As Virginia Republicans meet this weekend for their annual "Advance," there will be plenty to talk about. From this year's election results to this week's stunning announcement in the Virginia's governor race (which we were one of the first to blog about), there's plenty of debate going on between the so-called "establishment" and the "grassroots" of the Republican Party. As usual, the primary target of some in the debate is pro-life voters. Many words have been spilled from pundits and politicians over this debate, not just this year, but in nearly every election cycle as far back as many of us can remember. It's important to recall that in 1980 the political experts told Ronald Reagan to "tone down" the rhetoric on abortion and talk only about the economy. Of course, most will remember that the 1980 election focused almost entirely on the economy, foreign policy and moral decay. Abortion wasn't a major "theme" of the election or of Reagan's agenda.
But when asked, he wasn't ashamed to be pro-life. In fact, he used the opportunities his leadership position presented to persuade people to his position — one he believed most Americans shared. Was he offensive? No. Was he restrained? Never. He simply was willing to talk and sought to convince people of the legitimacy of his position that the unborn should be protected.
Unfortunately, in our culture of "all or nothing" politics, even those seeking to be incremental and strategic in advancing conservative causes with reasoned rhetoric are labeled and attacked as "putting ideology ahead of winning."
It's time we pro-life, pro-family, pro-limited government, pro-religious liberty conservatives require the candidates we support hold strong, principled — dare I say — ideological positions, but who also are able to persuade people in a logical, approachable, reasonable way that those principles are really what is best for America and our commonwealth.
Why must we so often have to choose between angry belligerence and cowardly silence? Is there no room in the Republican Party tent for reasoned, rational and principled pro-life voters? Certainly, as evidenced by this year's Democrat convention, there's little room in that party's tent for pro-lifers.
In a recent opinion piece in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, a well-known political commentator made the statement that wherever I go, "a fight breaks out." Truth be told, I believe The Family Foundation has been very good at using reasonable and logical arguments to persuade people to our position, never personally attacking people or throwing "rhetorical bombs" that drive people away. After 10 years of doing this, we're still attacked by the media as the group that "picks fights," while it falls at the feet in worship of those who were arrested on the Capitol steps in violation of the law, and who daily use vile, vulgar rhetoric (click links to see examples).
Let's face it: We live in a commonwealth where those who believe that women making the sad choice of abortion should enter sanitary facilities with emergency equipment are attacked by the media and secular left as "extreme" and "out of touch." All the while, those who support abortion through the ninth month of pregnancy (as our president does) are considered "centrist." That's the environment, that's the playing field. We can whine all we want about how unfair it is, or we can do something about it.
We live in a culture of cynicism and skepticism making it even more difficult to persuade. But giving up is not an option, and neither is compromising our principles. We, the whole of the conservative movement — not just social conservatives — must figure out a way to improve our message. Then, perhaps more importantly, find new ways to go around the Mainstream Media to get our message out. Blogs aren't enough. Social media isn't enough. Cutesy Facebook posters won't cut it.
Could the answer be going back to the basics (and hard work) of grassroots organization and mobilization? It's how conservatives changed the course of the nation before. Its successes are proven.
So, back to the question at the top. Is it time for pro-lifers to leave the Republican Party? Frankly, trying to answer that question is a colossal waste of time. While many are debating it, secularist liberals are unified and mobilized to take our state. Let's stop arguing about 30-year-old partisan struggles that may never be resolved. Let's start telling others about our principles, and let's put together the plan that will save our commonwealth.