Conservative Fratricide

As a liberal Catholic, there is a side of me that delights when conservatives are mauling each other in the press. I know it is a sin, but it is such a delicious sin and far from my most grievous. But, the recent intellectual scuffle between legal scholar Doug Kmiec and former Crisis magazine editor Deal Hudson is not only good news for liberals. Kmiec’s position is good for conservatives who have been too cozy with the Bush administration. Kmiec’s first article – "Reaganites for Obama?" – raised several conservative concerns about John McCain’s record as well as an appreciation for Obama’s candidacy. Kmiec especially lauded Obama’s remarks that "we should not use faith as a wedge to divide, but instead use faith to resolve cultural tensions..." Kmiec acknowledged his difficulty with Obama’s pro-choice position and the difficulty any Catholic must feel about voting for someone who, so alert on other issues, is determinedly opposed to laws that would protect innocent fetal life. There should be no doubt about Obama’s pro-choice position. It is wrong. And, it is not going anywhere fast. It is doubtful he will ever support overturning Roe. That said, in his book The Audacity of Hope he begins his discussion of the role of religion in politics by recounting the story of his own interaction with a pro-life voter in which Obama admits the knee jerk liberalism that sees all pro-life advocates as reactionary was not good for America. And, one of the consequences of the ugly anti-Obama emails and phone calls that have been paid for by pro-choice women’s groups like Emily’s List is that, unlike so many Democratic candidates, Obama will not owe one iota of his campaign’s success to the organized pro-abortion lobby. I don’t want to raise false hopes, but one can imagine a President Obama trying to tackle the issue of reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies with vigor in a way no Republican could do effectively. It took Nixon to go to China. But, the real import of Kmiec’s article is his insistence that "as a Christian, I am neither left nor right, nor Democrat nor Republican axiomatically." He points out that the Iraq War is a life issue as well as abortion, and notes the disturbing way that McCain abandoned his previous support for reasonable immigration reform. It can never be said too often: cafeteria Catholicism exists on the right as well as he left. Hudson may be content to repeat the talking points coming from the White House. His access to power has too long blinded him from the one political stance that Christianity always imposes upon its adherents, a stance of critical distance and reflection towards all political power. Kudos to Kmiec for reminding his conservative friends of the limits of the culture war model, the "anti-approach to effecting social, political and judicial change...[that] focuses on criticizing what is unjust and wrong and little on offering a compelling vision for a truly just social order." When even conservative Republicans who held appointments from President Reagan and George H. W. Bush are looking to Obama’s campaign and responding to the hope he has put at its center, then we know that this is indeed an exceptional election year. And the fireworks are just beginning. Michael Sean Winters
8 years 11 months ago
I understand your concerns with the issues of Roe v Wade but I need to remind you of the deaths that occured before such legislation was put in place. It has not always been used as an alternative to birth control but some very poorly adapted women have died because of internal bleeding. Because the procedure was done badly and then there are those desperate enough not to have to go through the public shaming process for being a young single mother. True the procedure is not that great an image but think instead of the women who would have suffered early death just to avoid shame if Roe v Wade had turned out diferently.
9 years 1 month ago
"I don't want to raise false hopes, but one can imagine a President Obama trying to tackle the issue of reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies with vigor in a way no Republican could do effectively." Mr. Winters, thank you for the article. Unfortunately, I have to disagree with you on this point. Obama has been one of the staunchest pro-choice advocates in the senate, even to the point that he opposed the Induced Infant Liability Act, which later became the Born Alive Protection Act: Your assertion that Obama will "tackle the issue of reducing unwanted pregnancies" is curious. This may be true, but this is not the issue. The issue is ending abortion, not promoting birth control (which it is hard to believe will be done in communion with Catholic beliefs on abstinence). Think what you want about the war and its morality, but a Republican president, by appointing judges that oppose the poorly argued Roe v. Wade, will certainly do more to end the tragedy of abortion than a Democratic senator who is clearly not concerned with unborn (or just-born) life. To suggest otherwise is to extend Obama's message of hope to a domain where it rings false.

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

In a video, His Holiness Pope Francis speaks at TED2017, April 25, 2017, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED
Pope Francis asked all people to work toward a future that lifts up society’s most marginalized, including migrants, the sick, the unemployed and prisoners.
Michael J. O'LoughlinApril 26, 2017
Edward Lally (center) is joined by his schola, Sarah Coffman, Katherine Keberlein, Ngaire Bull and Sarah Beatty, at St. Edward's Catholic Church in Chicago on April 8, 2017. Photo courtesy of Sarah Beatty.
With chant “you’re expressing something in pure melody."
Judith ValenteApril 25, 2017
Vivian Tuttle holds a photo of her daughter Yvonne, who was murdered during a 2002 bank robbery in Norfolk, Neb., as she testifies in favor of the death penalty at a public hearing in Omaha, Neb. in October 2016 (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, file).
The fight against the death penalty lays bare the strengths and weaknesses of the Catholic approach to pro-life issues.
Joseph P. HooverApril 25, 2017
Bill Nye's gags are every bit as goofy as they were in the ’90s. But his new show on Netflix is weighed down by a condescending attitude.
Eric Sundrup, S.J.April 25, 2017