Can You Pass the Test?
by Jan Baughman

It's impossible to write an article about Bill Clinton's current mess. By the time you would get an Internet connection, the story would be obsolete. In the meantime, we need to keep an eye on the Republicans--particularly when they're keeping such a low profile.

The Party is shooting itself in the foot by trying to define itself over an issue that affects a minority of its members; an issue that very few Americans, Republican or not, are actually touched by: Partial-birth abortion. With the Christian Coalition pushing the Republicans to withhold funding from candidates who do not oppose this procedure, this potential litmus test stands to oust the members of the party who keep them afloat (perhaps litmus tests are not so bad, after all). If one wishes to devise a litmus test that will not at the same time unravel an infrastructure, it is safe to pick an issue with little impact on society. It's even better if this so-called issue appears on the surface to be morally just. A criteria such as opposing child poverty or the lack of universal health insurance fits the morality bill, but it is much too big to contend with. One would actually have to make real changes, and those changes are neither easy nor cheap. And the banks and hospitals and insurance companies are full of contributors, lobbyists, and big money.

If the Republican National Committee really wanted to take a moral stance, it would refuse contributions from any individual or institution supporting partial-birth abortion. Or, it would administer the litmus test to registered Republican voters, and kick out those who do not follow Party Line. Better yet, leave things alone and let Republican women exercise their choice by not opting for partial-birth abortions. In the meantime, how can we take this debate seriously? Let the Republican Party continue its attempt to redefine itself while the press focuses on the sex life and genital attributes of Bill Clinton. There's nothing to lose. Except for elections.

Published January 31, 1998
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