Candidates at the National Right to Life Convention give reason to rejoice

When — as now — the electorate unequivocally claims unemployment and jobs as its top priority, social issues tend to fall by the wayside. But, today, at the National Right to Life Convention, more than half the GOP presidential field put in an appearance — all to underscore the basic belief that a culture of respect for life is the requisite foundation for a free society.

That five candidates took time to speak at the Convention — whether in person or by Skype — should reassure Republicans of the strength of the 2012 field. As much as Republicans might want charisma in a candidate, as much as they might recognize that social issues necessarily must take a backseat in the midst of the worst economic “recovery” since World War II, they can take comfort in the solid alternative to President Barack Obama each GOP candidate represents — a contrast that’s especially clear on black-and-white issues like life.

In their own words: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) stated plainly: “What you want in a president is someone who is 100 percent, unquestionably, pro-life.” Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) emphasized the rights of the unborn. Godfather’s pizza CEO Herman Cain spoke unabashedly about his Christian faith and how it informs his view of abortion. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) reminded listeners “liberty is secondary to life.” Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty linked a pro-life viewpoint to “a new and better” America.

Obviously, none of these comments are game-changers (and, frankly, they all pale in comparison to the unafraid and impassioned remarks former Texas Planned Parenthood Director Abby Johnson gave at the same event), but they still deserve to be celebrated and praised. The pro-life cause is as much a battle for the hearts and minds of young men and women as it is a legal fight, if not more so. That is, the struggle is even more cultural than it is political. But presidential candidates do form and inform the culture, even if to a lesser extent than the traditional cultural transmitters of literature, art and entertainment.

Candidates are right to focus their executive/legislative priorities realistically and relevantly — but they’d be wrong to waste opportunities to use life-affirming rhetoric to the benefit of the culture. It’s no surprise to me that neither former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney nor former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (those infamous non-signers of the Susan B. Anthony List’s right-t0-life pledge!) spoke at the Convention — but I wish they would have. Reassurance on such an electorally secondary but culturally primary issue would be nice. In the meantime, my gratitude to those candidates who did.