Michael Gerson has taken on ethicist Andrew Walker of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who, writing in National Review, urged people to vote for President Trump because of his stand against abortion. Walker is quite capable of defending his positions and doesn’t need any help. But, it’s always good to have friends—that’s why they put two people in a foxhole.
Gerson writes: “Walker is making the following claim: If you think abortion is a matter of life or death, then you must support whoever opposes it most vigorously, even if he or she is an immoral lout.” Well, maybe. But immoral louts come in a variety of flavors and effectiveness. Gerson knows that, which is why he has to head off that argument at the pass.
So Gerson interprets Walker and says that his claim would justify the argument: “If you think abortion is a matter of life or death, then you must support whoever opposes it most vigorously, even … if he or she is sympathetic to chattel slavery.”
First, that’s not what Walker said, and second, it introduces a condition that (a) does not exist and (b) is not going to exist. Even the brains at CNN are not likely to predict that Trump, or any other candidate, will take us back to chattel slavery. (Well, can we be sure about the folks at CNN?)
“Second,” writes Gerson, “the statement contains a false premise. Voters are not choosing a dictator who would have the immediate power to outlaw abortion. … A vote for a politician is only tenuously related to a change in the social and legal status of abortion in the United States.”
Well, of course! But Walker didn’t say a president could dictatorially outlaw abortion. The point he was making is that Trump is more likely than any candidate the Democrats will put up to take whatever steps a president can to limit abortion. Gerson is grasping.
“Third,” writes Gerson, “voting for a candidate is also related to other moral matters of public importance. … So, voting for a pro-life president who promises to jail his or her enemies would be immoral. He or she would have the immediate power to destroy the rule of law and almost no immediate power to end abortion. Voting for a pro-life president who treats migrant children and fleeing refugees as so much human refuse would be immoral.”
Two points there. One, Gerson is playing on Trump’s campaign rhetoric about Hillary Clinton and his call to “lock her up.” Everyone knows, even Gerson, and, alas, Hilary Clinton too, that Trump has no intention of locking up Clinton without due process of law, tempting though it may be.
The second point is Gerson introducing the immigration issue. The United States is either to have borders or it is not to have them. If it has them, not everyone who wants to enter the United States will be able to do so. That’s what having borders means.
And if we are not to have borders, why are we to let in the “poor” from countries to our south instead of the far more wretchedly poor from Africa? Has Gerson no heart at all? Or has he not studied the matter? Trump is more interested in America’s poor people than in the numberless poor people around the world—and he is interested in the well-being of babies, rich as well as poor.
“Fourth,” writes Gerson, “pro-lifers in the United States are going to win the abortion debate only if we persuade enough people to join our side of the argument. We are not going to prevail by gaining power and imposing our view.”
Depends on what you mean by “prevail.” The pro-abortionists didn’t win the debate: they prevailed by capturing the Supreme Court, which then imposed its and its liberal supporters’ views. Would Gerson want to wait while the country debated separate but equal, or would he be willing to have the Supreme Court decide that separate cannot be equal?
Finally, Gerson writes that “it is possible to imagine circumstances in which voting for a Democrat would be preferable to endorsing immediate harm to the country by a Republican. And we are in exactly such a circumstance.”
But what’s the immediate harm to the country, other than the straw-man threats Gerson mentions and (apparently) Trump’s immigration policy (which is real), of which Gerson seems to disapprove?
Trump is the most effective pro-life president we’ve had. If life is your most important issue, Trump’s your man.