Only the Pro-Life Movement Can Guarantee That Trump Wins
In the wake of the Iowa caucus removing the most stalwart pro-life candidate from the GOP presidential race, veteran pro-lifer Jason Jones weighed in on what that might mean. Then he joined The Stream’s John Zmirak to remind people that overturning Roe v. Wade wasn’t like the D-Day invasion of Europe, but rather the Dunkirk evacuation: It brought us back from the brink of utter defeat, and launched the offensive phase of our fight. In Winston Churchill’s own words, it wasn’t “the beginning of the end, though it may be the end of the beginning.”
With Trump crushing Nikki Haley three-to-one among registered Republicans in New Hampshire, the president isn’t worried about the rest of the primary contest.
Should we be? Too many leading pro-lifers have been sniffy Beltway NeverTrumpers, barely willing to acknowledge all that Trump has done for our cause, because … well, he has cooties and his supporters like NASCAR races instead of European soccer. Too often, Trump has shown that he listens to dopey, unprincipled pragmatists whom we can count on to do neither the right thing nor the smart thing. Is there a right thing for pro-lifers to do which also the smart thing?
John Zmirak and Jason Jones try to find out in this exchange.
John Zmirak: Is it good news for the pro-life cause, what’s happening in the Republican primaries? On the surface, it seems that we ought to be worried. The most solidly principled pro-life candidate, Ron De Santis, dropped out after losing big in heavily evangelical Iowa. So he’s not there to put pressure on Trump from the right. Pro-choice-with-exceptions Nikki Haley continues to campaign, rolling up votes from Democrats who don’t really support her. The media will play that as pressure on Trump from the left, and use it to argue that Trump has to abandon his already squishy pro-life stands, in order to win the votes of suburban chardonnay moms who already hate him. I don’t see many upsides for our movement here. Will our issues end up getting the same treatment they got from Bush, McCain, and Romney—that is, they’ll toss us a few little scraps but keep us chained up in the yard, then promise a tasty bone if we turn out on election day?
Jason Jones: President Trump has a history of under promising and over delivering on issues of Life and other conservative causes. He dragged the Republican Party, kicking and screaming, to actually run on its platform, whose foundations were laid by Christian conservatives decades ago. While other single issues faced setbacks (the Second Amendment, budget sanity), the pro-life movement did amazingly well. We now live in a post-Roe world. Who really thought that was possible in 2015?
But we cannot allow a prospective Trump administration to take us for granted. With all the pressure on Trump to win over soccer moms, the pro-life movement needs to remind the Trump campaign that we are the liveliest branch on the GOP tree. Pro-lifers are the doorknockers, phone dialers, small-dollar donors, and protestors. We embody the coalition he needs to turn out in order to flip swing states and win big in red states.
Trump’s instincts are to lean into the winning side. His earnest convictions would be nice, but we’ve never had that from a single nominee since Reagan. What we have in Trump is an actual pragmatist who knew he couldn’t win or govern without the pro-life movement. We just need to make sure he still knows that; even as we enter a more complex post-Roe environment.
The Impact of Jeb! in a Dress
John Zmirak: Is there perhaps an up side to Haley staying in the race, since she’s going to keep slashing at Trump and his voters, and remind people why they hated the GOP establishment in the first place? Jeb! In Dress will offer them 99% of the abortion and perversion Joe Biden is giving us, but also World War III. Does her presence in the race make it less likely that Trump will foolishly let her and her ilk flatter him into appointing them to key positions — which ruined his first term as president?
Jason Jones: The upside of Haley remaining in the race is that Trump remains to the right of her on the issue of life. The potential harm is the temptation some of his advisors will feel to slither towards Haley’s stances, splitting the difference and abandoning core principles, in a hopeless effort to seem “reasonable.” This in a media environment that paints Trump, whatever he says or does, as literally Hitler.
Trump is smart to reject the donor class’s attempt to rip up his campaign platform and replace it with Haley’s Establishment stances on war (she loves it) and abortion (she’s kind of “meh”).
Trump would do immense harm to his turnout operation and the pro-life movement if he adopted any of Haley’s neocon, Beltway boilerplate. He risks ruining his own campaign if he repeats past claims blaming 2022 defeats on pro-life initiatives, when in fact there were countless other factors — including RNC interference with our best MAGA candidates. (See the recent attempt to bribe Kari Lake to stay out of a race she’d likely win.)
We’re Not Prophets or Martyrs
John Zmirak: The temptation is out there, you can already see it, for pro-lifers to paint ourselves as prophets and martyrs, who embody pure and holy principles that the grubby voters and their brutish candidate are too unsaved or uncouth to care about. And we already saw some De Santis supporters take that tone with Trump himself. How do you think those of us who have long supported Trump should talk to him and his most zealous advocates on the life issue? What’s the most strategic approach to gain the most for the preborn — as opposed to what’s most emotionally satisfying for us in the moment?
Jason Jones: To form Trump’s movement and own it. Wise men say “Personnel is policy.” That has never been truer than now. We can see that with Biden’s crackpot policies flinging open our borders, the reckless surrender in Afghanistan, the heartbreaking quagmire in Ukraine, and the climate cult’s attack on heat and energy for the poor. It’s all driven by the radical leftists whom the Democrats chose to staff everything.
The pro-life movement must not hen-peck Trump from the cheap seats in order to virtue signal to our donors. If we actually care what happens to preborn kids in the next few years, we must erect clear, unbreachable guard rails which Trump knows he cannot cross. And work to earn our place on his team.
We must be the people who staff the Trump campaign and then his administration. We must be faithful allies to the nostalgic, patriotic billionaire from New York and encourage his continued faithfulness toward our movement. Disagreements over tactics and strategy should be resolved in closed door meetings, as the Democrats do — not vented in Tweet storms whose sole outcome is to make us feel good about ourselves. We must teach Trump, not preach at him.
What Would You Say to Trump?
John Zmirak: If you could get Trump’s ear, keeping in mind that members of his family have been known to read The Stream, what would you tell him on the life issue? What principled arguments would you offer him? Which practical ones?
Jason Jones: I’d say that the Democrats are tricking us. They’re not desperate to champion abortion in itself, which most people at least feel queasy about. Instead, they are desperate to divide the Right so they can conquer us, then use the Deep State to prosecute us. We must not rise to the bait.
No, we can’t become a slightly less pro-death party than the Democrats. Not only is that a crime, but it’s a blunder, which will guarantee a Democrat sweep. The Life issue has a vibrant, diverse constituency which resonates with the deepest stirrings of the human heart. That’s why even “pro-choice” women post their ultrasounds on Facebook, and talk about their “babies” before they’re born.
Pro-lifers champion women, children, family, normality, and Life itself. That’s timeless and true, and Trump would be a fool to throw all that away. The Democrats hate fertility, families, Catholics, farmers, energy workers, evangelical Christians, patriots, the military, our history and our heritage. Trump needs to make the decision utterly stark: Choose Life for our nation, or Death.
Jason Jones is a senior contributor to The Stream. He is a film producer, author, activist and human rights worker.
John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. His upcoming book is No Second Amendment, No First.