Last week, Gov. Mike Rounds of South Dakota signed legislation prohibiting abortion in the state except in cases where the mother's life is in danger. The bill passed in the South Dakota Senate, 23-12. It passed in the South Dakota House of Representatives with flying colors, 50-18. Members of both political parties voted for the bill; the bill's chief sponsor was Sen. Julie Bartling, a Democrat.
Naturally, Planned Parenthood has pledged its opposition to the law. Sarah Stoesz, CEO of Planned Parenthood in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota, states that Planned Parenthood will gauge public feeling about the bill before choosing whether to litigate. "We haven't decided yet. We're trying to sort out our strategy," she explained.
For Planned Parenthood, this should be an easy decision: Either the law is unconstitutional, or it is not. If the law is unconstitutional, filing a lawsuit is the only systemically correct decision -- after all, the judiciary is supposedly the proper protector of individual rights. If the law is fully constitutional, it is disreputable to consider litigation as an alternative to the political process -- filing a lawsuit to overturn fully constitutional public decision-making you don't like is antithetical to our system of governance.
But this is what the American left has become: For the left, democratic processes are valid only when they win. If the left loses in the political process, they sue. The people are no longer integral to the process; politics is a heads-I-win-tails-I-sue scenario. When respect for the American people means so little that republicanism itself becomes secondary to certain political end-goals, our system of government is in serious trouble.
Yet if the past few years of politics teaches us anything, it is that for the political left, end-goals trump American democratic processes every time. "Democracy isn't democracy," the left argues, "unless we win." That has been the message of the Democratic left since the 2000 election. How often have we seen the slogan "NOT MY PRESIDENT" plastered across a picture of George W. Bush? How often have we seen radical leftists declare that Republicans routinely steal elections? How often have we seen MoveOn.org members compare President Bush to Adolf Hitler? How often have we heard prominent Democrats like John Kerry describe the Bush administration as a "regime"?
Republicanism cannot survive such all-out assault. The principle of majoritarianism requires that communal decisions be respected, even as minorities try to persuade majorities to change their policies. Constitutional laws created through a legitimate political process are not binding only for those who vote for those laws. When leftists refuse to accept that President Bush is their president regardless of whether they voted for John Kerry, they undermine American republicanism.
I don't like Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and I wouldn't have voted for her were I a resident of New York. Nonetheless, she remains a U.S. Senator, and her vote in the Senate is just as legitimate as that of Senator George Allen (R-VA), with whom I generally agree. I didn't like Bill Clinton, and I wouldn't have voted for him. Nonetheless, he was my president. When President Kennedy was shot, Republicans and Democrats alike mourned. Americans mourned because Kennedy was our president. He was America's president, not Democrats' or Republicans'. The same was true of Clinton, and the same is true of George W. Bush.
I fear that today's left disagrees. Were President Bush assassinated, thousands of leftists the country over would pop open champagne before realizing that Vice President Cheney was next in line. Then they'd go to work attacking Cheney's legitimacy.
The American democratic process is worthy of respect, whether or not we like the results. It is worthy of respect because the American people are worthy of respect. The decisions Americans make through their political processes are legitimate as long as they are in concert with the Constitution. Today's left disagrees. Today's left agrees with the British headline the morning after the 2004 election: "How could 50 million people be so stupid?"
The American people are not too stupid to be trusted with important issues like abortion. They are not too stupid to be trusted with deciding who becomes president.
Last week, 2000 Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore told a Palm Beach County, Fla., audience, "I truly believe that American democracy faces a time of challenge and trials that are more serious than we have ever faced." Gore is right -- but it is he and those like Planned Parenthood that threaten the fabric of American republicanism.