The Party of Death

In case anyone was wondering, I am not an undercover National Review marketer. They just post a lot of content that I find interesting. Case in point is this interview with Ramesh Ponnuru. I just finished reading Ponnuru’s excellent book The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life and will be posting my review soon. I also hope to do a Q&A with Ramesh. But since Kathryn Jean Lopez is his editor at NRO, she understandably gets first dibs.

Those who don’t already see themselves as agreeing with Ramesh might be tempted to ignore this book as simply another partisan rant. That would be a mistake. The book is remarkably evenhanded and balanced. This is not a rah rah GOP book, in spite of some of the language on the book’s cover jacket, but a serious and articulate discussion of the legal, scientific, philosophical, and political arguments surrounding “issues of life.” This is the first of a two part interview. Here are some useful snippets:

Lopez: You make clear in the book that the “party of death” in the title is not the Democratic party. Plenty of Republicans are members. But the Dems have embraced it with open arms, so aren’t they kinda sorta the party of death, or its main political manifestation?

Ponnuru: One of the stories the book tells is how abortion transformed the Democratic party from a party primarily concerned about protecting the weak to one that is more avid about defending the alleged rights of the strong. Pro-life Democrats have resisted this transformation, but it is certainly true that the Democratic party has become the party of unrestricted abortion, lethal research on human embryos, and euthanasia. The way I put it is that the party of death has largely taken over the Democratic party and has an outpost in the Republican party too.

Lopez: What do you say to people who say that conservatives are the “party of death,” since they have supported the death penalty and the Iraq war?

Ponnuru: I get that a lot from people who haven’t read the book. The most articulate defenders of abortion, some types of euthanasia, infanticide, and lethal embryo research argue for those things on the theory that the human beings they kill are not persons. My book argues against that theory and goes into the chilling implications of that view.

Articulate defenders of the death penalty and the Iraq war make very different arguments. They do not, that is, say that death-row inmates and Iraqi insurgents are “human non-persons.” Thus the death penalty and the war raise very different issues. This is not to say that the moral issues raised by the war and the death penalty are not serious. (I think the moral issues raised by the death penalty are sufficiently serious that I oppose it.) It is only to say that they are mostly distinct from the ones that come up in this book.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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