One line of explanation for the GOP’s woes is summed up by folks like Kathleen Parker. In an op-ed piece in yesterday’s NY Times, Ross Douthat explains:
Pro-choice Republicans, in particular, know exactly whom to blame for their party’s showing. As Christie Whitman, the former New Jersey governor and Bush administration E.P.A. chief, explained after the election, it lost because “the party was taken hostage by ‘social fundamentalists,’ the people who base their votes on such social issues as abortion.”
The conservative columnist Kathleen Parker made the same point more vividly: “The evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the G.O.P. is what ails the erstwhile conservative party.” The neoconservative writer Max Boot was diffident about the matter (“I don’t think Republicans need to panic,” he wrote, but “one area where I do see some room for adjustment is on the issue of abortion”) and the right-wing humorist P. J. O’Rourke was blunt (pro-lifers should “give the issue a rest”). The message is clear: If the Republican Party would only jettison its position on abortion, it would be back on its feet in no time.
Douthat goes on to explain the fallacy of this argument. Basically, pro-lifers are already applying a “winning hearts and minds” strategy even as they remain unflinching on the priority of candidates who support strict constructionist judges. Ultimately, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey must be overturned for any serious abortion restrictions to ever be realizable. Douthat’s conclusion:
Overturning Roe and Casey has never been an easy task, and the election of Barack Obama will make it that much more difficult. Facing a hostile governing majority, pro-lifers can and should talk more about the possibility of compromise: They should explain, more often and more cogently, that if Americans want laws that better reflect their muddled sentiments on abortion, it is pro-choice maximalism, not the pro-life movement, that’s really standing in the way.
But so long as the Supreme Court remains closely divided, and a post-Roe world remains in reach, the movement’s basic political task must remain the same. Not because pro-lifers are absolutists who reject compromise, but because any real compromise will always depend on overturning Roe. Giving up on this goal would mean giving up the movement’s very purpose, while gaining nothing in return.
Read the whole thing.