Post Politics: Right to Life makes wrong choice endorsing Democrat

Sunday, September 27, 2009 at 11:45pm

In your average legislative race, an endorsement from Tennessee Right to Life (TNRTL) wouldn't be a make or break situation for a campaign. In most races, pro-life endorsements go to the Republican and, in exchange, that Republican gets a few more foot soldiers and a few more guaranteed votes at the polls. Nice things to have, but hardly crucial.

For Pat Marsh, running as a Republican for state House in the 62nd District special election, the endorsement would have meant more. Marsh is not just your average Republican running in a Republican district. He is a Republican running for a seat historically held by conservative Democrats.

Marsh's opponent is not just any conservative Democrat, either. Ty Cobb is the brother of the incumbent, Rep. Curt Cobb, and the son of a former county official and legislator in the district. His surname has currency in the district.

The good news for Marsh is that while the seat has been in Democratic hands, its voters vote for Republican candidates nationally.

The seat is ripe for the plucking by the TNGOP and couldn't have come open at a more perfect time. The state House is at a stalemate. A clear numerical advantage would give Republicans momentum going into 2010, a year where the political future of the state is at stake.

After the 2010 elections, whichever party controls the majority of the seats in the legislature will redraw the districts in both houses and carve out districts designed to solidify their numbers.

This special election is not your average special election. It is a preliminary skirmish in the 2010 battle for the future of the legislature.

In almost any poll you run on the abortion issue, you will get a three-way split — few strongly pro-life, few strongly pro-choice and and the rest somewhere in the middle. Very few of any of these are going to base their vote completely on the abortion issue, but most of those who do will vote pro-life. Most of the time that means voting Republican.

It is a perfect symbiotic relationship. The pro-life movement delivers Republicans votes and the party introduces pro-life legislation such as SJR 127.

So why, on the cusp of victory for the political party that carries it's legislative portfolio, would the premier pro-life organization in Tennessee endorse the Democratic candidate? Why did TNRTL endorse Cobb?

The TNRTL endorsed him for the same reason a child defies a parent or a wife cheats on an emotionally distant husband. They wanted to be noticed. If the TNRTL had simply gone along and endorsed the Republican candidate, it would have been expected. But, by endorsing the Democrat, the TNRTL got to make a splash. They sent a message.

Endorsing the Democrat may have been better for their self-image and self-esteem, but it does not serve their ultimate goals.

Tennessee's Democratic party's leadership has never made the cause a priority and often buried favorable legislation in the committee system. Republicans, on the other hand, have been relatively eager to reward the movement by pushing their legislation.

A seat at both parties' tables may sound like a good idea in theory but, if you are a movement pushing a minority view and looking for tangible results, it is best to pick a side and trust them to push your agenda.

The sad part of all of this is that this race may very well turn on this issue. In one of the worst economies in my lifetime, a crucial legislative race may not turn on jobs, giving people a leg up, or even getting taxpayers more of their own money back — this election may turn on culture.

This is not to belittle the abortion issue. For many, it is it an issue both of life and death and of personal autonomy versus government power. It is a moral issue and a legitimately political one. I'm not one of those who insists that cultural issues like abortion have no place in politics or should always be relegated to the backburner.

But these are not normal times. We have a national economy disintegrating and a state budget propped up by an unsustainable stream of stimulus funds.

We will be confronting big issues in the next few years and under what circumstances a pregnancy can be terminated is going to be the least of our worries. We should start getting used to that fact and draw the focus of our elections to more immediate issues and leave the cultural wars for another day.

Kleinheider is's political blogger. Visit Post Politics at

14 Comments on this post:

By: mariebarbara on 9/28/09 at 6:45

Pro life a minority view.....I don't think so. TN, especially district 62 is a pro life . Restoring commonsense protective legislation to abortion is not a back burner issue even during hard economic times. Never will be.
So TN RTL would do this to get noticed. I don't think so. This is indeed life and death...not something you do to say, hey you are ignoring me. The stakes are always high when you are dealing with life issues. When an organization does not stand by its principles, they have lost sight of the reason they exist. When you go along to get along, you betray the seriousness of the issue at
TRL is a SINGE issue advocacy group that is bi partisan. That is the truth, shame on the Republicans for putting ability to self finance ahead of principle and then blaming someone else for their "choice" Shame on them for putting such an important core issue that attracted people to their party off to the side in their quest to win. I am disappointed in the Republican party. They are the ones who messed up.....with an end justified the means mentality.

By: vechester on 9/28/09 at 7:09

Your point could be true, perhaps the Republicans do take the pro-life vote for granted, just as Dems take the black vote for granted. But the reality is that any pro-life Dem is simply a blue-dog figure head and will always vote with his party on the big issues. If he or she doesn't, then they will be take to the woodshed and taught a lesson - it's the way the Democrats work their party.

So in reality, a pro-life blue dog Dem means nothing when it comes down to a real pro-life issue vote. They will be lost in the crowd of pro-choice Dems. A conservative Republican, on the other hand, is a REAL issue voter on pro-life issues and will make a difference in this very important cause.

Don't let your disappointments in Republicans make you regret voting for a closet pro-choice Dem. That's what they all will ultimately be.

By: govskeptic on 9/28/09 at 7:46

Congressman Davis has deceitfully shown that not
being "out goded or gunned" works on the voters of
this state. Far too many believe the words without ever
checking or knowing the voting record. Encite into
candidates before the election is critical on many issues.

By: localboy on 9/28/09 at 7:48

Pro life = Pro choice

By: idgaf on 9/28/09 at 8:33

What a rambling piece of crap this article is.

By: mariebarbara on 9/28/09 at 8:51

So about your poll. I could not vote because you did not have one that said they should be bi partisan. So what kind of a biased poll is that?
TRL has a PAC so they have every right to offer endorsements. Why should they wed themselves to one party when the party sees fit to offer candidates that do not abide by t he views that the organization is pledged to support as a SINGLE issue advocacy??

What is wrong with voting for the correct candidate??

By: pswindle on 9/28/09 at 3:00

Why is abortion one of the only issue of the right wing? Okay, I'll admit that love guns , against gays did I leave anything out.

By: sidneyames on 9/29/09 at 7:03

swindle, it's not the ONLY issue. It's just that it's an important issue. I mean the liberals would probably kill every baby that they don't think is cute enough to be in their narrowly defined world. It's no one's right to kill a baby. They need to take precauations to prevent pregnancy. That's the intellient, walking upright, thing to do.

By: pswindle on 9/29/09 at 10:47

You need to go to Haris -Hillman school and have your heart broken. The burden that is on families is beyond anything that one can even think about. Abortion should not be used just to be used, but the need is there in some cases. Some do not have anyone to care for them when the parents die, and it will be the state that picks up the care. They get state help from birth for conditions anyway, and where will the state house them. If you think that TN Care is out of control, you have not seen anything yet if abortion is denied in some cases.

By: sidneyames on 9/29/09 at 11:32

Yeah, Swindle, we need to kill babies so our TNCare is in control. That sounds so logical to me. About as logical as driving at 95 mph going south in the north bound freeway lane. What is the EXACT reason for the "NEED" to abort a life? Give me that in a logical 50 words or less statement. I think that all the ABORTION SUPPORTERS need to ask their mommies WHY DIDN'T YOU ABORT ME? I mean if ALL the abortion supporters were NEVER BORN, we'd have fewer people in the world to debate the issue. I say that anyone who believes in abortion for population and cost control should just ask their doctors for an overdose and get off the planet. Now that's a novel idea! Where is Haris-Hillman school?

By: pswindle on 9/29/09 at 12:17

Pro-lifers cannot understand the need for abortions. There is no need to try to explain. Their minds are closed. You missed the whole point. It is not money, but family and care. I know a mother that gave birth to a child that lays and grows longer. The whole family has been impacked. Grandfather had stroke over stress., husband left, mother had to stop working because no one would keep the child. The state has picked up the bill of hundreds a month for special milk to keep the child alive. Who will be there when the mother is no longer able to care for the child. The doctor advised abortion, but her church said that the doctor was wrong.
The church, we will be there if you need us, but not one has crossed her door stop.
Common sense goes a long way. Where is the chruch when they are really needed? God gave us brains to think and each case is different.

By: sidneyames on 9/29/09 at 12:30

Swindle, you are so narrow minded and judgemental. YOu think "there is no need to try to explain" because you are the only smart one in the bunch. There is over 300 million people in the U.S. So the percentage of cases like you are stating is What %? Very small I'm sure. I know many "FAMILIES" who stepped up to the plate with disabled children and do very well. It's about morals, ethics, values and commitment. Something baby killers are too narrow minded and can't understand (to quote you) so there is no need to "understand". We just have to prosecute the baby killers. If someone goes to a church that has not "crossed her door stop" I'd say it's time for a change in church and pastor. God gave us "brains" and God gives us babies. Why don't you abort your brain?

By: pswindle on 9/29/09 at 12:45

You have just proven my point. I will not comment any more to your raging. I hope that you are never put in a position like this.

By: sidneyames on 9/29/09 at 1:26

Why don't you get neutered/spayed BEFORE you put yourself into the "position" like "this". PROVEN What point? You don't make any points. You just sputter and spew stupidity like killing babies because it's "necessary" for some people. WELL, maybe THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN ABORTED. Then they wouldn't be here to make such Hard decisions. You know, decisions like not to have intercourse - unprotected. Decisions like not to screw around for the "fun of it" and decisions like killing babies. Yeah, you should keep your comments to yourself, swindle. They are likely to create confusion in your intellectual, unfeeling, calloused world of hate towards the unborn.