The GOP At Risk: A Symposium on the Big Tent Strategy—Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum

represents Pennsylvania in the Senate 

The Republican Party must stand on principle and that principle must be a commitment to the legal protection of all human life, from conception to natural death. The demand for a big tent—whereby this principle is attenuated to accommodate those who support abortion rights—is an attempt, to paraphrase Michael Sandel, to place the right-to-life position within a political conception of justice rather than within a moral conception of justice.

The difficulty with defining the right to life commitment within purely political terms is that doing so implicitly con-cedes the point in dispute: that the right to life is not a fundamental truth on which our public life—our laws—should speak decisively. An official strategy that rests on broad acceptance of both pro-life and pro-choice views has two flaws: 1) such a strategy cannot accommodate the moral distinction necessary to uphold a genuine commitment to the right to life, and 2) it presupposes an answer—that answer being “no”—to the very question it purports to leave unanswered: Do we assign sufficient moral status to all life, including the unborn and the dying, such that we should protect life at every stage?

I have and will continue to campaign for some Republicans with whom I disagree on the issue of abortion. However, once the party officially accommodates, in a platform for governance, the pro-choice view in order to reach political agreement, we have conceded that the moral status of all life is not compelling enough to be uncompromisingly reflected in our laws. In other words, through such a strategy, pro-life advocates concede everything and pro-choice advocates gain everything: the admission that the taking of innocent life can be tolerated.

The greater internal threat to the Republican Party is not from those who believe that a single position should be upheld, but from those in the party who label as “intolerant” and “fringe” other Republicans with whom they disagree.

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