Despite Jody’s observations , I think McCain was absolutely right not to spend a lot time talking about abortion and related issues in his acceptance speech. Consider:

(a) You’ve got to get possession of the bully pulpit before giving the sermons.

(b) Those on both sides for whom the life issues are paramount already know McCain’s and Obama’s positions and (except for a few people in the grip of some delusion, like Doug Kmiec) are going to vote accordingly.

(c) One cannot argue that by not emphasizing abortion McCain forfeits the right, if elected, to claim a “mandate” in this area. Everyone knows that he would not really have a specific pro-life mandate in any event. Everyone knows this because everyone knows that public opinion is deeply divided and somewhat confused on the issue, and because they know that this election is largely being driven by other concerns—the economy, the war in Iraq, weariness with partisanship, etc.

Unfortunately, most of the independents who need to be appealed to are not strongly pro-life. One reason that Republicans are hurting, is that many people have come to the conclusion that the Republican Party has been so focused on social issues and foreign policy issues, that it has neglected economic issues. And some plausibility is lent to this claim by the fact that Pres. Bush allowed Congress to spend profligately, vetoed no bills no matter how wasteful, and seemed to have no domestic agenda that he was willing to fight for.

That is obviously why McCain spent by far the greater part of his speech on matters like energy, education, taxes, and spending. He underplayed foreign policy as well as the life issues. People already know he would be a strong Commander-in-Chief and that he is forthrightly pro-life. What he had to convince them of is that he has some definite plans for dealing with the energy problem, the economy, and so on.

There is in conservatives a strong Romantic streak that loves the lost but righteous cause. They want to ride over the cliff with all flags flying. But that went out with the Jacobites—or should have. I hear some of my pro-life friends saying, “Why did we fight for the Republicans all these years? What have they done for us? Look at Souter.” They seem to be half in love with easeful defeat. “To hell with mere politics,” they seem to say, “we’d rather be right than win a meaningless election.” Not that you, Jody, are in that camp. But you might be encouraging those who are.

Articles by Stephen M. Barr

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