Former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson has an op-ed in today’s WaPo calling for an end to extremism within the GOP. His premise is rather uncontentious:

. . .Republicans seem to like to eat their young. We have the steely-eyed zealots trying to inflict their personal views on others. They don’t care a whit whether you are with them 90 percent of the time. They are the 100 percenters, and what really matters to them is that old 10 percent, and they’ll use venom and invective to tear people down. We do that too many times and it sure turns folks off. And the Democrats just love it!

This is reasonable enough although, to be fair, just as much a problem for the Democrats.

But the rest of the piece gets to Simpson’s real agenda:

On the personal and singular issue of abortion, many seem to have the attitude that government really does know best (a very non-Republican view on all other issues) and that individual Americans are incapable of thinking and deciding for themselves on this terribly anguishing and intimate issue.

As a longtime supporter of the right to choose, I have never believed that Congress or the federal government should interfere with the deeply personal and private decisions that women sometimes face regarding unintended or crisis pregnancies. A lot of Republicans agree with me — and a lot do not. You really have to have rocks for brains if you honestly think we’re going to solve that horrible conflict anytime soon.

President Bush gets it even if they don’t. We damn sure don’t need the vitriol and demonization from the cultural warriors on the left and the right. We have enough on our plates that really needs doing. President Bush knows all about it. He has a rugged bunch of people on the Hill who simply want to block him. Their game is: Don’t let him accomplish anything. It doesn’t help the country, but it’s pretty good politics.

While I agree that the GOP shouldn’t allow itself to fracture over the issue of abortion (although I see no evidence that this is happening), I differ with Simpson in two respects:

1. It is the Democrats, not the Republicans, who are making abortion a single issue. We didn’t have Republicans filibustering Clinton nominees on the issue, for example. And, as has often been noted, Republicans are much more tolerant of dissenters within the party on abortion than are Democrats. Colin Powell was allowed to give the keynote address at the last convention, specifically addressing his dissent from the platform.

2. The pro-abortion side has already won this debate. The only issue at play now is whether the Supreme Court will overturn the Roe v. Wade decision (or, the wildly implausible idea of doing this by Constitutional amendment). Even if Roe were overturned tomorrow, abortion would still be legal virtually everywhere because it is so ingrained in our culture.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Oh, I can name at least one state where it wouldn’t be legal any more, in short order. Conservative legislature + elected Supreme Court = bye bye abortion.

    Having said that, I’m not sure you can actually get an abortion in Mississippi today anyway. Maybe in Jackson, but that’s a totally different world (and anyone wanting one here in Oxford would go to Memphis anyway). (My interpretation of this page suggests that Jackson is the only place where you can get one. But there may be another MSA that I’m forgetting.)

  2. James Joyner says:

    The same is true in Alabama and maybe a couple of other states. But it’s only a three hour drive from anywhere in Alabama or Mississippi to another state. And, as you say, it’s pretty hard to get one in those states now just because very few doctors are willing to do them.

  3. Xrlq says:

    The very notion that a future Supreme Court may reverse Roe is far-fetched, to put it mildly. Contrary to the popular femnist lie, the current Supreme Court is not “one vote away” from overturning Roe. Only three of its current members would do that, ane one of those three (Rehnquist) is expected to retire soon.