I have never felt entirely comfortable with the phrase “God of surprises,” a slogan that began as the title of a memoir by a heretical Scottish priest. Still, it’s hard to argue that the Author of History is humorless. Who, for example, would have guessed that the 2020 election might end up being fought not primarily on trade or immigration or the economy but on social issues such as abortion?
No one who watched Trump’s rise in 2016 could have mistaken him for a Rick Santorum clone. His genius was for kulturkampf of a very different sort — anti-immigrant fear-mongering, mawkish sentimentality about “the troops,” “the flag,” harder hits in football, 1950s clichés about relations between the sexes. This was brilliant not least because for good or ill most of these things matter a great deal not only to most traditional social conservatives but to millions of Americans who have no strong feelings about abortion and other conservative causes. Now Democrats are helping Trump expand the range of anti-abortion voters — arguably his single most reliable constituency — from religious conservatives to Americans in the broad muddled middle of the most important political debate in this country’s history.
Late on Monday afternoon, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act was defeated in the Senate. This legislation would have required doctors to give medical treatment to infants who survive abortion. One Republican, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, abstained; two others, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Kevin Kramer of North Dakota, were missing in action. Only three Democrats — Alabama’s Doug Jones, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, broke with their party’s leadership to support the bill.