Marching to oblivion

September 17, 1990

The returns were not even complete in Maryland's 1st District congressional election before two of the losers in the crowded Republican primary were making it clear that they would not support the winner in the coming general election. The principal reason: The winner, Wayne T. Gilchrest, favors abortion rights. Presumably, the two losers - Barry Sullivan and Richard Colburn - will support Democrat Roy Dyson in the November contest.

It's not likely that Gilchrest is losing a lot of sleep over the defection of Sullivan and Colburn. On the contrary, Gilchrest's prochoice position, as opposed to Dyson's anti-choice record, will on balance be an advantage in November in a year in which hardline anti-choice politicians are being turned out of office with a vengeance.

But the episode nevertheless underscores the fact that politicians like Sullivan and Colburn are not really party candidates but rather single-issue candidates. It matters little to them whether the candidate is a Republican or Democrat; all that matters is whether the candidate is pro-choice or anti-choice.

But what do the anti-choice politicians do when both Republican and Democratic candidates are pro-choice? As the anti-choice group becomes increasingly isolated - and rest assured it will be - it seems inevitable that sooner or later a full-fledged right-to-life party will emerge just as the Prohibition Party emerged after the repeal of the 18th Amendment, the national ban on alcoholic beverages in 1932. The party continued to run candidates for 50 years but grew increasingly irrelevant. That, we are confident, will be the fate of the radical anti-choice political fringe.

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