In a piece for The Catholic Thing, “Lincoln’s Teaching–and Our Politics,” Prof. Arkes calls for our politicians to lead by talking about the most central issues in American law. Currently, 1.2 million Americans die by abortion each year, and yet this horrific practice is often absent in political discourse, and consequently absent in American consciousness. It is time to talk about the difficult issues.
This article is adapted from remarks Prof. Arkes delivered at The James Madison Program’s annual conference on Tuesday, May 17. A video recording of the panel he served on will be posted shortly.
“We bring back here one of the most enduring lessons Lincoln taught, with a problem that persistently haunts our politics: One of the prime tasks of the political man is to teach, through his own, artful example how ordinary people can talk about the issues that truly run to the root. But that presupposes the prior, truly first task. The political man or woman will need to get clear in the first place on the questions that really were central; the questions, as Lincoln said, from which everything else radiated.”
“Now if someone looked out on our current scene and had powerful reason to think that those were real human lives being destroyed each year in abortions – that they were inescapably innocent lives; that the laws on homicide have never been proportioned to height and weight and age; that the killing of a 62-year-old man is not more of a homicide than the killing of a 2-year old. Well, if he looked out and saw these things, would it surprise you if he told you that this issue could not be, for him, a secondary or peripheral issue? It had to be an issue of the first-order, perhaps overriding everything else.”
“Mr. Ralph Reed wrote recently that only about 4 percent of the public has listed abortion as an issue they care about. But could it be that the public doesn’t care about the issue because political men, ever sensitive to their voters, prefer not to talk about it? And yet do we really think the public would find no interest in learning that 177 Democrats just voted against punishing the killing of a child who survived abortion – that the Democrats regard “the right to abortion” as the right to kill even the child born alive?”
Read the whole article here.