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Republicanism at a crossroads

| Monday, April 18, 2016

On March 30, Chris Matthews pressed Donald Trump on his abortion stance; after initially sidestepping the question, Trump stated that women should be punished if they get an abortion, assuming abortion would be illegal at that time. Now, Trump has walked that stance back, “clarified” it, and ultimately restated it, but that’s not the specific issue I would like to address. Instead, I would like to discuss what I see as a crossroads for the Republican Party, one even more drastic than the crossroads it navigated in 2010, 2012 and 2014 with the advent of new movements from tea partiers and libertarians challenging the moderate mainstream. It’s a crossroads between two paths, one that I call hardline conservatism and another I call compassionate conservatism.

For years, and increasingly so during the election cycle, I have been asked what I believe and how I identify politically, from outside or within the Republican Party. I’ve known since 2010 that I was a moderate Republican, but as elections went on it was more and more difficult to explain where and why I differ with the platform of the party or its increasingly harsh conservative tone. What I’ve arrived at is describing myself as a compassionate conservative of my own brand.

To explain, let’s go back to Trump’s comments regarding punishment for women who have abortions. The day after these comments were made, a friend and I discussed them at length. This friend, who is by no means a Trump supporter, explained how he perceived this as the most logically consistent stance that Trump has posited so far. “If abortion is made to be illegal, as many Republicans believe it should be, then why is it so outrageous,” he argued, “to believe women should be punished for breaking the law by having an abortion?” This argument was logically sound, though I definitely disagreed with it. I am as pro-life as they come, I am opposed to abortion, capital punishment and euthanasia, and I believe these practices should be outlawed. Still, I don’t believe that women should be punished for having an abortion. Pro-life groups hold this same position, as they came out against Trump’s comments while reaffirming their pro-life stance.

I proposed an analogy of drug addicts to explain my stance on the issue. In most cases, drug addicts become addicted through the influence of a drug dealer, social pressures or feeling like there is no escape from their personal problems except through the artificial stimulus produced by drugs. Similarly, a woman considering an abortion may only be doing so because her parents, would-be child’s father, or Planned Parenthood representative apply pressure to have an abortion, or she could face the social consequences of being judged for becoming pregnant before marriage. She could have faced pressure from her boyfriend, friend group, or social pressures regarding sex between young adults. In both cases, the victim may have fallen into the unfortunate circumstance of drug use or having an abortion with the fault resting with those who sought to influence the victim. To be clear, I am not equating drug addiction with women who get abortions; I am simply analogizing to illustrate how I view both to be victims of social pressures.

Yes, ideally the victims would have the fortitude to resist such pressures, but given the immense pressure bearing down on them as minors or young adults, they may simply not be able to make that decision. All this goes to say is that I view the drug addict or the would-be-mother as victims of social pressures or, more insidiously, drug dealers or abortion clinicians who stand to profit from the victim’s succumbing to their pressure. As such, I don’t feel that nonviolent drug addicts or young women who believed they had no choice but to have an abortion should be punished. Rather, the punishment should rest on the shoulders of those who force the decision, in this case the drug dealers and abortion clinicians.

This distinction explains why I want drugs and abortion to be banned but at the same time balk at the idea that addicts and women should be punished for receiving them. Instead, these victims need our assistance and compassion. Drug addicts need to be admitted to facilities that can help cure them of their addiction. Pregnant women need to be given the opportunity to make their own decisions free of pressures of anxious boyfriends and abortion clinicians. In both cases, these victims need a bit of compassion from all of us. If we didn’t make harsh judgments of pregnant young women or young drug addicts, then maybe they wouldn’t be so ashamed to ask for help. Crack down on those who encourage this detrimental behavior, the abortion clinicians and drug dealers, but not on the victims who may feel as if they do not have a choice.

Thus is highlighted a difference between what I see as hardline conservatism, which would punish all involved with no exception for violation of the rule of law, and compassionate conservatism, which would seek to understand the issue, help the victims who may have violated the law and punish those who are at fault for the victim’s helplessness. Simply put, compassionate conservatism acknowledges that issues are complicated, and while I have a set of moral principles, I shouldn’t seek to condemn violators of those principles without first investigating who might really be at fault. We Republicans need to reject hardline conservatism and instead seek to understand problems and find solutions that magnify the dignity of all people, like Paul Ryan on poverty or Ronald Reagan, Jeb Bush and John Kasich on immigration. As time goes on, the American electorate will support less and less policies that have no stake in understanding or no purpose behind them. If the Republican Party is to survive the next few election cycles, it needs to adopt a belief in a government that works toward real justice and a tone that inspires people, and it needs to promote those candidates that espouse the same tone and beliefs.

Kyle Palmer is a senior from Dillon Hall studying accountancy. He welcomes any challenges to his opinions. He can be reached at kpalmer6@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Kyle Palmer

Kyle Palmer is a senior from Dillon Hall studying accountancy. He welcomes any challenges to his opinions. He can be reached at kpalmer6@nd.edu

Contact Kyle
  • Brendan

    There is no difference between murdering a child in the womb and killing a child after birth. That child’s right to life is the primary reason for banning abortion. If you believe that abortion is murder, it necessarily follows that all involved will face the same criminal penalties as any other murderer.

    I acknowledge that woman are pressured into the choice and many different people are typically to blame. I also recognize that the abortionist is the murderer in the vast majority of cases. However, that still leaves the mother as an accessory to murder. If we do not punish those who have abortions, we are not doing enough to protect unborn life. I can’t understand how you reconcile your opposition to abortion and your unwillingness to dis-incentivize murder.

  • Brendan

    You are absolutely right that we have to stop stigmatizing pregnant women and provide more assistance for pregnant woman. I’ve seen many positive cases where this has made a difference for the child and the mother.

  • Gary Smith

    Trump has benefited from a corrupt system and understands what must be done to fix it. It would be far easier for him to just continue buying politicians if he wanted to keep taking advantage rather than running for POTUS. As such, I have to believe he actually wants to help America more than he wants to continue taking advantage. He made his riches and now I think he wants to focus on his legacy, and wants to be remembered for righting America’s ship (who cares if that’s ego driven; I would happily help build him a statue if he succeeds). Consequently, those who want to continue exploiting are scared and doing everything they can to stop him; they are even hiring clueless tools through craigslist to go to his rallies and hold up a “Trump is a racist” sign while yelling at his supporters for $16 per hour.

  • Gary Smith

    The following message is brought to you by Puppets for the Establishment Parasites (PEP), who want to encourage you to let them finish off America so they can move on to their next host…

    “You let us get this far…throw the red pill in the trash; stop trying to struggle against the hypnosis now and let us take the last few drops of blood…it will all be over soon”

    “And please remember that free trade helps America; illegal immigration helps America; policing the world is America’s moral obligation; super PACs are free speech to help poor unwitting candidates; there are no paid protesters; the news media we fund is unbiased; lobbyists are good; politicians and bureaucrats cannot be bought; your election process is not rigged; those idiotic concerns about the debt and bubbles are unfounded; our education system is the best; your privacy is always protected; the war in Iraq was necessary; Russia is evil; your government listens to you…anyone who disagrees with this reality is a lying, xenophobic, isolationist, ignorant, fascist, misogynistic, racist, terroristic, nutjob!”

  • Gary Smith

    Super-PACs MUST be banned! They give a few wealthy exploiters the ability to shape our entire political system; they allow for absurdly unequal representation! The people and corporations funding these PACs have acquired their wealth from selling out America through political favors, endless wars, unfair trade deals, exploiting foreign labor, exploiting illegal labor within our borders, creating insurmountable debt for our children, and maintaining a rigged election process that ensures nothing will change. Super-PACs are a direct conflict of interest and an absolute corrupting force!

    In my opinion, any candidate who doesn’t demand their super-PACs disband in the name of democracy and the people is a flat out TRAITOR to America! Exploiter puppets Clinton and Cruz will never do this like Trump and Sanders have; instead, they will continue feigning powerlessness and ignorance regarding super-PACs. Anyone who votes for these two-faced lawyers is voting to continue selling out America!

    If someone with Trump’s resources can’t run without being shredded by exploiter-funded super-PACs and media pundits, how does someone like me or you have a chance? The answer is that, unless we are lackeys like Clinton and Cruz, whom those same exploiters also fund, we don’t! The process is rigged; you can watch a great example of how the media takes things out of context and falsely demonizes non-controlled candidates like Trump by searching for and viewing “The Untruth about Donald Trump” video.

  • Gary Smith

    One of the reasons I support both Trump and Sanders is in the hopes that Americans become more privy to the corruption we have. When party activists in Colorado can choose delegates without any input from the voters, and those activists are establishment supporters, there is nothing that will persuade those activists to pick any delegates who support an insurgent candidate. The entire process is designed to stop insurgent candidates (which is what Trump is).

    Of course, the exploiter-funded pundits who call Trump a “whiner” and a “loser” because he didn’t get any of the Colorado delegates fail to mention that Trump never had a chance to get any of them in the first place as an insurgent. The rigged process helps to ensure America’s exploiters maintain power. The exploiter-funded media puppets are saying that what happened was perfectly fine because the committee rules enabled them to cancel their election from the outset and then give the delegates to whomever they wanted (RIP democracy).

    If Kasich were the current viable anti-insurgent candidate rather than Cruz, they would have given Kasich all of the Colorado delegates instead of Cruz. Despite that, Cruz is trying to convince people that it was his “superior organization” that deprived Trump and Kasich of getting even a single delegate…LOL. Three cheers for America, our exploiter-controlled media, our rigged election process, our two-faced politicians, and the ignorant people who don’t question any of it!

    Here’s a video from a Colorado delegate ejected from the process because he supported Trump:

    And another video of more Colorado delegates explaining how they were kicked to the curb because they supported Trump:

  • Gary Smith

    If you think Trump is a racist who sees any color other than green, you might be a gullible fool subject to exploiter-funded media influence. Take a look at his life and career; he has always hired, worked with, and supported people of all walks of life. Furthermore, Illegal immigrants and Muslims are not races. Muslims are great people; unfortunately, the terrorists we are at war with are a small sect within that group, so while the idea of being extra vigilant about vetting new immigrants from that group is regrettable, it would also be prudent for our own safety. The big exploiters love having their puppets use labels of racism to tear down people they don’t control (Ross Perot, Ron Paul, Trump, etc); don’t fall for it!

    If you think Megyn Kelly isn’t an exploiter (establishment) tool who tried to take down Trump, and you think Trump is a misogynist because of the bloodlust comments he made regarding her (while making bloodlust comments about Chris Wallace at the same time) then you might be a gullible fool subject to exploiter-funded media influence. Trump states “I’m just oblivious to a person’s gender” when dealing with people, and it is obvious that he takes on opponents of any shape, size, color, and gender in a similar fashion.

    If you think Trump is an isolationist because he wants fair trade, you might be a gullible fool subject to exploiter-funded media influence. “Free-trade” comes at a huge cost to workers in developed countries! The end result is that America will produce nothing and will provide no services outside our borders because services and products will always be cheaper from poorer countries. Anyone who says anything else concerning free-trade is either lying, or is completely clueless. American middle class workers can only survive and thrive with “FAIR-trade.”

    90% of the cocaine in America comes through our southern border; 80% of the meth and heroin in America also comes through our southern border! If you think Trump, who continually says “I love Mexican people,” is a xenophobe because he wants to secure our southern border, you might be a gullible fool subject to exploiter-funded media influence. Trump’s negative comments were targeted at a subset of illegal immigrants (which he has clarified many times); NOT Mexicans! Illegal immigration is destroying our society (illegal immigrant children are almost always below grade level so teachers have to spend most of their time teaching at that level, which hurts our children; illegal immigration keeps wages low; and the drugs from south of our border are ruining our children’s lives).

    If you think Trump wants to punish women for having abortions, you might be a gullible fool subject to exploiter-funded media influence. Trump said he made a gaffe during a convoluted conversation involving a hypothetical situation. He has clarified that in the real world he would like to see abortion regulations left up to each state. Making gaffes is human, and having a politician willing to engage in “off the cuff” conversations without consulting an army of advisers beforehand is refreshing.

    If you think Trump is ignorant because he thinks it might be more pragmatic for Japan to have a nuke rather than having 54,000 U.S. troops stationed there at our expense, you might be a gullible fool subject to exploiter-funded media influence. The simple fact is that nothing ensures sovereignty like having a nuke. No country with a nuke has been or ever will be invaded. We would have never invaded Iraq if they had a nuke; in fact, the best evidence that we knew they didn’t really have any WMDs was the fact we invaded them. The 54,000 troops we have in Japan are absolutely no deterrent for North Korea, China, or anyone else; what deters them is the fact we have nukes. Furthermore, what would happen to Japan if they can’t defend themselves and we go bankrupt over the next decade or so?

    • Josephine Schmo

      LOVE this post!
      “You might be a gullible fool if …”
      Sad that after paying tens of thousands of dollars on “higher” “education some would be yet easy to mold into minion mega phones to spout mantra sans introspection. (Ahem, perhaps they’ve paid for re-education, as in that for which certain Chinese citizens are sent to the “countryside” by the govt to receive …)
      But loving your argument w/the underlying scolding for people to do their homework: thinking NOT parroting!

  • Fresh air

    This is ridiculous, it is not like drug use because drug use harms the addicted, not an innocent life. It is like hiring a hitman and not facing legal responsibility because you “had a good reason” to order the murder. Shame on you for calling yourself pro-life