When a man who has spent decades shouting his opinions suddenly clams up, the silence is particularly deafening. It has been well over 48 hours since the Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling striking down Texas’ strict rules for abortion clinics. Donald Trump has yet to mention it.
The opinion itself, which held that Texas’s regulations placed an undue burden on abortion providers, threw conservatives into a frenzy of rage and mourning on Monday. And the presumptive Republican nominee’s silence has poured a stinging shot of Trump Vodka into the wound.
Just last week, Trump attempted to woo evangelical leaders at a major event in New York at which he promised to appoint anti-abortion Supreme Court justices. Kristan Hawkins, the young president of Students for Life of America who has condemned Clinton’s support for Planned Parenthood, was in the audience. Comparing last week’s meeting to a lunch date, she wrote today in the Washington Post, “I feel like if I was asked to dinner, I’m not sure I’d go.”
She was not alone in her disgust. Conservatives who have opposed Trump all along have used his silence as more proof of his fickleness. David French, a National Review writer who recently flirted with a third-party run, was scathing:
Alan Noble, a writer who has argued that evangelicals should abstain from voting in the presidential election this year, tweeted last night:
And here’s Joe Carter, senior editor at the Acton Institute, a conservative think tank:
“I think it gives all pro-life leaders pause,” Bob Vander Plaats, an influential Iowa evangelical, told the Daily Beast on Tuesday, when the silence was a mere 26 hours old. “I think it gives all people that are looking for life as their issue, who are looking to support a presidential candidate—it gives them an unnecessary pause.”
“Unnecessary” indeed. Fervent anti-abortion voters see Hillary Clinton as a woman who openly celebrates the killing of children. It should not be hard for a Republican—even one who once claimed to be “very pro-choice”—to make himself look like the friendlier option for pro-lifers than the candidate endorsed by Planned Parenthood. And it would be foolish for Trump to underestimate the transcendent importance of the issue to his base. A 2012 poll found that 28 percent of Republican voters said they could not vote for a presidential candidate who did not agree with them on abortion.
So a quick tweet condemning Monday’s Supreme Court decision should be a no-brainer for a candidate hoping to shore up support among religious conservatives. Instead, the campaign has whiffed. Trump himself has spent the last 48 hours belly-aching about media bias and Benghazi, and praising convicted rapist Mike Tyson. His campaign told Bloomberg that it had reached out directly to Christian leaders in the wake of the Texas decision, but decided against issuing any public statements. Trump’s evangelical advisory board, stocked with a motley crew of has-beens and wannabes, issued a perfunctory statement commending Trump’s old promise to appoint anti-abortion justices.
Then again, this isn’t the first time Trump has acted unusually demure in the face of questions about abortion. In April, Maureen Dowd asked him if he’d ever been involved with a woman who had an abortion back in his bachelor years. “Such an interesting question,” he replied. “So what’s your next question?”