For a conservative, the best part of Donald Trump's administration was unquestionably his judicial appointments. Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett are phenomenal choices for the bench and have proven their worth already through a string of decisions upholding the constitutional order. Most notably, these three brave justices are why Roe v. Wade got struck down, giving Trump a significant victory.
That's why it's now bizarre to watch the former President backpedal hard on the issue of abortion. When asked about the possibility of a national heartbeat bill, Trump deflected. Even more bizarre, when Gov. Ron DeSantis passed legislation in Florida providing a six-week ban on abortion, Trump openly attacked it.
Trump's alleged pivot here isn't that surprising. In 1999, Trump went on Hardball with Chris Matthews and talked about how much he hated abortion, but would "never ban it." In 2016, Trump effectively cut a transactional deal with evangelical voters, stating that he'd select pro-life judges if those people voted for him. He honored that agreement.
But during a Meet the Press interview this past weekend, Trump backtracked entirely. When Florida's six-week ban was mentioned, he attacked it as wrong. He said:
KRISTEN WELKER: Would you support [Ron DeSantis/Florida's six-week abortion ban]? You think that goes too far?
FMR. PRES. DONALD TRUMP: I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake. But we'll come up with a number, but at the same time, Democrats won't be able to go out at six months, seven months, eight months and allow an abortion. And Kristen, you have to look at this, because you said "no." You have some states that are allowed to kill the child after birth, and you can't allow that.
In no way is what DeSantis and Florida pass into law a "terrible thing and a terrible mistake." By striking down Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court allowed states to chart their own destiny regarding this issue. Florida's elected officials chose a position they could get passed, and everyone agreed on.
In Tennessee, the legislature already had an amendment to the state constitution and a near-total ban on abortions, much stricter than in Florida. Multiple other states have bans from 15 weeks or less. Blasting these states for doing what they can is idiotic in the extreme.
And for all Trump says about "bringing everyone together," the odds of that happening are near zero. While Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and other states move to place restrictions on abortion, the far-left blue states are moving in the opposite direction. Can anyone point out any meaningful limits on abortion in places like California or New York?
Donald Trump won't magically arrive and change the minds of these blue states to create more restrictions. And he's certainly not going to march into a red state like Tennessee or Florida and override the hard work people have done here to create pro-life legislation for generations.
Abortion is not a tax item where you negotiate dollars, cents, and percentages. For one side, literal lives are at stake. On the other hand, it's about the right to define that life out of existence and gain the ability to end it. There's not much middle ground there. Donald Trump is not a savior who will navigate these rapids and bring a happy ending to all.
The last time someone thought they could do something like that was when Roe. v. Wade got decided. Justice Henry Blackmun believed his deciding vote in Roe v. Wade would bring a resolution to the issue for the country. To say he was wrong is an understatement. That case set off an atomic bomb in US politics that ripples even to this day.
Writing in The Spectator, Ben Domenech observed, "Abortion was the single biggest issue that led to Donald Trump winning the 2016 election. It may be the single biggest issue that leads him to lose in 2024." And he's right.
In one interview, Trump is managing to alienate the core group that helped elect him in the 2016 primaries and who stuck with him through 2020. Trump's relationship here was transactional; they agreed to vote for him as long as he pursued conservative ends. If Trump is no longer going to pursue pro-life goals, he's breaking his end of the political contract he's struck.
With all that said, one thing is abundantly clear with Trump's statements. He's the most pro-choice candidate in the Republican primary and to the left of everyone in the Republican Party in general. His closest neighbors are conservative Democrats. In terms of social issues, this is who Donald Trump is, and none of this is a great surprise.
But we're not in the same world of 2016, and the cultural issues animating politics aren't the same either. Roe v. Wade is gone, abortion is a hot topic in every state, and everyone has to deal with hot-button cultural issues everywhere. For decades, pro-life voters have had one option among the parties. If it's Trump vs. Biden in 2024, Trump is showing there's not much daylight between him and Biden on this issue.