With a major midterm election on the horizon it's no wonder the current trend in conservative publishing is the production of "roadmaps" to taking back conservative values and Hugh Hewitt-style steps to ensuring GOP victories in 2006. But few books are delving into the substance on which Ramesh Ponnuru meticulously expounds: the sensitive social issues -- specifically on the topic of life -- of today's political climate.
The book: The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life may at first on a cursory glance look like an assault on liberal values, yet Ponnuru never explicitly charges any mainstream political party of facilitating "the party of death." It is however, no secret or coincidence, that those who support the legality of abortion, stem-cell research and euthanasia are Democrats. "The Democratic Party used to try to protect the weak. But too many of today's Democrats have become part of a 'party of death.'"
For the better, Ponnuru avoids the name-calling game, and instead of going after liberals and left-wingers as the enablers of the party of death, he mostly argues why you shouldn't be a part of it and why the opposing arguments are either flawed or flat-out wrong.
To be sure, Ponnuru reminds us that big name Democrats like Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton sustain the mainstay of issues for the party of death, and consequently help Republicans exponentially strengthen their control of Congress. And why should we be surprised? "Few Americans realize how extreme the Democrats have become on abortion, supporting it for all nine months and lying about it," Ponnuru charges. "They have become allies of people who support euthanasia, embryo destruction, and even infanticide."
But despite congressional victories and majority support on most issues, pro-lifers aren't always on the winning side of the debate, as two powerful forces help tip the scale toward the progressive Democrats: the media and the courts, thus completing the enabling trifecta and the book's subtitle.
The chapter on the media accurately describes the entity as overwhelming pro-choice (97% of journalists according to Ponnuru) that has time after time manipulated polls to exaggerate public support for abortion. Moreover, the media gives favorable coverage to pro-choice stories while negatively writing about pro-choice issues (using euphemisms and words like "restrictive" instead of "protective" as adjectives for abortion legislation ). The media does indeed play a large role in the social-issues debate.
But even without the media a majority of Americans take a moderate position on the issues. They support some restrictive abortions, embryo research and euthanasia. Ponnuru doesn't pretend otherwise but instead logically deconstructs the party of death's positions; even the moderate and more agreeable ones.
Without Ponnuru the American majority still favors heavy restrictions on some abortions and a complete ban on the more gruesome varieties, yet our democratic laws allow for partial-birth abortions and other unpopular practices. How is this so? The answer is sobering: the federal courts have decided the legality of abortion and many other issues for us over the last several decades. It was because of Roe v. Wade that pro-life activists mobilized and campaigned against the legality of what many see as a barbaric procedure. Before the 70s there were no visible right-wing activist groups.
It is on this topic, unfortunately, I find Ponnuru's book unorganized and lacking. For the versed student of the Supreme Court, the summaries of the major decisions are sufficient. But for the layman who doesn't quite understand all the specific legal questions decided by landmark cases such as Casey and Stenberg, an appendix after the last chapter would have been extremely helpful, as well as some more details about those cases (Judge Andrew Napolitano provides the entire Constitution in both of his recent books). Ponnuru does discuss how Casey failed to overturn Roe, but in deciding restrictive questions the ruling allows for 24-hour waiting periods and parental notification for minors seeking abortions. Casey was not a complete loss for pro-lifers. Stenberg however was devastating and should have received considerably more attention.
Where Ponnuru slams it out of the park though is his separating pro-life arguments from religious ones. Like clockwork supporters of the pro-life position are hit with Bible scripture as if all right-wing libertarians and conservatives use religion as the basis of their arguments. Liberals are often unwilling to or can't disassociate the pro-life position from religious dogma and will even try to show how religion somehow supports their position, without realizing that one can be opposed to abortion without the influence of Jesus.
With an exhaustive list of arguments for pro-lifers (and just as many rebuttals to opposing opinions), The Party of Death is an invaluable tool for the national discourse and a great addition to your personal library.