Charting A Course Between Principle And Pragmatism
I recently was asked how I could possibly endorse the U.S. Senate candidacy of Dr. Monica Wehby, who is running as a Republican from Oregon. She is pro-choice, which in the opinion of many makes her unacceptable as a conservative.
I called her to query her about her stance on this issue. She stated that personally, she is very pro-life, but she feels the government has no business interfering with the relationship between the mother, the baby, the doctor and God. I feel differently, because if abolitionists had taken a similar hands-off approach, I might not have been free to write this column.
As someone who has spent a lifetime trying to save the lives of children, even with intrauterine surgery, it is probably not difficult to imagine why I am extremely oriented toward efforts to preserve human life, especially innocent human life that has yet to experience the extrauterine world.
Given this pro-life propensity, one might ask how I could endorse someone who is pro-choice. The answer is this: I’m not an ideologue who determines a person’s worthiness with a litmus test. I have known Wehby as a friend and colleague for many years, and she is extremely intelligent and knows how to make decisions based on evidence versus ideology. Also, in a state like Oregon, which is left-leaning, she would not be a viable candidate if she maintained a pro-life stance.
If conservatives are going to win in 2014 and 2016 and preserve the environment of freedom to which we have grown accustomed, it will be necessary to learn how to prioritize issues. I am not saying that social issues are not important, but if the executive branch remains in the hands of those with “secular progressive” ideas in 2016, and two or three more Supreme Court justices with similar leanings are appointed, conservative social ideas will become anathema to the prevailing powers, who will use every tool available to them to silence such opposition.
The extreme intolerance of the left for opinions that vary from their own has been amply demonstrated on university campuses, in the mainstream media and in the public square in recent years. Boycotting those with whom they disagree is insufficient for them, as demonstrated by their attempts to put their political adversaries out of business or assassinate their character.
Sometimes it is not possible to go from a position of extreme weakness to one of great power in one fell swoop. We must realize that getting people into office who agree with us 90 percent of the time is far superior to ending up with someone who opposes you at every opportunity at the behest of their party leaders. With patience and good leadership, the 90 percenters could be moved in the right direction and would be great allies in redirecting our country toward common-sense solutions for our multitude of problems.
The soul of America is at stake, and the future of our children and their children is threatened by unsustainable growing debt. Those who just listen to propaganda and refuse to read history or familiarize themselves with basic financial knowledge are easily fooled by those claiming that we are safe because our debt is rising more slowly. Those who go off the financial cliff die whether they fall one mile or 10 miles. The point is this: If the country is destroyed, many other issues become irrelevant. We need to stabilize the country first and then address the other serious problems.
Although several variations now exist on the best way to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), in the past there was much confusion. In the early 1960s, a mnemonic device called the ABCs of CPR was popularized and eliminated much of the confusion. The proper order of the procedure was easy to recall by remembering what each letter stood for. “A” was for “airway,” which can be quickly optimized. “B” was for “breathing” to remind the rescuer of the importance of oxygenation, and “C” was for “circulation,” which could be reestablished by chest compression. For example, if chest compression is started in someone with an obstructed airway, it might prove less effective. By prioritizing the steps, many lives were saved.
If a ship is about to suffer massive destruction by sailing over Niagara Falls, why devote energy to scraping the barnacles off the bottom? There will be plenty of time for that once the ship is saved. Worrying about the barnacles before reversing course detracts from critical action. Enough said.
This rationale will anger some who feel that their important issue, be it homosexual marriage, abortion, illegal immigration or Second Amendment rights, should never be anywhere except front and center. I sympathize with those sentiments, but as a pragmatist, I realize that if conservatives continue to be fragmented over issues on which there will never be unanimous agreement, they will never get the chance to address these issues down the road. Principles are important – but so are wisdom and savvy when building consensus with people with different principles.
Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.