The GOP’s Stupid And Cowardly Abortion Bill Debacle

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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By now, you’ve probably heard that pusillanimous Republicans have abandoned a bill that would have banned the vast majority of abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. (That’s five months, for those keeping score.) Mollie Hemingway has written the definitive explanation for why this is cowardly and stupid. But I’d like to add a few additional thoughts….

Many of my Twitter friends in the MSM clearly believe this is smart politics — that the GOP is wise to listen to Republican women, who might have a better sense for how damaging this vote could be in regards to the “war on women.”

As regular readers know, I am constantly preaching prudence and the importance of strategy. And sometimes, principled fights are stupid and actually counterproductive to the cause. That’s not what this is. The notion that abandoning the Life issue is politically sagacious ignores the fact that this bill enjoys broad popularity, and that Republicans voted on an identical bill in 2013, without incident.

I’m not suggesting politics should always come before principle. But the point here is that supporting this bill was not only the right policy, it was also smart politics.

But what they have now done is incredibly stupid. First, they betray loyal supporters — many of whom fall outside the tea party rubric. (And to do so on the day of the March for Life is especially stupid and symbolic.) Second, they embolden their enemies, who now smell blood. And lastly, they muddied the brand.

As I joked on Twitter, what’s the bumper sticker version of today’s GOP platform?: We hate immigrants, shut down the government, AND won’t defend the lives of the unborn. I’m being facetious, but only a little.

If the GOP can’t be the clear and obvious party of Life, then what can it be for? Have you ever heard Grover Norqust’s lecture on branding?

[W]e branded the modern Republican as the party that would not raise your taxes, Branding is important. Coca-Cola spends a lot of time, quality control branding Coca-Cola. Everybody knows what’s in Coca-Cola. And so you can buy a bottle of Coke, take it home, you don’t have to ask what’s in it, or read the ingredients, or ask your friends about. You just take it home, you drink it.

If you get two-thirds the way through your bottle of Coke and you look in and there is a rat head in what’s left in your Coke bottle, you do not say to yourself, ‘You know, I’m wondering whether I’m going to finish all of the rest of this particular bottle of Coke this evening.’ You begin to wonder whether you’ll buy Coke in the future, you go on local TV and you show the cool rat head. Coca-Cola has a very large problem worldwide. It damages the brand. Republican elected officials who vote for tax increases are rat heads in the Coke bottle. They damage the brand for everybody else.

This works with social issues, too. Republicans who don’t have the guts to support a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks! — with an exception for rape — are rat heads in a Coke bottle.

Matt K. Lewis