conclusion and neither does Marlin.

First, there are far too few data points for any observed trend to be scientific. There have only been 10 elections since 1972 when Marlin begins his analysis..not a very large sample.

Second, Marlin conveniently leaves George HW Bush out of the equation. Bush lost in 1992 badly to Bill Clinton in an election in which he had nothing to sell the country except conservative stands on family values.

Thirdly Dole in 1996 lost the election decisively to Clinton. He lost by over 8 million votes. And Marlin would have us believe that this is because legions of abortion opponents were put off by some throwaway line on abortion and all stayed home. Crazy.

George W Bush proves nothing. the 2000 election was so close that the outcome is overdetermined. Weather, Lewinsky, or coal or any number of factors could have been as much the deciding factor as abortion.

You are going to have to face some hard truths, Mr Marlin. While you are right that the GOP only became the majority party in the 70's with the influx of religious conservatives, you have to see the other side. Religious conservatives cannot win national majorities either without the support of moderate voters in the Midwest, West and Northeast.

Funny you scarcely bother to examine why the GOP has become so much weaker in former strongholds like Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Michigan, Illinois and California. Do you really suppose that the GOP has lost these places because she has become too tepid in her opposition to abortion? Your theory is laughable.

No, voters in these places deserted the GOP in droves. The biggest reason is that the GOP economic agenda doesn't benefit most voters and actually seems hostile to their interests. When you add the fact that crime is down, the Soviet Union is dead, inflation is tame and that the anti-intellectual tone of the GOP is out of step with most educated voters==the decline of the GOP as a national party is easy to explain. None of the reasons that Reagan garnered huge majorities are in play any more.

The GOP has already mobilized every voter who will cast his vote based mainly on opposiiton to abortion. The party won't win again till it improves on other issues and abandons the fantasy embodied in this piece.
written by Deacon Ed Peitler, April 16, 2013
And that is why I will NEVER AGAIN vote for anyone on the Republican ticket. If someone wants to run on the Constitution party line, as well as the Republican party line, I will vote the former - as long as he/she is pro-life, pro-natural marriage.
written by Manfred, April 16, 2013
You conveniently forget that the Republicans sold their souls to the Neo-Cons and launched a war agaiunst Saddam and Iraq that even the Vatican warned G.W. Bush (twice!) was "illegal" and "immoral". Mitt Romney is in Jerusalem declaring that it, Jerusalem, is the capitol of Israel when any bright person knows all the embassies have been in Tel Aviv for decades and that is the capitol. National Review, begun by Bill Buckley, is now neoconservative and Human Events has lost its way. The RNC just voted unanimously that marriage is one man and one woman and that is a big step in the right direction. I will never vote for the Abortion Party, but if the War Party does not represent my positions, then I have no representation in the Federal Government.
written by Greg LaButti, April 16, 2013
With all the discussion about why Mitt Romney lost this past presidential election, isn't strange that no one brought up the fact that no Catholic has ever been nominated by the Republican party?
written by Grump, April 16, 2013
Sooner or later, America will have one political party and Congress will become irrelevant. We're almost there anyway as the political positions continue to merge and dissenters are moved to the outer fringes.

We have a choice of 20 different kinds of dog foods and toothpaste but when it comes to politics you will just have one. There no longer will be any proportionate political representation as is the case in many countries with a true parliamentary system and a loyal opposition.

Thus, politically, culturally and in every other observable way, America predictably comes to an end with corpocracy firmly and forever established. As long as there are bread and circuses none of this will matter to the ignorant and complacent masses.
written by Mr. Levy, April 16, 2013
The above commenters are all off the mark.

First, Bush I lost because he broke his promise on taxes and had no clue how to deal with the recession. His anti-Israel stance didn't help, either, although it wasn't decisive. Dole lost for a host of reasons, but mainly because he couldn't articulate any part of the conservative case. He was just next in line, rather like McCain and Romney, who were also unable to make the conservative case except on their pet issues (national defense or the economy, respectively). Conservative candidates don't always win, but DeMint has proven they win at least as often as "moderates" and they do more good once in office since they actually believe in conservative principles.

Second, the Constitution Party will never be a force. We have to regain control of the GOP, or concede defeat.

Finally, unnecessary war is harmful in many ways, but not anywhere nearly as harmful as the Left's bankrupt entitlement programs, vast regulatory state, and Marxist-feminist social radicalism.
written by Corky, April 16, 2013
I had to laugh when I read this. Mr. Marlin, the GOP as we know it today is already destined for the ash heap of history even with the support of aging religious conservatives. If you're not retired, Southern, neo-confederate, rural, small business owner, gun nut, war hawk, gold bug, or anti-tax zealot, the GOP has absolutely nothing to offer you. Most people have figured this out.

Just listen to the last series of 2012 GOP presidential debates. It was Mitt Romney and a parade of kooks, hucksters, ignoramuses and clowns. It is absolutely embarrassing what has happened to the once proud party.

And do get me started on the political disaster that was George W Bush.

The GOP's going to have to do alot more than keep checking the right box on abortion to get my vote again.
written by Ray Hunkins, April 16, 2013
Perceptive and well done Mr. Marlin. There is tension within the Republican party over ideology and doctrine. That is not surprising as it exists in all political parties and is reflective of the tension over those same issues in society as a whole. But in a society organized as a democracy, even a democratic republic, it is vital that those who care about their belief system exert influence in the political process. In our Nation, that means one of two political parties. None of us will find the Republican or any other political party, exactly reflective of our beliefs, but we can exert influence to make it more so.

It is vital that we stay engaged, for that is our duty as citizens.
written by Tomas, April 16, 2013
Much as I like Rubio, his speeches, at times, sound canned and he still has that eligibility problem.
Both Republicans and Democrats have cooperated in the ethic cleansing of Catholics through contraception, porn and most importantly-- flight to the suburbs. Unless we get our identity back, we won't be a power to reckon with. It's all detailed well in "Slaughter of the Cities" by Mike Jones
written by Howard Kainz, April 16, 2013
Actually, the Republican loss in the last election was not that bad, considering that the Republican candidate exactly fit the "rich 1%" stereotype promoted by the Democrats, had a speaking ability that did not measure up to Obama's, and made some gaffes that rocked the country (e.g., offering a $10,000 bet during the debate, and conceding that he would lose the "47%." Add to this Obama's usurpation of Executive power to secure liberals by ignoring DOMA legislation and Immigration laws, and using an HHS mandate to assure the feminist vote. It was just a smarter campaign, with an ethically challenged but smarter candidate and handlers.
written by Frank, April 16, 2013
Reagan observed that if taxes were not deducted out of each paycheque and everyone was forced to make quarterly payments, the howling would deafen all and the long knives would be out for the politicians and special interests committed to maintaining the status quo. So what's the point? Only where the money is spent. No elitist Republican or Democrat is interested in reducing anyone's tax burden. The only interest they have is where they spend the money once they get in power. So those out there hoping for any real deficit reduction and/or tax reform, dream on. Until the Republican Party finally exorcises itself from the pretext that "it's my turn," the next Presidential candidate nominated by the RNC is going to crash and burn as well. Dole, McCain, and Romney were unmitigated disasters. Bush 1, the lesser of two worsts and Bush 2, ditto. My last point is this; Americans won't change course until they get shocked to their tippy toes. We don't see the graphic "remnants" of an abortion clinic or the waste of our tax dollars we pay at all levels of government. It took the Lusitania sinking, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and three planes going into three buildings to finally wake us up that there are people out there who either wish to 1)kill us, 2)dominate us, or 3) both. Perhaps that's a good virtue not to rush to violent war but the price paid up front in human lives and blood is too high. We are finding that out right now in Boston. Gay marriage? that one will take a while until those of us who gave initial warning are heard..."we told you so and you didn't listen." I still say it goes back to that anonymous American Cardinal who stated to his colleagues the nasty self evident truth when he said, "Here's the problem, one (political) party is dangerous and the other is stupid." As well intentioned as the author is, he just misses the point and the thesis.
written by D Martin, April 17, 2013
America has four parties; it has the Republican and Democratic Congressional parties and their respective presidential parties. The Republicans will lose the House if they abandon traditional values at least for a decade or two.

The Republican presidential party has always done 'wink-wink' on abortion and now apparently they will do the same on same-sex marriage.

I see a kind of de facto secession developing in this country. I believe there is already a kind of social disintegration occurring. I think Daniel Bell and Robert Putnam and Charles Murray have it just about right.

We have destroyed the family with no fault divorce. Some states want to announce that marriage is nothing or anything. Perfectly viable babies are routinely murdered. The media ignores any arguments that are not politically correct. They ignore the butchery in the abortion parlors.

The Immigration Act of 1965 has created a footstool for these social liberals. They have created a dependent class they can rely on and a dissonant culture in which it is almost impossible to have a rational political argument. Choose your poison Hannity or Maddow.

Parts of that indigent footstool are American born, those whose jobs have been sent overseas or who are forced to compete with illegal aliens for a smaller and smaller part of the pie.

The government over several years couldn't find those illegal aliens, but I knew where they hung out. Just go to your local Home Depot. They will rip out that old siding for less money than those legal guys. Those off the books waiters and waitresses are a boon to the bottom line. Massive immigration, legal and illegal since 1965, has produced a corrosive impact on the nation's political health. The illegal portion daily announces that the rule of law is a dead letter.

The benefits of illegal immigration are private and the costs are socialized. The costs are borne by public hospitals and schools and by government regulatory agencies overwhelmed by their inability to control several foreign enclaves in places like NYC.

More and more the proper functions of government are in atrophy and decay while the distributive functions are in full flower.

If I were younger, I'd move to a crimson state or perhaps Australia.

Justice, I suppose, requires that we create a path to legal status, and that is another reason why I see de facto secession of mind and spirit.

Schools will teach that Heather has two mommies and Daddy was an anonymous donor with great genes and a high IQ.

The irony is that the states where social liberalism is most rampant are precisely those where Jack Kennedy built his political strength, which when added to a few yellow dog Democrat states in the South made for his electoral majority. That tells us all we need to know about the health of the Catholic Church in America. Politics is downstream from the culture.

There is more than a whiff of Weimar in the air, but I digress.

I changed my registration to independent when the Republicans did their late night same-sex marriage deal with Governor Cuomo. I should have done it when they sold the NYC mayoralty nomination to Mayor Bloomberg in 2001. If I register as a Democrat maybe I can help Weiner beat Quinn! Such are the small joys of a New York conservative.

The cost of the non-amnesty will be great as many of the beneficiaries will be incapable of work, and will not have contributed to social security over much of their lives.

One party is stupid and the other is evil? I guess that when they act in a bipartisan fashion they will, likely as not, enact laws that are stupid and evil.
written by Sue, April 17, 2013
Both parties are evil. Nixon won because he was Rockefeller supported, pure and simple, and his policies matched. So went all subsequent Republican pseudo-conservative presidencies (including Reagan - talked a good game but gave us no-fault divorce and "therapeutic" abortions, and even though he apologized for that, he didn't abolish abortion as president - and didn't abolish Communism either (KGB just went underground). Eisenhower - look up Operation Keelhaul or how he aided the borking of McCarthy to understand his complicity with the Communists. The Republican party has been a haven for neo-cons and faux-conservatism and fabian socialists for a long time and this is why the communists are in charge now. The two parties are the left and right wing of the same vulture.
written by Graham Combs, April 18, 2013
In the memorial issue of First Things after the passing of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, R.R. Reno recounts that after the disastrous 2006 elections Fr. Neuhaus consoled him by saying "the Repubicans will betray us eventually." And that has been the case time and again. I am speaking of course of Catholic Conservatives. But then one could argue that there are well organized and determined Catholics who have betrayed us time and again, especially on the right to be born. And again on the equality absolutism mandate for marriage. I've come to believe that the Church will forgive anyone for almost anything but a conservative his conservatisim, particularly on "peace and justice issues." But this assures that "Abortion at Forty" will become "Abortion at Fifty" and "Abortion at One Hundred." For the Conservative Catholic the Church can be a cross -- but for those who do not survive the gauntlet of reproductive rights "I'm opposed but won't obstruct" Catholics are their Golgotha. I see no end to abortion in the near or mid term. The Dr. Kermit Gosnell's House of Horrors is already being re-configured and spun as a "women's health issue." And as one comely and well-spoken abortion advocate has made clear -- that invisible patient in Dr. Gosnell's clinic will remain invisible. I see no great groundwell among young "World Youth Day" Catholics. And I see no William Wilberforce for the Unborn on the horizon. I just see more death.
written by Riley, April 23, 2013
Is it just me or is Ken Tremendous engaging in the very thing the author is writing about, in some attempt to discredit the calling out of his very tactic?

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