Today’s Courier Herald Column:
There has been a difficult coexistence between social and fiscal conservatives within the Republican Party as of late. Social conservatives in Georgia had become accustomed to holding sway if the paths of the ideologies diverged since the late 1980’s. The 2010 election brought about the rise of the TEA Party and with it, an assertion that fiscal conservatives wanted at least an equal share at the table.
The 2010 election also became a bitter and divisive time for social conservatives among themselves. Georgia Right To Life endorsed all Republican candidates for Governor but Karen Handel, choosing to emphasize that she was the only unacceptable candidate to them and questioning her pro-life credentials. While GRTL ultimately claimed victory with the nomination of Governor Deal, the runoff win by less than 2,500 votes against a candidate which they had vehemently opposed was a closer race than any could have imagined a couple of decades earlier.
The position of GRTL against Handel’s pro-life credentials received another round of scrutiny when the Susan G Komen Foundation attempted to distance itself from contributions it was making to Planned Parenthood. Handel, then the Foundation’s Vice President for Public Policy, resigned from the organization when they choose to reverse course and continue funding Planned Parenthood.
In doing so, she became a figurehead for the pro-life movement nationally. Her reception by national pro-life groups stood in stark contrast to the treatment she received just a year earlier here at home.
2012 brings a new election, and with it an opportunity to heal open wounds. The state convention in Columbus provided such an opportunity, with olive branches from the party to both Handel and the pro-life community in general.
The convention passed a resolution honoring Handel for her work and settled the question of the authenticity of her pro-life bonafides. It reads in part:
Whereas, she ran for Governor as a social conservative in 2010, becoming the first Republican woman to do so; and
Whereas, she was appointed by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure charity in April 2011, upon which Karen Handel was made aware that the charity was a financial supporter of the pro-abortion group Planned Parenthood; and,
Whereas, she attempted to end this relationship in a way that was respectful to both organizations; and,
Whereas, she chose to exit the organization showing extreme grace; and therefore be it
Resolved, that the Georgia Republican Party does hereby commend and congratulate her on her decision to stand for her principles and continue to encourage her to continue to serve the public in the future…
The passage of the resolution seems to bring together factions within the GOP’s social conservative ranks to peaceful coexistence once again. Handel now is certified as a pro-life Georgia Republican.
Social conservatives also have seemed to regain equal footing with TEA Party/fiscal conservatives within the party based on the placement of a “personhood” amendment question in the July Republican primary. Voters who request a Republican ballot will be asked the following:
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the paramount right to life is vested in each innocent human being from his or her earliest biological beginning without regard to age, race, sex, health, function, or condition of dependency?
Flush off of the victory of shepherding a fetal pain bill through the legislature and into law, pro-life groups will now have an object reason to rally their voters and send them to the polls in July. The wording of the amendment also has the opportunity to re-open recently closed divisions. There are no exceptions in the amendment for life of the mother, much less cases of rape or incest.
Expect much more scrutiny of the non-binding ballot question as the July primary date approaches. In the mean time, on an occasion where there is a bit of a cease-fire in long running intra-party squabbles, the rare occasion where a peace exists – even if an uneasy one – should be noted.