The Consistent Ethic of Death Within the Republican Party

Michael Gerson writes:

During last week’s budget negotiations, and as America prepared for the full-scale arrival of the omicron coronavirus variant, every present Senate Republican voted to “defund” the federal vaccine mandate on businesses, the military and the federal workforce. This indicated a political party now so intimidated by its liberty caucus that senators such as Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine felt compelled to bend the knee. It was a collective declaration of utter madness….

For the “don’t tread on me” crowd, this is part of a consistent ethic of death. By some recent measures, almost a third of Republicans say political violence may be necessary to “save” the country. Most of these advocates have spent many years being desensitized to bloodshed; they have been told that a portion of their fellow citizens are the embodiment of evil and bent on their destruction. A philosophy of freedom has been transformed into a means of dehumanization.

This sets up a serious conflict at the heart of Republican ideology — at least for those who still put stock in political consistency. The other visible wing of Trumpism is made up of antiabortion evangelicals, whose support explains much of Donald Trump’s political rise and endurance. But whatever view you take of the antiabortion movement, it is essentially communitarian, not libertarian. There is no rational way to advocate this viewpoint that does not involve the community of the born defending the interests of a voiceless, helpless group of nascent humans….

Influenced by Catholic social teaching — and asserting historical continuity with the civil rights movement — many Republican leaders adopted a tone of inclusion in their discourse on abortion. They talked of a “culture of life” in which the unborn were protected by law and by love. They urged a more expansive definition of the human community.

The core of the Trump movement has always been more interested in political conspiracies, White identity politics, persecution fantasies and disdain for elites. Remember that Trump himself was initially supportive of “partial-birth” abortion….

The effective end of Roe would be an ideal point for responsible pro-lifers to assert their position on abortion as part of a broader culture of life, including the unborn and their mothers, the old and ill, people with intellectual disabilities and refugees fleeing oppression. Instead, in the Trump era, the state of Texas is taking the messaging lead on the topic, ensuring that the antiabortion movement seems as radical, punitive and vicious as possible.

How can the anti-vaccine ideals of “my body, my choice” Republicanism — which refuses even the easiest and safest sacrifices to protect the life of a neighbor — coexist with a “culture of life”?