Abortion as a Wedge Issue - Why are Republicans Attacking Sarah Davis and Not "Windy" Davis?
Last week, my fellow TexasGOPVote blogger David Bellow wrote an article attacking the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) and Texas State Representative Sarah Davis (R-134) over the Party's support of Davis in the 2012 general election. Sarah Davis is a moderate Republican in a swing district. The reason for the attack? Davis was the only Republican to vote against the anti-abortion bill now before a second special session of the Texas Legislature. This is a distraction and a misdirected attack. Should we be focusing our attention on Republican Sarah Davis, or would our time and attention be better spent on Democrat Senator Wendy "Windy" Davis?
Note: The reference to "Windy" Davis in in reference to Sen. Wendy Davis' eight plus hour filibuster on the floor of the Texas Senate attempting to kill SB5 in the last special session.
There are a couple of issues in this article I would like to focus on. First is the contention that the RPT violated the 2012 RPT Platform by donating money and providing support for her re-election in a hotly contested State Rep race. The second, and perhaps more important issue, involves the language we use in discussing wedge issues like abortion and immigration reform.
The first issue is easy. The RPT did not "violate" the platform as stated by Bellow. The plank of the platform in question states the following:
We implore our Party to support, financially or with in-kind contributions, only those candidates who support protecting innocent human life.
The plank says "implore" not "requires." It is a strongly worded suggestion or request, not a command. It allows for discretion in making decisions about the weight of this plank versus the threat of losing a Republican seat in the Texas House. You may say I am picking at a technicality. Perhaps, but I have sat through debates in the RPT Platform Committee hearings and through floor fights on the convention floor, and I can tell you words like "implore" are carefully chosen and hotly debated. If they wanted to say "require" or "command," they would have said so. Words and even punctuation are hotly contested in plank debates.
Sarah Davis' race was one of the ones targeted by the Texas Democrat Party as a vital seat to take away. Just four years earlier, Davis had replaced one of the most liberal Democrats in the Texas House, Ellen Cohen. The Democrats were pumping a lot of money into the campaign of yet another liberal, Ann Johnson, to unseat Davis. The RPT wisely decided to support Davis and keep the seat as a Republican seat knowing that, while Davis is not with us on the issue of abortion, she is with us on most other conservative issues. Her vote against the bill had zero impact on the bill, but on other more closely contested issues, her Republican vote could be critical.
Bellow makes the argument that Sarah Davis had plenty of money for her campaign and that those donations could have been better spent in other campaigns. How do you know that David? Davis' re-election was by the closest margin of any Republican State Rep in the Houston area. It looks to me like she needed every penny she could get to keep the seat Republican and that, after all, is one of the main objectives of the state Republican Party. Chairman Steve Munisteri's main job during an election is to get as many Republicans elected as possible, and he did a fine job of that in the 2012 election.
My bigger concern, and the main reason I am writing this post, is about how some Republicans talk about wedge issues. Issues like abortion, gay marriage and immigration reform are good examples of these wedge issues. I call them wedge issues because the way we talk about these issues often drives away many voters who might be predisposed to voting Republican were it not for the tone of the arguments made by many. Often it is not the issue, but the way we discuss them that drives away the youth vote, the women's vote and the vote of conservative Hispanics. It is the demonization of someone who disagrees with you on a specific issue that drives the wedge between Republicans and our conservative voters.
For example, because someone is pro-choice does not mean they are pro-abortion. Just because someone supports someone's rights does not mean they support the choice someone makes in exercising that right. Many otherwise conservative voters believe that "choice" is a right - that reproductive decisions are between a woman and her doctor. But that does not mean they like or even approve of abortion. I believe in the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms. I support your ability to exercise that right. That does not mean I support your decision to go out and shoot someone who is not a threat to you. I support your right, not your decision.
The same standard can be applied to the 1st Amendment. I certainly did not agree with much of what I heard last Monday in the sea of orange on the steps of the Texas Capitol, but I do believe in their right to protest the actions of the legislature.
In Bellow's article and subsequent comments, he claimed that Sarah Davis is pro-abortion and that "she is for killing babies". That is not only a lie, it is the kind of distortion that drives away a voter who is a conservative but believes in limited government and the role of government in the reproductive process. Comments like these are how Democrats get away with the "War on Women" attack.
While I know Bellow is a good Christian man, his statements are not a Christian act. It is the kind of judgmental statement that stops people from listening to your argument and drives them away from our party and candidates.
Conservatives often like to quote Ronald Reagan. Well here is one of my favorite Reagan quotes, "The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor."
Sarah Davis probably agrees with most Republicans on way more than 80 percent of the issues. She is certainly an ally and a friend. She is not the enemy. The Davis we should be fighting is "Windy" Davis, not Sarah Davis. "Windy" Davis has been elevated to a national star in the Democratic party. Whether she listens to the voices calling for her to run for governor of Texas or she seeks re-election to her senate seat, "Windy" Davis should be the target of our debates, not Sarah.
Today, thousands of Republicans will stage a "Sea of Blue" protest on the south steps of the Texas Capitol in support of the pro-life bills before the Legislature. I hope we, as Republicans and conservatives, can maintain civility in our discussions and win the battle of ideas through polite conversation and logical debate. We have "Right" on our side, we don't have to be mean about it to win. There is plenty of ugliness coming from the left. Let's let them own that.
I look forward to seeing many of you in Austin tonight and tomorrow morning.