What Should the Republican Party Stand For?

Jim invites me to debate immigration–which I shall take him up on in a moment–but first I would like to respond to a challenge still hanging from his first response. “To say baldly ‘abolish abortion,’ and cite as one’s authority ‘God and God’s law,’ ” Jim wrote, “leaves me thinking that Terry is aiming for a good place in the hereafter as he sees it, not a first place in any election in the here and now as the American people see it.” I’ll admit I’m not convinced that good political strategy and good morality need be at odds. But keeping in mind that this is a debate about Republican philosophy as opposed to Republican strategy, I want to explain why I believe it is necessary to make one of the Republican pillars “that all U.S. laws should not only be consistent with the Constitution’s limits on government power but also with Judeo-Christian morality. No government–local, state, or federal–has the authority to encourage what is wrong because all legitimate authority ultimately derives from God and God’s law.”

Imprisoned in the Birmingham jail for engaging in civil disobedience against Jim Crow laws, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. cited as his inspiration St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote in the Summa that the only just law is a law that is in keeping with the natural law and thus with God’s law. As Martin Luther King Jr. rightly said, reasonable people should have been able to see that it was against the natural law to discriminate against people because of their skin color. Jim Crow was immoral and had to be abolished. Even defenders of legalized abortion, such as Bill Clinton, admit their moral uneasiness with it. Clinton said he wants it to be “safe, legal, and rare.” If it is a good thing, why would you want it to be rare?

Clearly abortion is an evil. Just as the Republican Party stood against slavery and Jim Crow, it should stand against abortion–because it should stand at all times for positive law in keeping with God’s law. I concede that there are petty vices–such as smoking–that as a matter of prudence do not merit legal sanction because the potential evil engendered by giving the state the power to stomp them out is far greater than the vice itself. But abortion–the premeditated taking of an innocent child’s life–is neither a petty nor a victimless vice. The Republican Party should stand unapologetically for pro-life whether or not it is politically expedient–although I believe the pro-life stance is good politically for the Republicans because it helps attract Reagan Democrats (most of whom are Northern Catholics) to cross party lines.

So, what about immigration? There is no doubt that American law should treat all people with dignity and fairness. But it is also true that the United States government has a duty to look out for the well-being of its own citizens. Republicans should be able to agree in principle that immigration should be regulated so that it does not harm the economic, social, or cultural fabric of the country but rather enhances it. I would argue that all illegal immigration harms the country because at minimum it teaches disrespect for the law. Secondly, as a native Californian, who attended a mission school founded by one of the lieutenants of the Blessed Junipero Serra, I recognize that there is an indigenous Spanish element in American culture that is often not given its due by people who did not grow up in regions that were originally Spanish, as opposed to British, colonies. But I also recognize–along, I believe, with the vast majority of Californians–that in recent years the tremendous influx of legal and illegal immigrants into that state has overwhelmed its ability to absorb and assimilate new peoples even into its own uniquely and wonderfully Hispanic corner of American culture.

Illegal immigration should be stopped and legal immigration should be modulated to allow California, and other states similarly impacted, to assimilate its current immigrant population into full and welcome membership in the American family.