When David French argued that one could be pro-life and not vote for Donald Trump, he answered the wrong question. It actually does matter a lot who sits in the Oval Office, as this editorial explains over at Medium. The question is not whether one can be pro-life and vote against Trump, or whether someone who does not vote for Trump has “blood on his hands.”
Every major party nominee for President, incumbent or not, has people in his own party that will not vote for him. What is different about Trump is that, while the vast majority of Republican voters were on board in 2016 and are on board in 2020, there is a significant portion of the conservative intelligentsia who continue to oppose him. French is one of those, though he has been more reasonable in his criticisms compared to some of the remaining “never Trump” crowd that seem to be only motivated by personal animus.
Now, let’s be clear: Trump is a very divisive figure with a long history of deep and serious character flaws. I can understand why a pro-life person would refuse to vote for him, even though he has delivered pro-life policy and even though a Biden/Harris administration would be aggressively pro-abortion.
The case to be made, then, is that the pro-life policy is not enough to overcome Trump’s flaws and the legacy he will leave on the Republican Party and the conservative movement. But French did do that. He made the case that the President has very little impact on the pro-life cause, which is simply not true. While the primary action is at the state level, the President does matter quite a bit.
I cannot imagine French would have argued that the President has little impact on abortion policy and abortion rates if any other Republican was the party’s nominee this year. If someone is a single-issue voter, then Trump is the only possible choice for President. If other factors are at play and can disqualify a candidate, then a vote against Trump is more reasonable.
Like French, I take a wider view, and a pro-life candidate will not automatically get my vote. I will vote pro-life most of the time, but not every single time. I have been pleased by Trump on policy, even though I continue to find his personal character and childish behavior abominable. I voted against Trump in 2016, but I will vote for Trump in the 2020 general election.