THE BLOG

Republican Reformation: Abortion Issue Will Destroy GOP Transformation for 2016

02/07/2013 12:54 pm ET | Updated Apr 09, 2013

There's been a strong call for action, and already some significant movement, toward rebuilding the image of the Republican Party after Mitt Romney's ignominious defeat in November to President Obama.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus announced at its recent winter RNC meeting that the party must now "compete in every state and every region, building relationships with communities we haven't before" and "be a party concerned about every American in every neighborhood."

Already, in this context, there have been astute decisions made by GOP congressional leaders not to fight a temporary increase of the debt ceiling and to support bipartisan immigration reforms.

But alas, there's one issue out there that will probably derail these GOP efforts to reconnect with the majority of American voters: abortion.

If the GOP really wants to change its image, win the next presidential election, and secure its future in American politics, it has to go back to a concept of being an umbrella party of tolerance when it comes to social issues like abortion.

A NBC/Wall Street Journal poll taken on the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision found that only 24 percent of Americans wanted the decision to be overturned at this point in time.

For the GOP to make inroads with voters in overwhelming blue neighborhoods in northeastern states and California, it has to begin recognize the true meaning and repercussions of this poll.

To win, the GOP nationally must stop being the party that characterizes abortion as murder and purveyor of government intervention to block the-and finally acknowledge that a majority of the country is ok with the mandates of Roe v. Wade.

Yet, it's very unlikely that the socially conservative, southern centric wing of the party, which controls major voting blocs in important early caucus and primary contests, will allow GOP movement away from a staunch anti abortion stance, more on religious grounds rather than political considerations.

More importantly, the bigger impediment toward resolving the GOPs abortion problem is that the GOPs messaging is controlled not by party officials, but more by right wing pundits on Fox like O'Reilly and Hannity and on Talk Radio by Limbaugh and Mark Levin who frame the issue more in the context of moral conservativism more than religious terms.

So while Florida Senator Marco Rubio showed this week that adverse criticism from these right wing pontiffs can be eluded on some issues like immigration reform, it's certain that any move away from an anti-abortion stance will be met with the utmost of pious contempt and derision from these commentators.

Just look at this week's column by Bill O'Reilly called "What the Babies Would Say," which is Exhibit A in illustrating how there's no compromise or tolerance for an opposing "liberal" viewpoint on abortion. In it, he decries a pregnant woman's right to choose. Instead, he upholds the human rights of "defenseless fetuses" who are "marginalized" by a typical immoral woman that "execute her fetus simply because 'she's the boss'" of her body."

"There comes a time when a human being has to either face evil or admit to allowing it," states O'Reilly.

In the Keynote Speech of the RNC winter meeting, Louisiana Governor's Bobby Jindal called out the problem of such vituperative language:

"We've got to stop being the stupid party. It's time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults," he said. "We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I'm here to say we've had enough of that."

That perceptive "stupid" observation by Jindal was made in reference to the idiotic anti-abortion messaging of GOP senatorial candidates Todd Akin and Rep. Richard Mourdock and their "legitimate rape" comments.

Jindal stressed that the GOP did not have to abandon its conservative principals, but instead change the party's focus of managing government within the beltway. He argued the GOP had to emphasize economic growth through individual achievement rather than by government stimulus.

But it's more than GOP politicians arguing the right issues or refraining from using stupid terms. As long as pundits like O'Reilly continue their intolerant dialogue on abortion in moral and religious terms of good and evil, the GOP will continue to be caught up in distractive battles like the "War on Women."

The GOP has lost the popular vote in 5 out of 6 of the last presidential elections, and will likely lose the next one too because of pontiff pundits like O'Reilly. He and the other anti-abortionists will go to their graves fighting Roe v. Wade, destroying any chance for a new wave of Republican popularity and ensuring that the statist revolution now taking place will continue unabated.

An edited version appeared in Florida Voices on February 4, 2013.

Steven Kurlander is an attorney and communications strategist. He writes weekly columns in the Sun Sentinel and Florida Voices and blogs in Kurly's Kommentary. He can be emailed at kurly@stevenkurlander.com