During a Fox News interview last Sunday, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) suggested Republicans should “…leave the [abortion] issue alone, when we are in the kind of economic situation and, frankly, national security situation we’re in.”
It is true that the following issues are competing for Republicans’ attention:
- The approaching edge of the fiscal cliff
- The Obama administration’s unforeseen difficulty in implementing ObamaCare’s health insurance exchanges
- The probable backlash in the Senate due to Majority Leader Harry Reid’s proposed revisions to filibuster policy
- The war against Israel
Surely there is more than enough for Republicans to discuss that does not include abortion. Especially when some analysts cite the issue as a reason Republicans failed to secure women and young voters in the recent election.
Abortion is a controversial topic, and it doesn’t fall tidily along party lines. Prominent Republicans and Democrats alike profess to oppose abortion but support the rights of those who disagree. McCain confessed this nonjudgmental stance in his Fox interview, and Vice President Joe Biden closed his vice presidential debate with similar sentiments.
Given the inflammatory nature of abortion, perhaps McCain is correct and letting it take a quiet backseat to other prominent issues is the prudent choice. If Republicans avoid speaking about abortion, perhaps they’ll stop offending voters, recruit more support, and be more effective in a political game that is all about having the numbers on your side.
However, if Republicans follow McCain’s advice they will deflect a vital conversation and will miss an opportunity to stabilize the foundations of the Republican Party. When has ignoring a controversy gone well? It is a fundamental principle of conflict resolution that avoiding an issue does not resolve the problem.
Now is not the time for Republicans to “leave the issue alone.” What is needed is an honest discussion regarding abortion. Yes, key voters will be upset. Yes, even if Republicans manage to avoid the faux pas that occurred during the election people will be still be offended. Yes, pro-abortionists will speak poorly of the Republican Party. However, greatness is not achieved by avoiding difficult conversations.
In his Fox interview, McCain said Republicans must stand for something, rather than in opposition to things. What an interesting comment from someone who moments later suggested Republicans relinquish their vocal stand for life. To stand for something is to actively defend a position, and there is a large measure of integrity to be had in standing firm when the opinion you are holding is unpopular. Most Republicans have remained resolute in their dedication to end the holocaust of America’s children. Their steadfastness lends solidarity to the party, whereas McCain’s response smarts of moral relativism.
The discussion is already taking place, and it will continue to go with or without the participation of the Republican Party. The suggestion to leave abortion alone does nothing but defer a vital conversation. Avoidance is not a solution. Nor is avoidance guaranteed to earn the support of women who voted for Obama. Any attempt to ignore the topic will merely create in the background of the current political scene hills like white elephants1 that will stand as ever-present reminders of the thing about which not talked. Surely the more virtuous course of action is to persevere through the admittedly formidable discussion on abortion, and to continue a charitable defense of the unborn.
1 Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” (1927)