David Frum is selling “comeback conservatism” in the New York Times today, but there’s at least one point I’m not buying:
Social traditionalists too need to adapt to new realities. Opposition to same-sex marriage is dwindling. The pro-life cause, though gaining strength, remains a minority point of view.
If “the pro-life cause” means no abortion, anywhere, for any reason, he’s right. But that’s not really what the pro-life cause is for most pro-lifers. According to the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll from October 2007, 50 percent of respondents believe abortion should be illegal when the only factor in play is that the pregnancy is “unwanted.” (Large majorities support legal abortion in cases of rape, incest, or situations that put the life of the mother at mortal risk.) Since purely elective abortions constitute the overwhelming majority of pregnancy terminations, it’s an oversimplification to characterize the pro-life cause as a strictly minority concern.
The Pew poll reports that only 21 percent of respondents believe that abortion should be legal in all cases–which pretty well describes the status quo. If nearly 80 percent of Pew respondents want conditions that are operationally more pro-life than the current regime of unrestricted abortion license, how is that a minority cause?
Likewise, solid majorities oppose homosexual “marriage”–and even civil unions still garner strong opposition in many polls. (Including the polls that voters visit on Election Day.) Gallup finds nearly as large a slice of the population characterizing homosexual lifestyles as “unacceptable” today as they did in 1982.
If we’re seeking “conservativism that can win again,” as David puts it, maybe a better strategy is to win over more conservatives. After all, conservatives aren’t cheesed off at the GOP because Republicans have been too consistently pro-life, too aggressive about scaling back Leviathan, or too capable in executing our nation’s foreign policy and defense operations, have they?