If Republicans ran the culture, Wendy Long would be a household name. She’d be a heroine. She’d be celebrated. She’d have a Barbie doll named after her. She’d be driving the election season.
But Wendy Long is the Republican running for Senate in New York, and it was decided long ago that Republicans don’t win Hillary Clinton’s old seat — the “Daniel Patrick Moynihan seat.” (Never mind that Jim Buckley was there before them.) Those who decide such things, however, forget that just an Amtrak ride away there is a Republican incumbent running for reelection for what was not that long ago long considered “Ted Kennedy’s seat” in the same legislative body — and he could well win.
The fact of the matter is that every Senate seat counts (which is one of the reasons Todd Akin’s going national has been such a cause for political heartburn). And, while New Yorkers may not realize it yet, they’ve got a clear, contrasting choice this year as to what kind of senator they will have.
Long is exactly the kind of person we need in the Senate. After clerking for Justice Clarence Thomas, she joined the esteemed firm of Kirkland & Ellis, where she became a litigation partner. She left Kirkland & Ellis in 2005 to build the Judicial Confirmation Network (now known as the Judicial Crisis Network), which helps gain confirmation both to the Supreme Court and to lower federal courts for jurists who are committed to the law and the Constitution. This year’s senatorial campaign is far from the first time that Long and her family have made sacrifices in order to contribute to the preservation of our constitutional republic.
“I jumped into this race because I believe, in 2012, everything is on the line for America,” she said in a recent television interview. “Our free-market economy is on the line. Capitalism is on the line. The dignity of work and the dignity of human life is on the line. Our security. Our energy independence. So much is at stake in this election. And that’s the reason that I jumped in. My hope is that we can focus on the real issues, because there is such a strong contrast” in the electoral choices voters face this year.
It’s hard to focus on “real issues,” though, when the incumbent senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, has ignored all debate requests thus far. When Gillibrand was on display in a march of women senators at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, there was very little of substance, save for the continued implication that only liberal Democrats truly represent women, and that our freedom is contingent on eroding religious freedom.
“I think a lot of women, women of faith in particular, understand that this whole ‘war’ about the contraception, abortion, sterilization mandate is not about women’s health,” Long said in that same interview. Contrary to White House claims, the Department of Health and Human Services’ health-care mandate “has nothing to do with women’s health — it’s about a big central government trying to conscript religious organizations into a political agenda, an agenda that violates their deeply held beliefs — which are shared by women of faith.”
“The Democrats have concocted this whole phony ‘war on women’ narrative,” Long insists, “simply to mask their dreadful record on the economy and jobs.”
What the mother of two is alluding to here, of course, is an issue that was featured to the point of obsession at the Democratic convention. For Democrats, remaking female nature is a priority, without which freedom is impossible. This is why abortion, contraception, and female sterilization (male sterilization is not covered under the Affordable Care Act) are placed by the Department of Health and Human Services within the purview of “Preventive Services.” Long, a Catholic and a pro-lifer, is running not to convert anyone but to represent her fellow New Yorkers in a manner consistent with the tradition of our laws. Until the advent of Obamacare and the HHS mandate, we enjoyed a bipartisan consensus on conscience protection. Unlike the president and his rubber stamps in the Senate, Long is not looking to impose her conscience on anyone. She simply aims to protect our first freedom.
The Democrats “seem to be focused on this issue of abortion, contraception, sterilization, thinking that’s really what’s on the minds of most women, and I just think that that is incorrect,” Long says. “I think women really are concerned about the economy and jobs.” She has written for the Wall Street Journal twice since launching her campaign discussing financial reform, and she rejects the “punitive” approach adopted by Gillibrand and the other Empire State senator, Charles Schumer. “The Democrats are making a bad gamble, politically speaking,” she observes. Her prediction is underscored by a recent Susan B. Anthony List poll that indicates that the HHS mandate could cause trouble among swing voters in swing states. This isn’t a Catholic thing. This isn’t a Republican thing. This is an American thing — America as global beacon and protector of human dignity.
“The people I see all around New York love our country and our state, and they’re angry and worried that the America they love is slipping away,” Long tells me. “The Establishment in Washington, including Senator Gillibrand, acts like nothing’s wrong and we could go on like this forever. The people know that we can’t.”
Wendy Long gets it: the fear and disappointment brought on by Obama’s brand of hope and change. You don’t have to be a Republican to vote for her. You don’t have to be a conservative. You just have to be a concerned citizen.
New York voters, your country needs you. The U.S. Senate needs responsible public servants. America needs morally serious stewards in the upper chamber of Congress. We all need Wendy Long in the Senate.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online. This column is available exclusively through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.