The bitter squabbling on the right over the presidential nomination has now entered a dangerous phase. Politics is about winning elections, not winning prizes for ideological purity. Do the conservatives who consider John McCain an apostate really believe their cause will be better served by having Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in the White House? Because their truculence at the point when Republicans should be uniting is almost guaranteed to produce that result.
To his credit, Mitt Romney was not willing to make that gamble. "I cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror," Romney told a group of conservatives at the CPAC conference on Thursday. "If this were only about me, I'd go on. If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Sen. Clinton or Obama would win," he said.
"But I entered this race because I love America," he added. "And because I love America, in this time of war, I feel I have to stand aside for our country and our party."
Now the question is: will the hard-line anti-McCainites do the same? Consider the alternative -- what a Democrat will mean for conservative principles.
Both Clinton and Obama committed to pulling out of Iraq, regardless of the consequences. The only difference is that Obama wants to pull out immediately and Clinton says she wants the troops out within a year of taking office.
If Clinton or Obama is president, either one will nominate judges to the Supreme Court who favor unlimited abortion rights and government funding for abortion.
A president Clinton or Obama will expand the size of government and raise taxes to pay for that expansion.
John McCain, on the other hand, is committed to winning in Iraq. He supported putting in more American troops to accomplish that goal, at a time when even some Republicans were quietly talking about exit strategies. And he understands that the fight against Islamo-fascism today is as important as the fight against communism in the 20th century.
On the signature issue of social conservatism -- abortion -- McCain's lifetime record speaks for itself. He sponsored the ban on federal funding of abortion in 1987. He has consistently supported parental notification for minors seeking abortions. He also opposed partial-birth abortion, voting not only to support the ban, but twice to override President Bill Clinton's veto of the legislation when he was in office. The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) gives McCain a 0 percent rating.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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