In Romney They Trust

Not to my surprise, several pro-life leaders and organizations have endorsed the once questionable Mitt Romney quickly following Rick Santorum’s unceremonious departure from the field.  The National Right to Life Committee, Susan B. Anthony List, and Jill Stanek have each taken hold of the Romney banner in their battle against President Obama and his policies related to abortion.

Given their priorities and their expectations for a president, their support makes sense: little doubt Romney will prove more of a friend or at least less of an enemy to their cause than the sitting president, whom they’ve deemed “the most pro-abortion president ever” (a title they’d no doubt have given to Hillary Clinton had she won).  What’s remarkable about their endorsements is the absence of all nuance and reservation.

Politically, Romney isn’t a man of principle or even an ideologue.  He lies regularly and with an obvious indifference to the truth.  He’ll say what he thinks will get him elected.  He’s the model of the untrustworthy politician, and yet these pro-lifers have given him their complete trust.  They express absolute confidence that he’s a genuine convert.

In so doing, they’ve made an unwise but for them typical political move: they’ve given up any pressure they may have later put upon the Republican nominee.  He’s got their endorsements.  And if these groups have influence over the votes of anyone, they’re not the votes of people who’d consider supporting Obama.  They’d have been wiser to go on the offensive against Obama while putting continued pressure on Romney to strengthen his pro-life credentials.

In my experience, a lot of pro-lifers believe the the GOP at least minimally serves their interests.  The reverse is more the case: politically-active pro-life leaders and groups serve the interests of the party.  They help mobilize the base for nothing more than the latest GOP offerings being nominally or minimally better than the Democratic candidates on their non-negotiable issues.  They’re pawns in the game of thrones.  With Romney, they had an obvious political opportunist and therefore the opportunity to gain power within the party by withholding their endorsements pending demands being met.  Instead, they became willing tools for an empty suit.

(Photo via NPR)

Kyle Cupp

Kyle Cupp is a freelance writer who blogs about culture, philosophy, politics, postmodernism, and religion. He is a contributor to the group Catholic blog Vox Nova. Kyle lives with his wife, son, and daughter in North Texas. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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30 Responses

  1. Mark A says:

    It sounds to me like you’re making the case that NRLC, SBA List and Jill Staneck have chosen the wrong strategy to increase their clout within the GOP when perhaps their goal of finding a political solution to the abortion problem is what’s wrong. I believe this is a direct result of the chosen ends.

    • Kyle Cupp says:

      I’m not so sure. I’d say their problem, politically speaking, is that they resign themselves to the current MOs of the two parties, becoming in effect uncritically partisan. The pro-life movement has been around for a while now, and yet it’s never mobilized itself into something akin to the Tea Party of OWS.

      • Mark A says:

        First, I agree entirely. As you state, the pro-life movement has been around awhile. If the Tea Party and OWS prove to have staying power I have little doubt they will fall into the same quandary of having to choose parties and candidates over ideals. Another problem with the political arena is that the rancor gets amplified and both sides become entrenched in their positions with little room for compromise.

        But let’s address the most fundamental problem: the political solution is an outright ban on abortion. This starts with overturning Roe V. Wade but the NRLC and SBA List will then focus on making the procedure illegal at the national level or one state at a time. As prohibition and the never-ending war on drugs demonstrate – simply making something illegal does not prevent people from doing it. Instead you drive the activity underground where it becomes a profitable criminal enterprise. To say nothing of the problems that may arise from a surge in the number of unwanted children.

        Hence, I would take your argument a step further. The pro-life movement could accomplish more if all such groups simply stayed out of politics completely and focused instead on changing cultural attitudes and addressing the underlying issues that result in needless abortions: sexual education, access to contraception and making the domestic adoption process easier and cheaper. Yes, such efforts are being made today but with far too little support. The addition of the political element only serves to divert attention and resources from meaningful activities in the pursuit of single-party dominance which, in the end, serves nobody but the party in power.

        • karl says:

          You are assuming that the greatest goal for these organizations is lowering the number of abortions by any means possible. But that is not, strictly speaking, their goal: the means are the message. Policies that result in fewer abortions without restricting access are neither ideologically nor politically acceptable — such policies don’t lend themselves to sloganeering and single-issue appeals. Such policies have bi-partisan appeal while criminalizing abortion does not — that is why winning elections is the first priority of the big anti-abortion players: only through Republican-dominated states can access to abortions be curtailed and such rules be upheld by reliable anti-abortion Republican judges.

          Yes, “politically-active pro-life leaders and groups serve the interests of the party” but that doesn’t make them pawns — now that the right wing has taken over state governments they act like kings (check out paragraph nine in this report of my newest home state law).

  2. Tom Van Dyke says:

    “They help mobilize the base for nothing more than the latest GOP offerings being nominally better than the Democratic candidates on their non-negotiable issues.”

    I disagree, Kyle. first of all, on the state level all over the country, it’s the GOP passing laws to place constitutionally permissible limits on unfettered abortion.

    At the national level, were it not for the GOP, the Hyde Amendment would have been repealed long ago, and the fed gov’t would be freely financing abortions. With the retirement of Bart Stupak, the pro-life Democrat is pretty much an extinct animal.

    • Kyle Cupp says:

      There are real differences between the parties, as I acknowledge in the post, but sometimes a nominal difference serves as a sufficient ground for pro-lifers to get behind a candidate. I see that I didn’t make that clear, so I’ll revise the sentence to clarify.

    • I concur with Tom. While on the national level the GOP has been less effective at implementing significant anti-abortion policy (though it has certainly created some difficulty on the related issue of contraception, emergency and otherwise), it has made real change at the state level. I am not inclined to support those changes, by and large, but one can’t deny that they’ve happened, and that the GOP is the party responsible.

      • Kyle Cupp says:

        I make no such denial. The GOP, both at the state and national levels, has implemented anti-abortion policy. Recent de-fundings of Planned Parenthood, for example.

      • Kyle Cupp says:

        I should perhaps clarify that I’m writing not about the pro-life creds of the GOP, but about the political strategies of organizations within the pro-life movement.

      • Tom Van Dyke says:

        Thx, Dr. Saunders. I would add that on the whole, pro-life/GOP has come to terms with the fact that even overturning Roe would simply result in returning the abortion issue to the states. There will be no pro-life amendment to the Constitution, so the Hyde Amendment and such $$$ stuff [defunding Planned Parenthood] is as likely as pro-life on the nat’l level can go.

        Neither do I see it likely that early-term abortion prohibitions will ever get through the Supreme Court. Some residue of Roe would sustain. Basically, the battle will be toward a ban somewhere between 16 and 24 weeks, which I believe polls say is where 60+% of Americans are comfortable.

        With the extinction of the pro-life Democrat, however, it’ll be the GOP that makes that happen, and therefore the pro-lifer has nowhere else to go.

        • Mark A says:

          Judging by how much people know about the politics of the issue (specific amendments, funding and…..term limits?) I can only conclude that the parties have been successful in duping the masses into believing that the only solutions available are political in nature. I’ll belabor my point from earlier and suggest that a true pro-lifer has plenty of places to go: outside of politics where the solutions actually lie.

        • greginak says:

          extinction of pro-life Dem….???? huh. Not a factual statement.

  3. Rodak says:

    Ah, feel the love up there! Good “Christians” all, I have no doubt.

    Well, whatever. It takes all kinds…

    I think it’s a safe bet that Romney, given the opportunity, will make appointments to the SCOTUS who would be likely to overturn Roe v. Wade. That is about the extent of the ability of the POTUS to act on a pro-life agenda. The rest of it (while you are correct) Kyle, doesn’t really enter into the anti-abortion struggle. The problem is, when you get conservatives in power, you also get: unnecessary wars; disregard for the suffering of the poor; erosion of the middle-class in favor of the plutocrats; one of the WORST (read up on it, you goobers) health care systems in the developed world; and a host of related angst-enhancing situations. There’s a sucker born every minute (so long as Obama doesn’t get there first with his Kenyan speculum and socialist vacuum aspirator, eh, goobers?)

    • Kyle Cupp says:

      The trollish commenters all seem to have been one person.

      • Mark A says:


        You seem reasonable and I hate to see you fall for the false Democrat / Republican dichotomy. You pretty much get the same results with a liberal in power. Despite all of Obama’s lip service to the contrary I don’t see significant changes in domestic or foreign policy since his election – though I will concede that he got us ‘mostly’ out of Iraq. Even the Affordable Care Act was closer to a tweak then anything resembling an overhaul while serving the dual purpose of insuring more poeple and improving the profits of the nation’s insurers (win-win!).

        PS: what do you mean WORST? We have the best healthcare money can buy.

        BTW: Kyle, it looks like you deleted the inappropriate comments. To bad, I liked how rational and intelligent I sounded by comparison.

        • Rodak says:

          Mark A —
          Check out world stats on such things as infant mortality, and you may have to revise your opinion of our health care system. Granted, we have first-rate medical technology in this country. Where we fall miserably short is in delivery of the fruits of that technology, especially to rural and inner-city populations. The rich, of course, don’t have that access problem. Neither, for the most part, do employed middle-class persons living in the suburbs near urban centers. But there are millions of people who have great difficulty even coming close to receiving optimal care in this country. Again: technology > EXCELLENT; delivery > NOT SO MUCH.

          • Rodak says:

            Mark A —
            As for Obama being slow getting out of the Middle East — it frustrates me. But, that said, it is always hard to get out once you’re in, for a multitude of reasons–some of them good ones, I regret to admit. It is highly doubtful that a Democrat as POTUS would have invaded Iraq as Dubya did. With only one war going on, it is likely that Afghanistan would have gone much differently, assuming that a Democrat, as POTUS, might have felt it necessary to go in after Osama bin Laden and his cohort.
            The GOP has had a pro-life plank in the party platform at least since Reagan. They have had the White House for five terms in that period, some of those with concomitant control of congress. Their pro-life commitment has been mostly lip-service.

          • Mark A says:

            The comment was meant to be facetious since, as you point out, healthcare in this country works best for those that can best afford it.

          • Mark A says:

            Also agree with your additional comment. I didn’t intend to go too far into the nuances of foreign policy where most of the differences lie. I actually believe that on the domestic front there are far more similarities between the parties than either would care to admit. Not to go all conspiracy-theory but it would not surprise me to learn that Republicans intentionally avoided making any significant changes in social-related policy for fear of the boogey-man going away.

  4. Scott says:


    Is this post supposed to have some intellectual value or is is just an anti-right rant which you’ve attempted to cleverly disguise.

    • I’ve seen rants. They involve unabashed name calling, pointing of fingers, and intellectually flawed ideas that are meant merely to disqualify the opposing position without giving adequate, or even good, reasons for their position. Which seems to be what Kyle is trying to say of the Pro Life movement when he says that they support Romney with complete trust; they merely support him in opposition of Obama, not to condone their candidate Romney; which suggests that they are the one’s ranting, if I am understanding the argument correctly. The intellectual value in the message is that we should do more than merely oppose, we should uphold our ideals and pressure the candidate to act according to the expectations laid upon him; that is to say those expectations garnered from the support of those who carry the Pro Life Standard.

    • Kyle Cupp says:

      Scott: Maybe neither.

  5. Darwin says:

    He’s the model of the untrustworthy politician, and yet these pro-lifers have given him their complete trust. They express absolute confidence that he’s a genuine convert.

    In so doing, they’ve made an unwise but for them typical political move: they’ve given up any pressure they may have later put upon the Republican nominee.

    I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case. Another way to look at it would be that by endorsing quickly after he became the inevitable nominee, they made it clear they were willing to be part of the coalition supporting him (thus getting themselves a place at the table) but still leaving themselves open to playing the worried, “Gee, Mitt, if you do X [pick the wrong VP/take the wrong position/don’t call Obama out on this] I don’t know if we can keep the troops rallied. You remember, a lot of social conservatives weren’t sure about you, but we can on early, so you really need to take our word on this.”

    In other words, there’s probably game of thrones being played on both sides.

    • Kyle Cupp says:

      Possibly, but I don’t see how they can later rescind their endorsements without looking like fools who have been played.

      • Darwin says:

        Well, to those highly critical of them, they’ll probably look like fools who’ve been played regardless, and to those who are true believers, I think any anger would be directed at Romney as betrayer.

        Of course, in point of fact, it’s unlikely that they’d ever fully turn their backs on Romney, since it would be hard for him to get to the left of Obama on abortion, and so invariably those who vote based on abortion will end up voting for Romney over Obama in a two man contest anyway. That’s probably not surprising, it’s similarly unlikely that NARAL hold off on supporting Obama just because he occasionally isn’t as enthusiastically on their side as they’d like.

        Besides, the point where Romney would have the greatest ability to betray them would be after he was elected, at which point endorsing or not endorsing is pretty much moot.

        • Kyle Cupp says:

          In itself, an endorsement may be moot once the candidate endorsed is elected, but if the endorsement or the withholding of an endorsement is part of a long term strategy to build a coalition within the party, then it can take on greater meaning. The pro-life movement has been around for a long time, but it’s never mobilized its members into something akin to the Tea Party or OWS. Because of this, and because pro-lifers have no where else to go than the GOP, they’ve not yet succeeded in becoming a major player within the party. They’re content with lip service and with isolated minimal victories. With Romney, who’s far from trustworthy, even though it’s a safe bet that he’ll be better on their issues that Obama, they had the chance to flex their muscles, make additional demands, or even refuse support so that the GOP realizes that it needs to prioritize the pro-lifer demands in order to ensure their support and their own chance at victory. Instead, by endorsing, they told the GOP movers and shakers they’ll get in line behind whoever.

          • karl says:

            And why shouldn’t they? Now that a Souter (heck, even an O’Connor) is an impossibility all they want is one more Justice. After all the abortion-related legislation that poured out of Republican-held state houses you write “they’ve not yet succeeded in becoming a major player within the party”; after decades of public protest and private lobbying you write “it’s never mobilized its members into something akin to the Tea Party or OWS.” Really? Try having an unwanted pregnancy if the Republican platform becomes law.

          • Kyle Cupp says:

            I credit the Tea Party and its accompanying sentiments more than the pro-life movement for the recent anti-abortion legislation across the country. Pro-life groups have been trying for years to defund Planned Parenthood, for example, but only in the wake of the Tea Party encouraged political climate have we seen these anti-abortion desires come to fruition. Fierce opposition to the Obama administration has also helped. Pro-lifers have acted within this climate, of course, but they as a coalition weren’t the cause of it. They’re taking advantage of the efficacy of others. That’s smart politics in the short term, but it isn’t sufficient long term.

  6. Janiah Wilcox says:

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