Friday, December 14, 2007

Issues Debate Continues

I'm bringing this debate to the top again. I also invite you once more to list your top issues. Stephen has responded to my list with the answer that abortion essentially trumps all other issues. While I respect those who hold this view, I have to disagree. During our last exchange (see comments for this post), I asked the following:

Would you support a candidate who was pro-life but called for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops on foreign soil?

Or a candidate who was pro-life but promised to raise taxes across the board to finance universal healthcare?

Stephen's response:

My answer to your two questions is "not necessarily". Being pro-life is not an instant qualifier, it's just that being pro-abortion is an instant disqualifier.

However, we are not discussing how best to choose from a variety of candidates, but rather, how best to choose between two, such as in a general election. Perhaps I could have been more specific. This scenario illustrates how one could permissibly vote for a pro-choice candidate, given either two pro-choice candidates or a pro-choice conservative vs. a pro-life liberal (or a pro-life idiot). This is the crux of my two questions above. Assume these pro-life candidates run against a pro-choice candidate with a strong commitment to limited government and a tough stance on fighting terror. Admittedly, these candidates do not exist (nor do they have much chance of existing in the future), but if they did, which would you vote for?

In this situation, Stephen would no doubt choose "none of the above." That is a separate discussion. Leaving that aside, what I really intend to do here is provide a reasonable justification for my list (1. limited government, 2. war on terror, 3. abortion+). While I agree that abortion is an unspeakable evil in our society, that fact has only a limited effect on presidential politics, for the simple reason that the president cannot do all that much to change abortion policy (which Stephen concedes). And yet, while he cannot do all that much, he can do something. Otherwise, abortion would not even make the top ten. Contrast this with what the president can achieve on the issues of limited government (or greatly expanded government, e.g. prescription drug plan, universal healthcare, etc.) and fighting terrorism and rogue nations (or allowing them free reign). In these areas the president has tremendous latitude and can usher in sweeping changes for good or ill.

But Stephen further presses his point:

To debate this issue in anything other than entirely objective terms is to effectively legitimize the practice. Once the discussion is subjective, we have no moral grounds on which to oppose abortion. Similarly, to vote for any candidate who publicly supports abortion is to relinquish any principled opposition to it. At that point, abortion becomes only one more subjective issue.

Is abortion distasteful, or is it unconscionable? Is it a minor problem, or is it our nation's greatest reproach?

This seems to cast the abortion issue in an all-or-nothing mold. Either we end abortion or fail. I concede that abortion is indeed our nation's greatest sin. This does not eliminate the fact that abortion politics are notoriously complex. Roe vs. Wade is perhaps the most misunderstood Supreme Court case in our nation's history. Some would argue that only a constitutional amendment will turn back the tide (similar to those who argue for a marriage amendment). Certainly, these would be welcomed by Christian conservatives, but they are misguided. If we actually had enough public support for such an amendment, we would no longer need the amendment. Perhaps Roe vs. Wade could be overturned, and it certainly should be. However, this would do nothing more than allow states to consider the question for themselves. Short of these two sweeping reforms, what do we have? Our only other course of action is incremental change--doing what we can when we can. We can push for parental notification laws, oppose partial-birth abortion, and support crisis pregnancy centers. Most of these items can be pursued without the help of the president.

My conclusion: Limited government ensues that we live in a free society. Even if that society is unsafe, it is preferable to a safe society without freedom. Commitment to the War on Terror helps keep our free society safe. Without a free and safe society, how can we even begin to fight abortion (and all the other issues)? Given the president's limitations on setting abortion policy, we must give the abortion issue a lower (but still high #3) priority.


Anonymous said...

The problem I have with your list (1. limited government, 2. war on terror, 3. abortion+) is that (simply put) the Bible doesn't say "Thou shalt not raise taxes" (or "Thou shalt not enlarge government"), but it DOES say, "Thou shalt not kill". (Exodus 20:13). I think you get in trouble when you put government issues above MORAL issues.


Karen said...

I think we all agree that abortion is a terrible evil. What we are disagreeing about is the best way to rid our country of such an atrocity.

Putting the government "first" doesn't shortchange the moral issues (especially abortion). A limited government would, by definition, limit the negative moral issues. The fight against abortion or homosexual "marriage" is going to be won person by person, bit by bit. (Incrementally) This will/can happen politically state by state.

And in one sense the size of government is a moral issue because increased government increases the chance that much immorality become "legal" and more likely. Just watch what the courts are doing to our country. And who appoints judges? Our elected officials. Which is why we need elected officials who believe in the constitution as our founders gave it and limited government.

Those of you doubting Philip's or my stance on abortion must read Ramesh Ponnuru's excellent book, Party of Death. Even if you agree with us, READ this book! It is very well done and quite thought provoking.

Philip said...

Certainly the ten commandments would make excellent laws (that's where the founders got so many of theirs). While government can enforce specific laws, it cannot make people moral. Only the gospel can do that. I think maybe we are asking too much of government sometimes when we want it to fix people's attitudes toward morality. Even the most "moral" president possible would be extremely limited in what he could do to change people's hearts.

On the other hand, government is very effective at "government issues" such as taxation and war. My list allows for this disparity. Of course I oppose abortion, but the fact that the president is able to improve abortion policy only a very little makes it subordinate to other issues where the president has broad latitude to influence policy.

Mark said...

FACT 1: Abortion is murder--pure and simple.
FACT 2: The only way we are going to be able to bring about change as a nation is electing the person who will appoint constitutional literalists to the Supreme Court. Then, the liberal railroading of Roe v. Wade down the nation's throat can be reversed.

We all want abortion to assume its pre-1970's position--illegal. Without a framework of the proper literal enforcement of the constitution, we have zero chance of affecting change in this or any other moral area.

The 10 Commandments are for us to follow as God's people. We are responsible as individuals first and as a nation second. God sets up the rulers of a government. We obey God rather than man when they conflict. I feel our best shot at getting this national stain removed is through the appointment of Supereme Court Justices who will READ and FOLLOW, not interpret the constitution. Without the framework of a free nation with laws, every man does what is right in his own eyes.

Philip said...

So am I reading that your issue #1 is Judicial Appointments? That does bear directly on abortion policy, so I would lump that in with my #3.

And since we're so quick to site the Ten Commandments, what about "Thou shalt not steal"? What else is it when the government takes money from one citizen and gives it to another? Perhaps over-taxation is a moral issue... "Thou shalt not kill" also holds implications for my #2 (war on terror). We are hunting down mass killers and bringing them to justice.

I agree that abortionists kill more people than terrorists, but presidents are better at stopping terrorists than stopping abortions.