Thursday, March 01, 2007

Harper is at least better than Dion

Catholic Insight
By Rory Leishman

In politics, as in so many other endeavours, the best is often the enemy of the good: Consider, in this respect, the 1860 presidential election in the United States.
For most voters, the predominant concern was slavery. At the time, Christians in the United States were hardly less divided over this issue than they are now over abortion.
Many in the South embraced the viewpoint expressed by the United States Supreme Court in the notorious Dred Scott decision that blacks have no rights because they are not citizens within the meaning of the Constitution. Most in the North were no less adamantly opposed to slavery. They recognized that the evil institution could not be squared with the plain teaching of the Bible that there is neither slave nor free, but all are one in Christ Jesus.
In retrospect, the opponents of slavery in 1860 might seem to have had an obvious presidential choice in Abraham Lincoln. Yet at the time, many preferred New York Senator William H. Seward, a prominent opponent of slavery who had voted against the Compromise of 1850 that had postponed the inevitable showdown over slavery between North and South.
Lincoln was also implacably opposed to slavery. He famously declared: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” But in 1860, Lincoln was not an abolitionist. In campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, he promised only to oppose the extension of slavery into the territories, while leaving it alone in the South.
On the first ballot at the 1860 Republican convention, Seward took the lead. In the end, the majority of delegates nominated Lincoln, then a comparatively unknown moderate on the slavery question, because they judged him to have a better chance of winning the presidential election.
The rest of the story we all know: Lincoln won the election, bided his time and eventually on January 1, 1863, issued his bold Emancipation Proclamation that forever abolished the evil of slavery from the United States.
What lessons might faithful Canadian Christians draw from this experience as they contemplate the next federal election? Only Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Stephane Dion stand a chance of emerging as prime minister. Neither bears much resemblance to Lincoln.
While Dion is an unabashed exponent of the evil of abortion on demand, Harper refuses to be pinned down on this most vital of all issues. Pressed last year by CTV’s Lloyd Robertson to state his personal position on abortion, Harper would say only: “Well, on my views, as I said, I’m not on either extreme on that issue.”
How can that be? Harper is intelligent. He belongs to the Christian and Missionary Alliance, a denomination that unequivocally opposes abortion. If Harper were a statesman in the Lincoln mould, he might dodge an inopportune commitment to curb abortion, but he would not shrink from affirming that if abortion is not wrong, nothing is wrong.
As it is, Harper has made no such statement. He has in no way encouraged the pro-life movement. To the contrary, he has vowed time and again that his government will not introduce any legislation on abortion.
At least, Harper has not pledged that his government will also oppose all private member’s bills on abortion. Indeed, he is obligated not to do so. The policy declaration of the Conservative Party of Canada states: “On issues of moral conscience, such as abortion, the definition of marriage and euthanasia, the Conservative Party acknowledges the right of Members of Parliament to vote freely.”
In this respect, the Conservative Party stands alone among all the parties in Parliament. It also has more pro-life MPs than all the others combined. And Harper has appointed Jason Kenney, Vic Toews and a number of other outspoken and committed pro-life MPs and political operatives to key positions in his cabinet and personal staff.
For these reasons, pro-life voters should do whatever they can to help get as many pro-life Conservatives nominated and elected in the next federal election. A Conservative majority government is much the best conceivable outcome. And Harper, despite his deplorable equivocation on life and family issues, is a much better choice for prime minister than a shameless apologist for abortion like Dion.

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