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Re: One of Us Vs. One Who Owes Us


Jonah raises an interesting point with his “one of us” vs. “one who owes us” distinction. Many social conservatives will simply never be comfortable with the latter option, even if it leads to social-conservative policy (and political) decisions. Bush 41 is a case in point. We all think of him as a half-hearted conservative, especially on the social issues, and among social conservatives he is not fondly remembered. The Souter nomination has a lot to do with this of course. But when push came to shove on many of the pro-life and family issues, Bush 41 was more often than not an extraordinarily staunch ally of social conservatives, and his administration was assertive and explicit in ways that even his son’s (clearly “one of us”) administration has not been. He vetoed a series of bills that would have encouraged or funded abortions, at a time when this carried greater political costs than today. His administration openly called for overturning Roe in briefs and public documents. In June of 1992, he vetoed a bill that would have funded fetal tissue research in a way that encouraged abortions, and said in his veto message to Congress that the bill was “unacceptable to me on almost every ground: ethical, fiscal, administrative, philosophical, and legal,” and especially troubling for its “potential for promoting and legitimatizing abortion.” Even the current administration does not express itself so forcefully on that issue.

Bush 41 did these things basically because he owed social conservatives his support, not because he saw himself as one of them. That doesn’t mean it’s better to have a debtor than a true-believer in office. But might it mean that political indebtedness is an acceptable substitute when other factors weigh in favor of a candidate who isn’t “one of us”? As Jonah says, this will be a subject of much discussion in the coming months.


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