Litmus Test Conformity in American Politics: Republican Party Platforms and the Presidential Politics of Abortion, 1976-2008
110 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2010
Date Written: May 18, 2010
Abortion was legalized in the United States in 1973, and the Republican Party platform voiced its support of a constitutional amendment to ban the procedure in 1976. Throughout the last three decades, abortion has been one of the most contentious and emotional issues in American politics, and it serves as one of the best examples of the intertwined nature of politics and religion in the United States. The abortion issue has been on the agenda in every presidential election since 1976, and during the same period, several journalistic accounts have described Republican presidential candidates’ changing positioning on abortion upon running for the Republican presidential nomination. With this as a backdrop, the thesis focuses on the relationship between the abortion related content of Republican Party platforms and Republican presidential candidates’, presidential nominees’, and presidents’ positioning on and framing of abortion in the period between 1976 and 2008.
The thesis demonstrates, contrary to the conventional view that American party platforms are close to being meaningless pieces of paper, that there is a clear relationship between the abortion related content of Republican Party platforms and Republican presidential candidates’, nominees’, and presidents’ positioning on and framing of abortion. The analyses show that the saliency of the abortion issue has increased significantly within Republican Party platforms in the period between 1976 and 2008, and that eight of the presidential candidates and nominees covered in the material grew more conservative on abortion upon seeking the presidency. “Litmus test conformity” thus refers to the fact that every Republican presidential nominee since 1976 has opposed abortion, and that there is a tendency among Republican presidential hopefuls to conform to the party platforms’ anti-abortion plank upon seeking the presidency.
Keywords: American politics, Abortion, Republican Party Platforms, Moral Politics, Social Issues
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