Analysis

Abortion neglected at CNBC GOP debate. Let’s do something about it.

If you were expecting to hear the Republican presidential candidates say anything new about how they would protect the preborn from abortion or getting Planned Parenthood’s hand out of America’s wallets, then last night’s CNBC primary debates were a huge letdown.

Not one question addressed abortion or Planned Parenthood in any way. The excuse would be that the debate was billed as strictly focusing on economic issues – making pro-life issues off-topic – but that went out the window the moment questions were asked about marijuana legalization and gay rights. Those detoured the conversation away from the nation’s finances and into individual freedom, morality, and society’s values — abortion would have been out of place how? (Not to mention the clear economic issue of taxpayer dollars funding Planned Parenthood.)

Moderators with a major political axe to grind clearly weren’t interested in giving the preborn or Planned Parenthood’s crimes any attention, but even so, the candidates could have done more to proactively work abortion into their answers, like Lindsey Graham did with his main issue, foreign policy.

Questions about Social Security were a perfect opening to assail the consequences of killing tens of millions of future taxpayers over the decades, and it would be hard to argue with a straight face that giving $528.4 million a year to an organization that makes $775 million on its own isn’t a matter of fiscal responsibility.

Only Ted Cruz, one of the most active and persistent pro-lifers in the Senate, made it a point to bring up Big Abortion:

You know, everyone here talks about the need to take on Washington. The natural next question is who actually has done so. Who actually has stood up not just to Democrats, but to leaders in our own party? When millions of Americans rose up against Obamacare, I was proud to lead that fight. When millions of Americans rose up against amnesty, I was proud to lead that fight. When millions of Americans rose up against Planned Parenthood, I was proud to lead that fight.

Much has been made of how mishandled the debate was not only by CNBC, but by the Republican National Committee that agreed to it. Of course it’s ridiculous for Republicans to be surprised that the channel was hostile to their candidates, but there is an even more basic problem with the conventional way of organizing debates that is often overlooked.

Even if the moderators had been more fair-minded, there’s only so much use people of a particular viewpoint can get out of a conversation shepherded by people who don’t share that view. A truly objective questioner can have the best of intentions and yet not understand the issues and inter-movement disputes on an inside-baseball level — the cases for and against strategies like shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood, how to combat judicial activism, longer-term pro-life objectives like the Life at Conception Act versus a constitutional amendment, or how to prevent meltdowns like the one that killed the 20-week abortion ban vote. There’s only so much you can understand about a movement from outside of it.

Keep in mind that this is not the stage of the process where the public as a whole is deciding who to elect or whether causes such as ending abortion are correct. The primary is for Republican voters and pro-lifers to decide amongst themselves who can most effectively do so.

So why wouldn’t debates over how to implement principles be conducted by people who actually share and understand those principles? Why are cable news channels and social media companies sponsoring debates instead of pro-life organizations and conservative think tanks? Why aren’t actual pro-life activists and intellectuals who have firsthand experience with conservative issues asking the questions? Why are we allowing pro-abortion TV personalities to “moderate” the debates?

If we want our priorities to get the consideration they deserve, this is one more thing we can do to combat mainstream media bias: show them we don’t need them.

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