UPDATE: As if he’s reading our minds or blog posts, Trump responded today with a statement that made it exceptionally clear that we’re right. He put so much effort into understanding the abortion issue in the Supreme Court that he felt if he had picked a replacement for Antonin Scalia, his judge would have been able to beat the 5-3 ruling. He’s not paying attention because he doesn’t really care.
Donald Trump claims that he was converted from being “very pro-choice” and supporting partial-birth abortions shortly before his political career. He says he will defend our religious liberties. He put out a list of judges that he would “consider among others” to appoint to the Supreme Court. It is becoming blatantly obvious that he is not pro-life, will not defend religious liberties, and may or may not appoint conservative judges. All one has to do is look at his recent actions to realize that he has been pandering to the Christian right.
That pandering will evaporate the moment he feels like he doesn’t need their support, whether before the election if Hillary Clinton fades or after he’s elected. At that point, his true colors will be allowed to emerge more clearly.
Today, it’s not like he’s hiding it. The question of his defense of religious liberties and social conservatism requires its own post. For now, let’s focus on abortion and how Trump is telegraphing his true feelings.
Deafening silence after SCOTUS ruling
Some in conservative media rightly pointed out that Trump was in a select group of politicians who did not speak against or in favor of the Supreme Court’s ruling to strike down a Texas abortion clinic health standards law. Everyone had an opinion and everyone voiced it. Trump, the king of loving the sound of his own voice, said nothing. No press release. No public statement. Nothing on social media. Silence.
It’s important to keep in mind that this was BY FAR the greatest opportunity he has been given to quash the “Dump Trump” movement and pull skeptical social conservatives to his side. He should have been screaming from the top of Trump Tower, buying up ads, making statements, and Tweeting up a storm about the need to shift the judicial activism in a way that would put an end to liberalism from the big bench. He could have turned this into the ultimate rallying cry for those pro-lifers on the fence about him to cut their losses and accept him as the true pro-life option.
Trump is not a poor strategist. His campaign, while often in disarray, is not one that is known for squandering opportunities. This wasn’t just squandered. It was butchered. Silence was the last thing needed on this issue, particularly on the heels of a productive meeting with evangelical leaders. This was a breakaway alley-oop with a perfect pass for him to slam his point home. Instead, he didn’t even jump. He didn’t try. He conspicuously allowed the opportunity to fly over his head.
Even though mainstream media and even most conservative news outlets have already allowed this topic to come and go, it’s important to dig deeper into his motivations for this seemingly inexplicable lack of action. Let’s look at them in reverse order of likelihood.
- He’s trying to lose. While this is the favored excuse among the more conservative conspiracy theorists out there, I’m only inclined to give this possibility a slim chance. Why? Because if he really wanted to lose, he could have come out swinging, promising to not only put conservatives on the bench but to start the ball rolling to make abortions illegal. That would have fired up the left and moderates to take him down quickly.
- He’s shifting his views for the general election. To some, this might be the most likely scenario. Trump’s perspectives are designed to match the popular opinion. With Americans leaning towards pro-choice, it would be viewed as a good political move to stay silent on the issue IF he had the support of the Republican base locked up. He doesn’t. He could have solidified his support very nicely by attacking the Supreme Court and scaring fence-riders with Clinton’s transforming power if she won the White House, but he didn’t.
- He’s not pro-life. It’s important to make a distinction here. I don’t believe that he’s pro-choice, per se. It’s more about him not caring about the issue whatsoever. When cornered, he stays with his populist perspective of being loosely pro-life with exceptions but preferring to let the states decide. It’s the cop out answer that requires no explanation and yields the least amount of controversy. He hedges his bet, like any good poll-reading populist, by supporting organizations like Planned Parenthood, though not the abortion side of their business (as if such a distinction can be made).
If you really think about it, the only narrative that truly fits his act of blatant silence is that he’s not really pro-life. In politics, claiming to be pro-life or pro-choice is meaningless if there is no intent for action and Trump has absolutely zero intention of taking action against abortion. If he did, he would have said something about the Supreme Court decision.
He’s weak on social conservatism, so he doesn’t want to be associated with any part of it. This wasn’t an oversight. This was a willful omission in order to distance himself from the discussion. It’s that simple.