Staying home in November is not an option

Here’s a seemingly gratuitous notification, but humor me for a moment: I won’t be voting in November for either of the major nominees for President.

This comes to mind as I overhear a news channel’s talking head asking a pollster about the people who reject both the GOP and Democratic presumptive nominees – “what if they all stay home in November?”

Stupid question, Mr. Talking Head. A better one: What will those people do down-ballot?

#NeverHillary, #NeverTrump. I am a firm believer in the value of defensive elections – voting for mediocre Candidate A in order to block the election of awful Candidate B, if necessary – but that’s not the situation this year. Instead, to my aging pro-life eyes, there are two titanically, epically unsuitable people slugging it out for supremacy.

What’s left is damage control. And that’s why staying home in November is not an option.

What builds the political firewall against a president who wants to protect the abortion industry, or one who is indifferent to the right to life? A Senate that will say no to pro-abortion judicial nominees; a House that takes the power of the purse seriously; elected officials at state and local levels who promote policies that respect the right to life as something inherent in every human being and who allow life-affirming ministries to flourish.

One presidential candidate is very free with the epithet “loser.” I’m not looking forward to the policies that will come from an executive branch led by such a man. Medically vulnerable people, people with disabilities, the preborn, the dying, the condemned, the refugees: where would they find an advocate in a White House occupied by someone who’s quick to label “losers”?

And then there’s the other major candidate, who thinks abortion is health care and who has no problem with compulsory public funding of abortion providers. She’s a fan of Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate, and she’s been unwilling to defend the rights of dissenting women like the Little Sisters of the Poor. In her world, no human being has any right to live until someone else grants that right. No one has ever asked her to explain the difference between human rights and humanly-granted rights.  Come to think of it, let her opponent ponder that one.

In my lower moments, I’ve thought that these two candidates ought to run on a single ticket, perhaps with the slogan “what difference at this point does it make?”

Neither of these presumptive nominees has earned my vote. It’s for precisely that reason that I refuse to be a bystander next November. The down-ballot races – all those contests below the “President” line – will affect the extent of the damage a President can wreak.

I’m mindful that apart from any defensive effect, the down-ballot races are important in themselves. I’ve spent enough time at the State House to know that.

I’ve already had some lively offline exchanges with people of good will whose views of the presidential race differ from mine. I’ll say this much to everyone who asks me “but what about the Supreme Court?!”: (a) while I know one candidate is sure to pack the Court with abortion advocates, I have no confidence that the other candidate won’t; and (b) the U.S. Senate can be a firewall, unless it decides to be a rubber stamp. So by the way, this year’s Senate race bears close attention.

To all those who are as repelled as I by the presumptive presidential nominees of the major parties, I say be of good cheer. Vote in November. Skip the top line, and then vote with gusto in all the other races, having done your homework about your choices.

But don’t stay home. Discouragement is for losers, if you’ll pardon the expression.


 

My #FITN choice is Fiorina; and I agree with the Iowa pro-life women saying “anyone but Trump”

2016’s first-in-the-nation primary is just around the corner here in New Hampshire. You are registered to vote, aren’t you?

I offer this in a spirit of good will, knowing that New Hampshire prolifers are all over the place with candidates. Barring any big news, this will be the last presidential primary post I make before next Tuesday. We have local issues to deal with.

Here’s a vote for Carly…

I’ve decided that I’m going to pick up a GOP ballot Tuesday and vote for Carly Fiorina. I like her attitude, her optimism, her fearlessness, and the unique experience – private, political, philanthropic – she brings to the field.  I like the passion with which she’s been an advocate for the taxpayers’ right to divest from the abortion industry. She’s spent her entire adult life in the midst of executive decision-making and team-building. I believe she would support pro-life initiatives, and she would learn from prolife grassroots instead of dictating to us or talking down to us.

She’s not part of the system that just gave us a Planned Parenthood-funding federal budget vote despite the leadership of people from whom we had reason to expect better.


I recognize that she’s polling in single digits at the moment. That’s actually one reason I’m moved to support her now: I’m distressed at the prospect that her voice may be lost to the presidential race before we even get to Super Tuesday (the March 1 boatload of primaries). It’s way too early to abandon the field to the biggest mouths and deepest pockets. The overall presidential campaign will be better off for having her in the conversation as voters in more states evaluate the candidates.

I love what she told James Pindell of the Boston Globe right after candidates Paul and Santorum withdrew from the race. Would she follow them? “No, I am not next on that list. You see, I’ve come further, from further behind than anyone running. I’ve beaten the people, who are ahead of the polls of me here, in Iowa. I have beaten people or tied with them who have spent tens of millions of dollars. No, I am in this for the long haul.”

She belongs in this weekend’s debate with other GOP candidates. The two-tier nonsense should be a thing of the past, with several candidates having dropped out in recent days. Still, Fiorina’s in limbo.  She wrote an open letter to the Republican National Committee yesterday about that, urging the RNC to take on ABC News, host of the debate.

Networks are making up these debate rules as they go along — not to be able to fit candidates on the stage — but arbitrarily to decide which candidates make for the best TV in their opinion. Now it is time for the RNC to act in the best interest of the Party that it represents….As of today, I will be the only candidate kept off the debate stage. To review, we beat Governors Christie and Kasich in Iowa this week when voters actually had their say. This campaign has the same number of delegates as Governors Bush and Kasich while Governor Christie has zero. We’re ahead of Dr. Carson in New Hampshire polling. We are 6th in hard dollars raised and have twice the cash on hand as either Governors Christie or Kasich. We are already on the ballot in 32 states, and there is a ground game with paid staff in 12 states. Yet, all of these candidates will be invited to the ABC debate. I will not.

Whether or not she gets the respect she deserves from ABC or party leaders, she gets a vote from me.

…and here’s a warning about Donald Trump

I read the papers. I know how the polls are looking in the Granite State. Donald Trump is riding high, with a second-place Iowa finish to his credit.  I decline to jump on his bandwagon.

Some Iowa pro-life women, joined by national pro-life activists, released a letter before the Iowa caucuses with a blunt message: anyone but Trump. Here’s the letter in full, with its signatories as of January 26. I endorse this letter, particularly its second paragraph.

Dear Iowans,

As pro-life women leaders from Iowa and across the nation, we urge Republican caucus-goers and voters to support anyone but Donald Trump. On the issue of defending unborn children and protecting women from the violence of abortion, Mr. Trump cannot be trusted and there is, thankfully, an abundance of alternative candidates with proven records of pro-life leadership whom pro-life voters can support.  We have come to this conclusion after having listened patiently to numerous debates and news reports, but most importantly to Donald Trump’s own words.

The next president will be responsible for as many as four nominations to the Supreme Court. Mr. Trump has given us only one indication about the type of judges he would appoint, and it does not bode well for those who would like to see the court overturn Roe v. Wade. Mr. Trump has said his sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, who struck down the Partial Birth Abortion Ban in New Jersey, would be a “phenomenal” choice for the court.  Earlier this month, Mr. Trump also said he thought pro-choice Senator Scott Brown would make a “very good” Vice President. If one truly believes, as we do, that abortion is the taking of an innocent human life and is committed to the pro-life priorities of ending abortion after five months, and defunding the nation’s largest abortion business, Planned Parenthood, it would be a disaster to have a vice president who disagrees. [Note: Brown endorsed Trump in New Hampshire on February 2.]

Moreover, as women, we are disgusted by Mr. Trump’s treatment of individuals, women, in particular.  He has impugned the dignity of women, most notably Megyn Kelly, he mocked and bullied Carly Fiorina, and has through the years made disparaging public comments to and about many women. Further, Mr. Trump has profited from the exploitation of women in his Atlantic City casino hotel which boasted of the first strip club casino in the country.

America will only be a great nation when we have leaders of strong character who will defend both unborn children and the dignity of women. We cannot trust Donald Trump to do either.  Therefore we urge our fellow citizens to support an alternative candidate.

signed by:

Jenifer Bowen, Executive Director, Iowa Right to Life; Denise Bubeck, Member and Iowa Volunteer, Concerned Women for America; Kendra Burger, Director of Educational Outreach, Iowa Right to Life; Marjorie Dannenfelser, President, Susan B. Anthony List; Maggie Gallagher, Columnist & Author; Christine Hurley, Iowa Pro-life Activist; Beverly LaHaye, Founder and Chairman, Concerned Women for America; Aimee Murphy, Founder, Life Matters Journal; Marilyn Musgrave, Fmr. Congresswoman, VP of Government Affairs, Susan B. Anthony List; Penny Nance, President and CEO, Concerned Women for America; Melissa Ohden, Iowa Native, Abortion Survivor and Pro-life Activist & Speaker; Star Parker, Founder and President, Urbancure; Jill Stanek, National Campaign Chair, Susan B. Anthony List; Luana Stoltenberg, Iowa Leader, Operation Outcry. [Titles and affiliations are for identifications purposes only.]

Yes, I know Sarah Palin took issue with that letter.

I have colleagues and friends backing different candidates in the primary, and God bless ’em, every one.  I don’t buy into any support-my-guy-or-you’re-not-really-prolife message. This will be an interesting election. Be sure to do your part.

 

In which I encounter new faces & old friends: CPAC 2013, day 2

National Harbor, MD

evening: Anyone who has worked as a campaign staffer knows how it feels the day after the election when everyone’s suddenly unemployed. It’s good to see co-workers find good jobs post-election. I ran into one of those good guys today at CPAC. Tommy Schultz, NH communications director for Romney/Ryan, is now with JDA Frontline nearby in DC.

Twitter is useful here for more than just posting reactions to speeches. I know some New Hampshire folks are nearby because we keep swapping tweets. I haven’t seen them, though, in the sea of people. Folks are here from all over the country. My lunch companions today were Don Irvine of Accuracy in Media and six college students from three states: Colorado, Minnesota, Ohio. Five states represented at one table is not that unusual here.

The programs so far, and the main speakers, have made clear to me that the life issues definitely have a place on the conservative menu, but there is reluctance to make them the main course. I’ve seen that for years. One reason I came here was to check my New Hampshire observations against what’s happening nationwide.

The challenge, and the good news, is this: forget about the GOP or a “conservative movement” leading the way on the right to life. They can’t & they shouldn’t & they don’t want to. Rank & file activists will do the pro-life work and force refinement of the message. Yes, there are charismatic politicians like Rubio who are proudly pro-life. Others are skittish or are openly pro-Roe, no matter what the party platform says. Fine. Let them take their cues from us, not the other way around.

Dick Morris, consultant/commentator/pundit, had ten minutes of mic time yesterday all to himself, and he posited that the GOP chased away single white women with its views on abortion. (Of course he prefaced that by saying we shouldn’t abandon our pro-life views.) Excuse me; did anyone hear the GOP pressing the issue? I sure didn’t, and I was in the thick of things. The GOP let the Dems craft the message. Morris and I can agree at least on that: messaging is crucial and we need to work on it.

Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, a PAC dedicated to electing pro-life women, was part of a panel today about the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. She called Morris out, and I wish he’d been there to hear it. She called last year’s GOP refusal to engage the Dems on the life issues “unilateral disarmament.” She warned that Republicans are doomed to fail if that’s done in the next election cycle. “We are poised to emulate the success of other human rights movements, but we need a champion.”

Dannenfelser was joined on her panel by Congressman Randy Forbes of Virginia, Congresswoman Ann Wagner of Missouri, and Tim Goeglein of Focus on the Family. Heavy hitters, worthy of the topic. Wagner noted with approval the presence of so many young conservatives, and concluded “youth gives credence to our movement.” Goeglein remarked that he finds pro-life students at every college campus he visits, and this of course encourages him in his work. “I remain exceedingly hopeful that Roe can be overturned. Right reason will prevail.”

A quieter, much lower-attendance panel met in the afternoon to discuss religious freedom as a winning issue for conservatives. That means, of course, the HHS mandate, which otherwise got short shrift at this weekend’s festivities.

morning: Random observation here: Allen West is as personable a man as I’m likely to find here. He walks through the halls of the convention with one person accompanying him, rather than the posse most of the speakers have, and he chats with people. Good to see. I must add that some of the speakers might not have much of a choice in the number of security & staff around them. National Harbor is bristling with police during CPAC.

Paul Ryan got the warmest, wildest welcome this morning that I’ve seen at the conference so far. He spoke in the ballroom this morning right after Kelly Ayotte, who was abruptly eclipsed the moment Ryan was introduced. No one else here can talk about prosaic matters like the budget with so much energy and verve. Nothing he said will come as surprise to anyone who has seen him campaign or heard him argue for his budget plan. He stayed on the budget message and didn’t drift into other issues. It was a forward-looking speech, devoid of nostalgia and bitterness, either of which might be tempting for lesser folk after November’s results. “A balanced budget is an opportunity to reform government. …We belong to one country as well as thousands of communities. The role of the federal government is not to replace those communities but to support them.” No snark, no snarl, no yelling. The crowd loved him before, during, and after he spoke.

Ryan

By the way, the panel that followed him was “CSI Washington: a November 2012 Autopsy.” I find it telling that the panel had only a scattered audience. When Ryan left, people streamed out of the ballroom. I listened for awhile as Michael Barone of the Washington Examiner pointed out the technological superiority of the Democratic effort last year. (As an ex-GOP staffer, I will never be able to hear the word “orca” again without choking.) Former Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle of Michigan made a different point, just as apt: “my opponent ran a national campaign.” She said she has daughters and granddaughters, went to law school in her 40s, was the first woman elected to Congress from her district, “and they still painted me as part of the war on women.” She wanted eight debates during the campaign, and her opponent (who won the election) agreed to two. The national Democratic party, in Buerkle’s eyes, did all the campaigning and messaging very effectively. “They appealed to fear, and it worked.”

Neither Buerkle nor anyone else I’ve heard so far has blamed social issues per se for the defeat, but many – Buerkle and commentator Dick Morris most of all – warned that messaging has to change and the GOP has to “reach out, not write off,” in Morris’s words.

What I have NOT heard: what that messaging should be. I have also not heard anyone point out what is to me the glaringly obvious point that Republican candidates, particularly Republican men, don’t know how to deliver a conservative social-issues message to anyone who doesn’t already agree with them.  They have had no practice. Persuasion is a dying art, and modern politics is delivering the coup de grace, in my opinion. You can’t sharpen an argument by dodging challenges to it, and those challenges have got to come before a national spotlight goes on.

Enough ranting for the moment. I’m about to head to a lunchtime briefing with Rick Santorum, which will be followed by a top-tier forum on “The Fight for Religious Liberty 40 Years After Roe v. Wade.” My kind of stuff.