A BIG THING HAPPENED in the elections that you won't read about much in the papers, and the fact that you won't be reading about it is one of the reasons it did. The big story is that the pro-choice extremists took a widespread whipping, which is the one thing the press doesn't want to acknowledge, much less trumpet abroad to the troops. Nevertheless, the big-picture facts are astounding. NARAL, the nation's premier abortion-rights lobby, won 2 of its 11 targeted runs in the Senate, and went 6 for 26 in the House. As the third-worst performing political action committee in the country, NARAL took a backseat to the absolute loser, EMILY's List, the much-lauded PAC that promotes pro-choice women Democrats, which won 1 of 10 key runs in the Congress. By contrast, the National Right to Life Committee won 8 of 10 races. In three Senate states in which abortion emerged as a visible difference--New Hampshire, Colorado, and Missouri--pro-choice candidates lost to pro-lifers. In state after state after state, in venues as liberal as Massachusetts and Maryland, women candidates who had walked hand in hand with NARAL's Kate Michelman lost races to pro-lifers or moderates. Shannon O'Brien lost to Mitt Romney, Jeanne Shaheen lost to John Sununu, Jean Carnahan lost to Jim Talent, and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend lost to Bob Ehrlich in a state Democrats rule two to one. It is not possible to say just how the issue played out in all of these races, but it is safe to say nobody lost in the big ticket races for liking abortion too little. On the weekend before the election, Eleanor Clift told a national audience that Jeanne Shaheen would win her state for the Democrats, as "New Hampshire is a pro-choice state." John Sununu won by three points. Pro-choice extremists then lost on another dimension, in a different nationwide sweep. The Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee made itself the transmission belt for People for the American Way and other liberal lobbies, and waged bloody war on all judicial nominees who did not follow their line on "choice." Among the judges bagged and shot down by the committee were Charles Pickering of Mississippi and Priscilla Owen of Texas, the latter for supporting parental notification on abortions for minors--a stance that most of the country supports. Bush lost no time making judges an issue. The Washington Post reported on April 15, "Two days in a row last month, Bush broached Pickering's defeat at political events he attended in Texas and Georgia. 'We're going to have more fights when it comes to the judiciary,' he said at a fund-raiser for Rep. C. Saxby Chambliss. Bush said the Senate needs more Republicans such as Chambliss who, he said, would have 'stood up and defended the honor' of Pickering. GOP strategists contend that the future of the judiciary--while not a top rung issue--may nevertheless prove potent in the midterm elections, among voters the White House is seeking to reach." And did it ever. Chambliss will now be a senator, after a startling upset. John Cornyn from Texas will now be a senator, after his opponent Ron Kirk followed People for the American Way's lead on Owen. The issue of judgeships, a stand-in for abortion, did its part in swinging key states to Republicans. "Last week's election returns did not produce anything like a right-wing mandate," the New York Times is now wailing in retrospect. "Nothing in the election returns suggests that Americans want the courts packed with such judges." Actually, nothing in the election returns suggests that Americans want judgeships to stand empty to save the great cause of late-term abortion. Having helped the Democrats lose some elections in key seats in the Senate, the Times now wants those still left to increase their efforts, filibustering against judges who don't toe NARAL's line. Ralph Neas of People for the American Way thinks this idea is terrific, as does Ted Kennedy, who told reporters that if the White House wants to "send right-wing ideologues [to the courts], that will cause a battle to the Senate floor." The White House might now want to pay them to do so. Next time they might win still more seats. Clearly, NARAL and the Times have a reality deficit crisis, vis-à-vis their own position in the world. While it is true enough that most Americans do not want to see a ban on all abortions, they are perfectly willing to see the practice discouraged, restricted, and even fenced in by new laws. As polls consistently show, most Americans would like to see abortion outlawed after the third month of gestation, support parental and even spousal notification, and especially oppose the grisly procedure called partial-birth abortion, in which a near full-term fetus, while still in the birth canal, has its brains extracted and then its skull crushed so that it can be born safely dead. Pro-choice support crested around 1990, and since then has been declining, losing ground in every demographic imaginable, among all women, young women, the young in general. American opinion will never swing wholly over to a totally pro-life view, but it is moving now in a pro-life direction. "Jane Roe" herself has even recanted. In real life, the trend lines are down. One reason the lobbies don't see this too clearly is that they have too many good friends in the press. On no other issue are liberal blinders more evident: More than four in five journalists support a position that most voters reject as immoderate. The result is that in nearly all of their coverage, pro-choice extremists are described as being mainstream and moderate, while center-right moderates are presented as extremists. Typical was a report by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post on November 12, headlined "Lott's Promise to Bring Up Abortion Worries Bush Aides." The gist of this tale was that "religious conservatives" are threatening to damage the president's interests by pressing an unpopular, fringe agenda. Among other things, they want a partial-birth abortion ban, an act making it a crime to take a minor out of state for an abortion without telling her parents, and an act forbidding local governments from punishing doctors and hospitals that refuse to perform abortions for reasons of conscience. Bush might want to delay these for tactical reasons. But these ideas remain popular. Stories like this make conservatives seethe, but they are really a much larger problem for Democrats. Prodded on by the Clifts and the Milbanks, they launch ferocious assaults on moderate proposals and candidates. And then they run into a wall. This does not mean that pro-life absolutism is popular either; it isn't. But the pro-lifers know this, and have adjusted their tactics, while pro-choice extremists have not. NARAL and the Times may think abortion law is fine as it is (if not too restrictive) and that Bush's judges and allies will pull it too far to the right. Actually, current abortion law is well to the left of the country, and Bush's judges will push it back closer to the center, which is something that voters appreciate. NARAL and PAW will think this is extremist, and not know what hit them. They can blame their good friends in the press. Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.
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