Rick Santorum, Republican senator from Pennsylvania, has positioned himself as a leader of prolife forces in the Senate. His record on abortion is quite good, though as an establishment conservative his positions on other issues leave a lot to be desired from a consistent-ethic-of-life perspective.
Mr. Santorum makes much of his Catholic faith, speaking of it often, and even writing a regular column for the Catholic neoconservative magazine Crisis.
None of that kept him from campaigning for proabortion Republican senator Arlen Specter when Specter faced a prolife challenger in the 2004 Pennsylvania primary.
Mr. Santorum–whose presidential aspirations are no secret–no doubt thought it prudent to demonstrate his party loyalty.
Most prolifers saw it as a betrayal, of the sort long endured from "prolife" Republicans.
Republicans have long been able to get away with this sort of duplicity with impunity. After all, they undoubtedly reason, what are prolife voters going to do? Vote for Democrats?
Well, Senator Santorum is learning that that may very well happen: prolife Democrat Robert Casey, Jr. has announced that he will run for Santorum’s seat in 2006.
Mr. Casey is the son of the late Robert Casey, onetime governor of Pennsylvania, and a prolife legend. He was famously blocked form addressing his own party’s convention while proabortion Republicans were invited in his stead.
Immensely popular in his state, his son, bearing his name, is showing a double-digit lead over Mr. Santorum in the polls.
Robert Casey, Jr., like his father, is strongly pro-labor and critical of the free market Republican orthodoxy of his opponent, which is serving him well in largely blue collar Pennsylvania.
Republicans seem to forget that while most prolife voters vote Republican–what, generally, is the option?–only a minority are committed to the broader Republican agenda, and many, if not most, are in effect exiled Democrats.
The Democratic Party is belatedly awakening to this reality, and Party leaders are for the first time in years going out of their way not to repel but to welcome prolifers.
Of course one can denounce this as a cynical political ploy. Fair enough, but isn’t much of the "prolife" politicking of Republicans just as cynical? Is it just some sort of coincidence that every "prolife" Republican president has had a wife who signalled that she, anyway, was prochoice?
Either way, I for one am happy to see Senator Santorum squirming after the slap in the face he delivered last year to prolifers, and am happy that perhaps neither party will be able to take our votes for granted again.