By David Hill - 01/27/09 05:57 PM EST
From time to time, pollsters like me feel compelled to become oracles. Whereas most days we are satisfied taking and sharing snapshots of the body politic, occasionally the portfolio of images tells us something extraordinary. We begin to see patterns, linkages and relationships that foreshadow something important, even world-changing, about the future.
Because of the sensitive nature of the topic, I want to make one point loud and clear at the outset.
While I am a proud conservative and Republican, my speculation in this matter has nothing to do with partisan or ideological aims. Given the topic, it would be morally and ethically wrong to see change coming solely for the benefit of one side or another in the political wars. No, there’s too much at stake here to be playing politics.
I believe that Barack Obama will become, before his season of leadership is over, a force for limiting abortion, legally and morally, in America. That may be a difficult future to envision, given Obama’s pro-abortion rights actions in recent days and his rhetoric during the 2008 campaign. The president seems decidedly and comfortably pro-choice. But I would remind readers that no president ever entered the Oval Office with more anti-communist credentials than Richard Nixon, but somehow he made his way to China and a détente with the eastern wing of the Evil Empire. Presidents can change.
There are several factors that point to Obama becoming the ideal leader to turn America toward pro-life policies. We must start with his race. Obama’s predecessor in the United States Senate, Peter Fitzgerald, a former client and surprisingly secular opponent of abortion rights, always couched his own pro-life arguments in the context of the 19th-century debate over whether “Negroes were people or property.” Fitzgerald recognized that enlightened Americans could only conclude that slaves were people. He then extrapolated the debate to abortion, asking whether the unborn are people or the property of mothers. Hearing such reasoning must weigh heavily on an African-American.
A second and related factor that may influence Obama is fatherhood of two precious little girls. His daughters will become young women one day and he may face this issue in an intensely personal manner. I was reminded of this possibility recently listening to a devoted pro-life advocate and niece of Dr. Martin Luther King talk about the strong pro-life views of Dr. King’s father, the man they affectionately call “Daddy King.” Evidently, one of their kin proposed having an abortion. Daddy King protested vehemently, reminding his own family member that it wasn’t just a piece of flesh inside her, but a piece of their family. Dr. Alveda King is going to tell this story — over and over — long enough for Barack Obama to hear her. Its relevance to his own family won’t be missed.
A third factor is the changing nature of pro-life advocacy. While many Evangelical Protestants seem to have become distracted from pro-life advocacy by other issues, Catholic opposition to abortion is ramping up. And frankly, that’s probably good for the pro-life movement. Catholics seem to have a better sense of how to effectively promote the pro-life message. Too often, Protestants seem malevolent in protesting abortion, undercutting their message of love. And the inconsistency of some Protestants on related life issues, like capital punishment, undermines their credibility. The Catholic-dominated “Walks for Life” in D.C. and San Francisco last week revealed a fresh new face that may be more persuasive with Obama.
Finally, let me speculate that Obama is an unusually spiritual man who is on the path toward sanctification. Walking that road changes men’s hearts and minds. At some point, the sanctified Barack will care more about his moral standing than his approval ratings. Then we’ll witness his own version of Nixon in China.
Hill is director of Hill Research Consultants, a Texas-based firm that has polled for GOP candidates and causes since 1988.