The presidential debate was between a pro-choice candidate–and a pro-abortion one

The Republican Party—and MAGA world—is rejoicing after last night’s presidential debate. Donald Trump was more disciplined than we’ve ever seen him and stuck to his talking points. President Joe Biden’s implosion began from the moment he shuffled onto stage and didn’t end after his wife helped him painstakingly down the handful of stairs from the debate stage afterwards. Biden forgot words; swallowed entire sections of sentences; looked frequently confused; and very frail and fragile. By the close of the evening, his candidacy seemed liked elder abuse; an incredibly cringeworthy leaked video showed Jill Biden telling her husband: “Joe, you did such a good job, you answered every question, you knew all the facts!”

The media’s response has been so unanimous and vehement that it seems very unlikely that this wasn’t at least anticipated. From MSNBC to CNN, progressive talking heads spoke with one voice: Joe Biden is too old, and he must be replaced. When the dust settles, perhaps they’ll realize that their naked cynicism has dealt another blow to their already crumbling credibility. For years, we’ve been told that observations of Biden’s obvious decline were right-wing conspiracies, even Russian disinformation. Journalists and Democrats (I repeat myself) swore up and down that behind closed doors, he had the mental acuity of Einstein and the physical stamina of a Navy SEAL. The world saw, clearly, that they were deliberately lying.

Plenty of conservatives are gleefully pointing out that the press may have been assisting their political allies in a coup to replace Biden, but that’s precisely why I think last night’s debate may have been a pyrrhic victory. Trump’s popularity has never come close to 50%. If Biden gets replaced, Trump will likely lose. California Governor Gavin Newsom, for example, would be an incredibly dangerous candidate—he is an extremist on every issue from abortion to sex changes for children, but is a very skilled politician. There are still many voters out there who want the opportunity to vote for someone other than Biden or Trump. They may get that chance now.

This debate also signalled another political shift that got largely lost in the sound and fury of Biden’s collapsing candidacy: For the first time in decades, the Republican nominee ran as an openly pro-choice candidate. Trump claimed (mistakenly) that “everyone” wanted Roe v. Wade overturned, which of course isn’t true—Roe was the Left’s sacred cow, and only a handful of leftist constitutional scholars were willing to admit that it was bad law. He also claimed that the pro-life movement’s goal was always to return the issue to the states rather than achieve protections for children in the womb. That is also false. But worst of all, Trump endorsed the Supreme Court’s decision to preserve the availability of the abortion pill; last year, 63% of abortions were facilitated with the abortion pill.

It is true that Trump once again employed powerful, descriptive language in his condemnation of late-term abortion and born alive abortions, which Biden, who looked characteristically bewildered, insisted were not actually happening. (The video Trump was referring to was former Virginia Governor Ralph Northam calmly explaining how babies who survive abortion can be left to die—that really happened.) Biden responded by insisting that Roe did not allow for late-term abortions, which is not true, and then claimed that he and the Democrats do not support late-term abortions, which is also untrue. If he meant it—and I don’t think anything he said matters at this point—it would be a shift in his abortion position.

But as I noted in First Things last month, this GOP pivot on abortion—that first trimester abortions, which make up around 90% of the total, should be permitted, and that only late-term abortion should be opposed—could have devastating long-term political consequences. If this becomes the Republican position and GOP legislators retreat to a permanently defensive posture on abortion, the pro-life movement will lose the political vehicle they have used since the Reagan Administration—and the only one available. Last night, we saw a pro-choice presidential candidate debate a pro-abortion one. Most conservatives aren’t interested in discussing that fact, because it is politically inconvenient. It is also, unfortunately, a very big deal.

I don’t think last night was particularly good for anybody. Biden’s candidacy collapsed, and for awhile it looked like he might, too. Trump was disciplined, but will likely now face a far more formidable candidate. America’s enemies got a good look at the gerontocracy running the country (who is running the country, anyway? Obama?) And the debate showcased a political shift on the abortion debate that might transform the pro-life movement’s relationship with the GOP for the foreseeable future.

One thought on “The presidential debate was between a pro-choice candidate–and a pro-abortion one

  1. Susan says:

    It was democrat debating democrat plant. See my argument at Mom and Dad We need a GOP replacement who will abolish abortion for created equals birthday in 2026. (The GOP platform is for the second, before president warp speed molests it, abolition ready)

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