Despite differences, abortion foes should support BradleyBy Jim Trageser
This article was originally published in the March 5, 2000 edition of the American Reporter.
This primary, abortion abolitionists have an opportunity to make a statement about decency in politics, a statement no other political camp can make in the presidential primary.
They can cross philosophical lines, in many cases party lines, and cast their votes for Bill Bradley.
It won't be easy. Bradley is a lifelong supporter of abortion, a man whose philosophy and politics deny the very humanity of the unborn. He has made his unwavering support of legalized abortion a cornerstone of his presidential bid, and called upon Al Gore to defend his former opposition to abortion (or at least less-enthusiastic support for it).
And yet, Bradley deserves the support of the abolitionist community at least in comparison to Gore.
On the Republican side, the abolitionists are assured of a sympathetic ear by whomever wins. George W. Bush and John McCain both oppose abortion as birth control, and differ in minute details over when exceptions ought to be made. (Of course, none of the three remaining Republican candidates can be termed "pro-life," with only Alan Keyes showing any reticence at all about the death penalty. And his rather draconian views on social services put him at serious odds with anyone holding to a consistent life ethic.)
So a vote in the Republican primary does nothing to advance the cause of an expansive view of humanity, of ending the violence of abortion.
On the Democratic side, though, we can make a difference. Bill Bradley is, quite simply, the better person. His support for abortion, while anathema to anyone with truly progressive views on protecting human life, is heartfelt, sincere and consistent. Wrong it may be, but with Bill Bradley one knows where they stand.
Al Gore, on the other hand, was dependably anti-abortion his entire public career until he sought the presidency (and settled for the vice presidency). When he needed to be against abortion to get elected to the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate from the state of Tennessee, he was predictably anti-abortion. But when he needed to appeal to the hardcore Democrats who decide the presidential primaries, he suddenly switched sides with no explanation.
Indeed, Gore at first patently denied that he had flipped denied it until the media (at Bradley's insistence) checked the record and confronted Gore with evidence of his previous anti-abortion past.
Despicably, rather than offering an explanation for this rather significant change in both philosophy and politics, Gore reacted by excoriating the anti-abortion movement as the wholesale hostage of some extreme right-wing bogeyman.
Which was no doubt news to Martin Sheen and Eunice Shriver, one supposes, but then Al Gore has never been big on accepting the blame for his own actions remember back to the fund-raising scandals, when he explained his making private pitches for donations from the White House by saying there was no "prevailing legal authority" to prevent him from doing so. Or his professed ignorance of the fund-raising going on at a Buddhist temple in Los Angeles where he was speaking. Or his self-righteous attacks on the tobacco industry an industry his family's farm grew tobacco for, for many, many years.
Bill Bradley is absolutely right when he says Americans on both sides of the abortion divide deserve straight answers from Al Gore on his flip-flop. Further, while Gore now tries to hide from his anti-abortion past by demonizing those he once walked with, by smearing those who sent him to the House and Senate for all those years, Bradley is reaching out to Democrats and independents whose consciences will not, cannot allow them to support abortion. "I respect those with pro-life views," Bradley said last week.
Which is more than Al Gore has offered.
At some point, simple human decency has to matter in politics. Bill Bradley is, I believe, on the wrong side of the abortion issue. His support for a practice both barbaric and inhumane flies in the face of his generally progressive views on caring for society's unfortunate and unlucky. For those of us who oppose abortion as the assault on human dignity and rights it is, Bradley's passionate support of expanding health care to all Americans resonates deeply. His support for environmental causes, his commitment to racial equity are consistent with our own.
And with Bill Bradley, we know what we are getting. Al Gore's political positions are demonstrably driven by public opinion polls and an all-consuming desire to win elections. One gets the feeling there is little Gore would refuse to say or do if it meant winning the White House. Bradley's convictions are time-tested. He may be wrong on some issues, but he's honorable and dependable, and that's more important than supporting someone who turns his back on his own values in order to win an election.
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