Elections, even in non-pandemic years, can bring out some of the best and the worst of America. Both parties, in their convention productions, were a mix of both. The aspirational, inspirational moments are the best -- though, of course, may promise too much about what electing one ticket to the White House could possibly do.
At the same time, they are important reminders that policy isn't mere ideological adherence: It affects human lives. Family lives. It's important, noble work. But in campaign season, it can become harder to remember that politics isn't everything. We don't get our meaning from politics, but rather, it is a necessary exercise: Our vote and our engagement in politics is one way we live out our civic responsibilities. Politics is not a never-ending reality TV show for our entertainment or distraction. And it's not religion. As Sister Deirdre Byrne put it during her Republican convention segment, there's such a thing as eternal life, and this life -- including politics -- should be part of our expression of gratitude for our very lives and hope for something greater. Anything inconsistent with that journey should have no place in politics.
This leads us to abortion. There's a lot of dismissal of "single-issue voters" these days -- the assumption that everyone who is opposed to abortion will vote for Donald Trump. Let's set that aside for a moment. In recent weeks, I've expressed my disappointment in Joe Biden, and in the fact that the Democrats have refused to make room in their party for people who consider abortion the preeminent human rights issue. For that, I have been told I am a "so-called" pro-lifer.
I actually agree with all those who insist that "pro-life" needs to mean more than defending the life of the unborn. Rather, we as individuals and as a society must do all that we can to make life plausible: to ensure single mothers and families have a fighting chance. We can't look away from the children in foster care who will never have a shot without the love of a family. Absolutely, "pro-life" should mean more than "opposed to abortion." And anyone who has been around the pro-life movement has seen that it so often is. It's people full of love for a mom who just needs some confidence and resources -- people walking with her for more than nine months.
The other day, a Catholic priest responded to one of my columns mentioning Joe Biden and abortion. He explained that he's voting for Biden, considering him to be pro-life. Here's the problem with that: While I'm with Father in wanting to help vulnerable children in all kinds of situations, you can't be pro-life and adhere to the extremist abortion policies of the Democratic party.
There's a reason that the Democrats didn't talk all that much about abortion during their convention -- because that's not the pitch you want to make to people. The vast majority of Americans want to see some restrictions on abortion; they don't see abortion as a good thing, but they want women in desperate situations to have options. "There but for the grace of God go I," many think.
But like other words we use in our politics, "pro-life" begins to lose all meaning if you can claim to be personally opposed to, but publicly radically supportive of, legal abortion. And not just its legality, but its expansion. Just look to Andrew Cuomo for an example of that: a supposed leading light of Democratic politics, who expanded legal abortion in a state that was already considered the abortion capital of the country.
The Democratic party has chosen to double down on the death of innocents. That is what abortion is: a law that says the unborn can be treated as inconvenient and thrown away. The value of that human life is determined by the mother under the influence of her circumstances and the pressures she is under. The Republicans are far from perfect, to say the least. But the Democrats refuse to stand for the vulnerable unborn, and it's a lie to call them pro-life.
I have hopes that in a non-election year, people who call themselves pro-life and those who choose the pro-choice label can work together on foster care, adoption, paid family leave and other issues that we can agree on besides the "A" word. I'd like to see a day when fewer people consider themselves pro-choice because they see pregnancy help centers and communities that truly live the Beatitudes and help women -- and anyone -- in need.
In the meantime, let's not lose our heads -- or our souls -- over an election. There's more to life; there's more to do.
(Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book "A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living." She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan's pro-life commission in New York. She can be contacted at email@example.com.)