A debate is going on in the Republican Party these days over abortion. Not over whether it's right or wrong, but whether it wins votes. For me, it's a case of deja vu. How well I remember when I was assistant to President Nixon in the 1970's. The strategy sessions we used to have--we'd sit around debating what would win votes, what would sell politically, what direction the poll data was pointing us. I even had a pollster feeding me new data daily. Publicly, of course, we'd wax eloquent about great moral principles. But privately, we knew better. We knew policy was often set by the polls. Looking back, I have to admit we were at times pretty hypocritical. But, as they say, hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. When people pretend to do the right thing, that means at least they acknowledge there are some standards. The time to worry is when people no longer bother even to pretend. And that's what's happening in the Republican Party today over abortion. For more than a decade, the Republican Party has been committed to a pro-life position in its platform. Now some activists want to change that. They're labelling the pro-life position a losing issue, a political liability. Which means they're not arguing over whether abortion itself is right or wrong--they're arguing over what will win come election time. They're coming right out and saying: "Here's the way the polls read, here's what our platform should be." Not even trying to disguise their strategy under high-sounding moral rhetoric. The crassness of it all is shocking. And more than shocking. It's dangerous. Because it means an older ideal of political leadership is dying out. The American Founders did not create a pure democracy. In a pure democracy, the majority can vote in whatever it wants. There's nothing to stop them from voting in policies that are misguided or wrong. That's called the tyranny of the majority. To avoid this kind of tyranny, the Founders wrote a Constitution expressing a Natural Law tradition of basic rights and freedoms. They also set up a republican system of government, in which decisions are made not directly by the people but by elected representatives. The goal is to have representatives so thoroughly schooled in the enduring principles of the Constitution that they are not easily swayed by the changing moods of the masses. This is the very meaning of republican--as in Republican Party. But today the changing moods of the masses are captured in polls. And those statistics seem to ring louder in the ears of Republican Party leaders than does the stately language of the Constitution. The irony in all this is that Republicans aren't even reading the polls right. It simply isn't true that pro-life is a losing issue. It's a winning issue. Republicans won national elections in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988 because large voting blocks were siphoned off from the Democrats. Largely because of social issues like patriotism, crime, family issues, and, foremost, abortion, the dignity of life. If issues like abortion are abandoned, the Republican Party will undo its winning coalition. The activists are misreading the polls. And as a result, the Republican Party is not only selling its soul--but selling it for counterfeit currency.


Chuck Colson


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