RONALD Reagan typically included in his State of the Union speeches a reference to a constitutional amendment restricting abortion. And, typically, he went about his business, the next day and the days after, ignoring his own words.
As is perhaps true of Mitt Romney, Reagan's feelings about abortion and other “life” issues were somewhat elastic. Yet Reagan remains a beloved figure among today's supporters of Rick Santorum, including those who consider themselves “Reagan Republicans.”
Consider that Reagan is beloved today not because he advanced the anti-abortion cause but because he restored belief in American exceptionalism, worked to shrink government, talked tough with our enemies, cut taxes and grew the economy. This is what Romney could do as well, but he must first convince GOP voters that he deserves the nomination.
We confess to being disappointed that Romney doesn't have the nomination already in hand. Part of the problem is Republican emphasis on social issues, which makes Santorum appealing. Part of it is Romney himself — his perplexing inability to close the deal, including the dead heat Tuesday with Santorum in Romney's home state of Michigan. Voters there would be wise to think toward November, and the face-off with Obama.
Republicans favoring Santorum in next Tuesday's Oklahoma primary should do the same. That's when their idealism will face a reality check. If Barack Obama is given another term, the values antithetical to Santorum supporters will be advanced for the next four years. During those years, Obama would choose one or more justices for the U.S. Supreme Court.
No candidate in the race will be able to do any more about abortion than Reagan could do. It's clear, though, that Obama could do a lot to diminish religious freedom in this area. What would stop him? Certainly not the Supreme Court if Obama can reverse the narrow conservative majority. Only the election of the Republican nominee would put the brakes on.