Hidden Conservatism and Abortion

Recently, Republican candidates for the 2016 nomination have grasped the political virtue of standing up to the extremism of Democrats on the abortion issue.  America is a profoundly conservative country.  I have written often in the past about the lopsided self-identification of Americans as conservative rather than liberal. 

Gallup asks this question every year, and the results are always the same: in almost every state of our nation, some years in every single state, respondents describe themselves more often as conservatives than liberal.  Battleground Poll data for more than a decade has shown, in every single poll, that an overwhelming majority of Americans call themselves conservative.

I have also noted that the despised state of conservatives in the media, academia, and entertainment means that there are probably more conservatives than even these polling data state.  How many college students, for example, feel comfortable calling themselves “conservative”?  How many of the respondents in New York or California, states Gallup routinely reports as having more conservatives than liberals, believe that they are a tiny minority in their state?

The emerging Republican rhetoric on abortion shows another problem the conservative majority has in American politics.  Polls have historically reported more people identifying themselves as “pro-choice” rather than “pro-life.”  Social conservatism, all these polling organizations agree, is the weaker of the two historic types of conservatism, social and fiscal.

Last May I noted that a huge percentage of those who have called themselves “pro-choice,” because the media has defined that as the politically correct position, are actually “pro-life.”  This is because the establishment leftist media never accurately describes what those two positions mean.  What Roe v. Wade means is also misunderstood, because the media never honestly explains that Supreme Court decision.

So while polls report that Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, when asked if they favor opposing abortion except in a few special cases, they overwhelming believe that abortion ought to be allowed only in the case of rape or the life of the mother, which is in direct conflict with Roe v. Wade.  These same polls show that Americans want more regulation of abortion than currently exists.

Republicans, by rejecting the lexicon of the left – “Roe v. Wade,” “pro-choice,” etc. – can reframe and are reframing the issues in non-ideological terms, focusing instead on specific propositions.  Last November, for example, Quinnipiac reported that when asked if abortion ought to be illegal twenty weeks into the pregnancy except in cases of rape or incest, 60% of Americans favor that ban, while 33% would oppose it. 

CNN also in 2014 reported that only 27% of Americans favor making abortion legal in all circumstances, which is, of course, the Democrat position.  Pew found in 2013 that, when asked about the morality of abortion, only 13% of Americans called abortion “morally acceptable,” while 47% of Americans called abortion “morally wrong.”  Every poll that digs a bit deeper than the meaningless “pro-choice” and “pro-life” labels shows that by lopsided margins Americans favor the pro-life position.  

How would Americans feel about Roe v. Wade if, instead of asking the bland question of supporting or not supporting that decision, they were asked if they support what this decision really meant?  It did not, of course, legalize abortion.  Three states at the time of that decision broadly legalized abortion, but most other states did provide an exemption for abortion in the case of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.  Indeed, in Texas, the state from which Roe v. Wade came, the mother could have had an abortion if she had been raped.  The problem was that the mother stated that she had been raped when, in fact, she had not. 

What if polling organizations asked Americans, “Do you favor letting state legislatures pass laws to regulate the medical procedures related to abortion and to restrict abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and serious physical danger to the mother?”  A survey of polls on abortion suggests that a huge majority of Americans would support granting state legislatures that power.

On abortion, as on almost every other issue, Americans are conservative.  Indeed, they are often much more conservative than they know, because the left has so warped the very terms of discussion. 

Recently, Republican candidates for the 2016 nomination have grasped the political virtue of standing up to the extremism of Democrats on the abortion issue.  America is a profoundly conservative country.  I have written often in the past about the lopsided self-identification of Americans as conservative rather than liberal. 

Gallup asks this question every year, and the results are always the same: in almost every state of our nation, some years in every single state, respondents describe themselves more often as conservatives than liberal.  Battleground Poll data for more than a decade has shown, in every single poll, that an overwhelming majority of Americans call themselves conservative.

I have also noted that the despised state of conservatives in the media, academia, and entertainment means that there are probably more conservatives than even these polling data state.  How many college students, for example, feel comfortable calling themselves “conservative”?  How many of the respondents in New York or California, states Gallup routinely reports as having more conservatives than liberals, believe that they are a tiny minority in their state?

The emerging Republican rhetoric on abortion shows another problem the conservative majority has in American politics.  Polls have historically reported more people identifying themselves as “pro-choice” rather than “pro-life.”  Social conservatism, all these polling organizations agree, is the weaker of the two historic types of conservatism, social and fiscal.

Last May I noted that a huge percentage of those who have called themselves “pro-choice,” because the media has defined that as the politically correct position, are actually “pro-life.”  This is because the establishment leftist media never accurately describes what those two positions mean.  What Roe v. Wade means is also misunderstood, because the media never honestly explains that Supreme Court decision.

So while polls report that Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, when asked if they favor opposing abortion except in a few special cases, they overwhelming believe that abortion ought to be allowed only in the case of rape or the life of the mother, which is in direct conflict with Roe v. Wade.  These same polls show that Americans want more regulation of abortion than currently exists.

Republicans, by rejecting the lexicon of the left – “Roe v. Wade,” “pro-choice,” etc. – can reframe and are reframing the issues in non-ideological terms, focusing instead on specific propositions.  Last November, for example, Quinnipiac reported that when asked if abortion ought to be illegal twenty weeks into the pregnancy except in cases of rape or incest, 60% of Americans favor that ban, while 33% would oppose it. 

CNN also in 2014 reported that only 27% of Americans favor making abortion legal in all circumstances, which is, of course, the Democrat position.  Pew found in 2013 that, when asked about the morality of abortion, only 13% of Americans called abortion “morally acceptable,” while 47% of Americans called abortion “morally wrong.”  Every poll that digs a bit deeper than the meaningless “pro-choice” and “pro-life” labels shows that by lopsided margins Americans favor the pro-life position.  

How would Americans feel about Roe v. Wade if, instead of asking the bland question of supporting or not supporting that decision, they were asked if they support what this decision really meant?  It did not, of course, legalize abortion.  Three states at the time of that decision broadly legalized abortion, but most other states did provide an exemption for abortion in the case of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.  Indeed, in Texas, the state from which Roe v. Wade came, the mother could have had an abortion if she had been raped.  The problem was that the mother stated that she had been raped when, in fact, she had not. 

What if polling organizations asked Americans, “Do you favor letting state legislatures pass laws to regulate the medical procedures related to abortion and to restrict abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and serious physical danger to the mother?”  A survey of polls on abortion suggests that a huge majority of Americans would support granting state legislatures that power.

On abortion, as on almost every other issue, Americans are conservative.  Indeed, they are often much more conservative than they know, because the left has so warped the very terms of discussion.