LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Since I’ve never been to Las Vegas before, I have no normal to compare it to, yet it is obvious that Sin City is not exactly in its prime these days. My cab driver from the airport, always a good source, told me he thinks his business is operating at about 40 percent of what it would usually be. Many hotels are still shuttered, and the streets really do feel, as one local told me, “eerie dead.” I made my way to a sports bar off the strip to find some voters and take their temperature. This only seemed fair, since I had my temperature taken about 600 times in the course of my journey from New York. I’ll be honest: social distancing is a problem for my job in these situations. Generally, I tuck into a bar, ears open, and gently insinuate myself into conversations, finding a way to guide them to my questions. It’s a well-honed skill, and it’s useless now. There was no bar in the sports bar; it was cordoned off. Instead, there was a smattering of tables spaced about ten feet away from each other. This led to awkward approaches, reporter’s notebook in hand, to introduce myself and ask if people would answer some questions. It feels like being John Cusack with a boom box over your head. Yet, as always, the American people didn’t disappoint me. They were as affable as ever, and had a lot to say about the election creeping quickly upon us. First I spoke to Chris and Michelle, a pair in their 50s on a weekend in Vegas. Chris lives in Indiana and Michelle in Arizona. Both are dedicated Trump supporters. They were quick to explain why: it was all about what he has done. “Low unemployment, the economy, raises,” Chris, said “Did you get a raise under Trump?” I asked. He said he certainly did. Neither blamed Trump for the virus that reversed his economic gains, but Michelle expressed a lot of frustration. Her four kids haven’t been in school since March, and it’s weighing heavily on her. “They just sit around and eat all day,” she told me. “The grocery bills are way up.” Neither are confident that things will ever really return to normal. I looked at Chris as he placed his cigarette athwart mine in the ashtray and said, “Will we ever sit at the bar again?” “I think we’ll sit at the bar again,” he said, with Michelle nodding agreement, “but we won’t work the same way. Companies are saying, ‘Why have an office if people can work from home?’ My friend in Florida might lose her event-planning company.” When I asked about the racial turmoil tormenting America, Michelle was blunt: “Until they stop talking about race, nothing will get better.” If Chris and Michelle spelled good news for the president, Brian ,who I got to talking to a few minutes later, was not. I’ve interviewed a lot of people all over the country these past few years, but in Brian I found the elusive Never Trumper in the wild. As soon as the topic of the election came up, he said those magic words: “I’ve been a Republican my whole life and I’m voting for Biden.” His reasoning was familiar. He didn’t really dislike most of the stuff Trump has done policy-wise, but he has a deep disdain for him — not just his tone, but more Trump as a person. Brian exhibited a kind of managerial attitude that likes order. It was interesting that he works in the marijuana industry. Never Trump does, after all, have a splash of libertarianism. Brian was evidence that there are some would-be Republican voters out there who will never be comfortable with a Trump presidency. Here in one smoke-filled Vegas sports bar were both sides of the essential conservative argument over Trump. Now, Michelle and Chris absolutely represent the vast majority of Republicans. The question becomes: How many Brians are there? That seems hard to know, but suggests a further question: How motivated are they to vote? Brian hardly seemed to be thrilled about Joe Biden. Trump was in town for a rally, and rallying his base is still a big part of his path to victory. He has to bet that by getting people excited about voting for him they will come out for him, and that those who hate him but feel unexcited about Biden just stay home. That is probably a pretty decent bet, but this is Las Vegas, and as we all know even safe bets crap out. On the whole, though, it is much better to be the candidate Americans actually want to vote for than the lesser of two evils.
In 2016, many pro-lifers doubted Donald Trump’s commitment to our cause. He appeared to be an unlikely, and presumably unreliable, champion for human life in the womb. But the president has delivered for us. Not only have his policies, rhetoric, and judicial picks been resolutely pro-life, his populism has invigorated conservative interest in the economic, as well as social, preconditions for strong families. For most pro-lifers, Trump’s presidency is a cause for jubilation. An Attempt to Make a Pro-Life Case for Biden His pro-life work is, however, a problem for diehard Never Trump figures who claim to be pro-life. They now have to justify sitting out the coming election or, in some cases, supporting the most pro-abortion Democratic ticket in history. It is not easy for those who claim to be pro-life to explain why they are voting for candidates who support taxpayer-funded abortion on demand until birth. Mona Charen has taken up the challenge, arguing that even if Trump’s policies on abortion are better than Biden’s, this need not be dispositive for pro-life voters. She says Trump is terrible in other ways, Biden isn’t that bad, and presidents don’t matter that much to the pro-life cause. Charen derives her argument that presidents are inconsequential for the pro-life movement from a column by David French, which was picked up by others, including a National Review piece by Cameron Hilditch. I am weary of writing about Never Trump in general, and French in particular, but their outsized media influence necessitates that they not be ignored. The heart of their “pro-life” case against Trump is that the annual number of abortions has been dropping for decades, regardless of who was in office. They conclude, therefore, that the pro-life movement can succeed despite lacking the political power of the presidency. What Is Success? This might be true if the pro-life movement is willing to redefine success to mean only ameliorating the toll of abortion, rather than also seeking its abolition. But the pro-life movement has done both, working to reduce abortions now while fighting for the ultimate abolition of elective abortion. French and Charen are surrendering on the second part of the struggle. By their standard, it would be a success if, in another 20 or 30 years, there are “only” half a million abortions in the United States each year — all government-funded and protected by a fortress of rulings, regulations, laws, and judges. French, Charen, and other Never Trump pro-lifers might respond that they do not want surrender, just a strategic retreat to get rid of Trump, but they refuse to acknowledge the full cost of this retreat. As president, Biden would restore federal funding for overseas abortion promotion, and he has promised taxpayer funding for abortion on demand in the United States. He would choose judges who will read a maximalist abortion regime into the Constitution. He and congressional Democrats would preempt state and local restrictions on abortion and harass pro-life organizations, including religious groups, as part of an escalating culture war. A Biden presidency would reverse pro-life efforts toward abortion abolition. Charen nonetheless justifies her support for Biden on the grounds that, “Being pro-life is part of an overall approach to ethical questions. It’s wrong to take innocent life. But other things are immoral too. … Donald Trump is a daily, even hourly, assault on the very idea of morality.” This hysteria is grotesque when set against the absolute immorality of abortion, which destroys the primordial basis of human life and relationships. Abortion responds to the dependence of a new human life with violence. It turns the interests of the mother, father, and child against each other. Instead of a self-giving love that nurtures life, abortion is selfishness culminating in death. Nothing Trump has done in office comes close to the moral atrocity of nearly 1 million abortions per year, which Biden promises to encourage and have us all pay for. Championing and funding that violence is far more corrupting to society than any oafishness, immorality, or incompetence of which Charen might accuse Trump. This corrupting effect is why the canard of making abortion unnecessary while keeping it legal is an illusion, and why decades of abortion on demand have not been the solution its advocates promised. Indeed, Americans are increasingly alone and childless, in large part because we have violently severed the elemental bonds of love that unite men and women with each other and their offspring. Biden’s Disqualifying Position This is the America of Biden and the Democratic Party’s radically pro-abortion regime. Biden has other personal and political sins, but his pro-abortion stance alone is disqualifying. In contrast to Charen, French does not overtly support the former vice president. Instead, he has reiterated that neither candidate has earned his vote, while adumbrating more reasons presidents don’t have much effect on abortion. French’s arguments are self-defeating, however. As he notes, most legislation against abortion is taking place in the states, rather than at the national level. These local efforts still undermine his case against Trump, for state-level regulations and restrictions on abortion are subject to review by the federal courts. Judges, and the president who picks them, are essential to state-led efforts against abortion. Trump’s judges have changed the legal battlefield. Despite the perfidy of the George W. Bush-appointed John Roberts, many abortion restrictions are being upheld throughout the courts. Some restrictions are going unchallenged because Planned Parenthood and its allies are litigating scared. For example, they have been reluctant to challenge many state bans on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. One of Trump’s judges even upheld closing all abortion facilities during the initial stage of the pandemic. The result is that pro-life laws are going into effect and abortion clinics are closing. These pro-life victories would not be happening if Hillary Clinton had been filling the courts with pro-abortion judges, as even French half-admits. The Results of Trump Derangement Thus, to maintain his anti-Trump position, French must minimize state-level efforts to reduce abortion, even though he had just praised them. He dismissively writes that even if Roe v. Wade were overturned, the permissive abortion regimes many states would retain means that “for the nation as a whole, the abortion rate would likely shrink by only 12.8 percent.” That would “only” save about 100,000 lives per year, and we might not even need to overturn Roe to achieve this; there is, for instance, only one embattled abortion clinic left in Missouri. Pushing abortion out of pro-life states would lower the overall abortion rate, despite the efforts of pro-abortion states to encourage “abortion tourism.” Furthermore, states eliminating elective abortion would invigorate the pro-life cause. French is correct that most Americans don’t really want abortion. He does not draw the obvious conclusion, which is that a coalition of states showing that abortion is neither inevitable nor necessary would have great persuasive power for the cause of life. These state efforts would also prepare the way for the federal action that will be needed for national abolition. The struggle to protect the unborn has been prolonged, our victories have been hard-won, and there is much still to do. But we have had victories, and there are more on the way, thanks to Republican legislatures, Trump judges, and the valiant work of grassroots pro-lifers. Throwing that away by handing political power back to those who want federally funded abortion on demand would be a suicidal, self-inflicted wound. It would literally be a deadly setback to our goals of abortion reduction and eventual abolition. President Trump is an unlikely pro-life hero, but we should rejoice in unexpected blessings, not reject them.