Conservatives in the Republican Party in 1960 were disappointed in Richard Nixon’s choice of a moderate/liberal vice presidential running mate. Their leader at the time was Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, who famously said: “Let’s grow up, conservatives. If we want to take this party back, and I think we can some day, let’s go to work.” He then proceeded to work diligently to elect Nixon, who of course lost a narrow election to John Kennedy.
In 2008 many conservatives were disappointed that John McCain was the Republican nominee. Rather than recognize his strengths and emphasizing his many areas of agreement with conservatives, some conservative and Christian leaders spent months convincing their audiences that Sen. McCain was no better than a Democrat and unworthy of our support. When these leaders recognized the dangers of an Obama presidency, they reluctantly supported McCain. But guess what — a significant part of their audience never came around, remaining on the sidelines or not voting in 2008.
Now we are living with the consequences. For those in the pro-life community, Justice Souter’s retirement and soon replacement by Judge Sotomayor lays bare the foolishness of conservative abandonment of a mostly pro-life Republican nominee in 2008, or any election. As a liberal, pro-choice Daily Kos writer puts it today:
I cannot begin to imagine the consequences if John McCain was elected president last year. Now, it is possible that Souter may not have retired under a Republic president, but it is possible that either Scalia or Kennedy might have; … However, it also possible that Justice Stevens may retire, as he’s 89(!) and was nominated by Gerald Ford(!). If Stevens retired, and McCain was in office, it is likely that he would have appointed a justice that would have voted to overturn Roe – and it’s likely that Roe would have been overturned.
With that, Sotomayor has set conservatives back years since they will have to wait until another vacancy under a conservative Republican’s presidency. It’s unclear how long that will be …
I have no doubt that Sen. McCain would have appointed a judicial nominee with serious questions about the validity of Roe v. Wade. In fact, any rational nominee who truly believed in the philosophy proclaimed by Sotomayor at her confirmation hearings would have to have problems with Roe v. Wade. (Unfortunately, there is no evidence Sotomayor actually believes in “fidelity to the law.”)
We have to be smarter than this. There is no compromise in supporting a mostly or more conservative candidate over a liberal, even as we work in future elections to promote candidates who embrace the entire conservative agenda. And no matter which candidate we support, we need to stop telling our audience that the other candidates would be “no better than a liberal.”
And if you still think we are always better off holding out for the perfect conservative candidate — tell that to the next generation of unborn children.