GOP, don’t get lost on the ‘personhood’ issue

As I have said before, in politics, a bumper sticker beats an essay. Well, the Mississippi “personhood” initiative on the ballot today is a good example of why good bumper stickers can make bad policy. Republicans love the concise phrase “life begins at conception.” Well, now that’s on a ballot measure and could become law in Mississippi. (I’m from Alabama, and it is a burden that I’ve carried much of my life that people think I’m from Mississippi because of some of my political associations.) Anyway, now we have to deal with the real consequences, intended and unintended, of the personhood movement achieving a legal foothold and being emboldened to take this issue to other states.

I’m pro-life, but I think the question of life at conception is more theological than political. Also, right now is not the best time for America to have this debate. Our future is more threatened by the economic collapse than it is by the desire to introduce new nomenclature or vocabulary into the GOP social policy agenda.

Wise men like my former boss, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) of Indiana, have said we need to withhold our internal debates over social policy and focus on economic issues. Put it this way — if you’re talking about zygotes and uterine walls in campaign 2012, you’re off-message.

I write this knowing full well about the e-mails that I will get on the sanctity of life and the unprincipled notion of deferring this debate. But let’s keep the main thing the main thing. And the main thing is the economy and jobs. The best thing that could happen for the Right to Life movement in America would be for President Obama to be defeated next November.

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.

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