Yes They Can!
I spent the early afternoon at the March for Life, the annual rally held on the National Mall to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, to see how the 48-hour-old Obama presidency was playing.
“I’m worried about his views on abortion,” Jake Teshka, a 20-year old from South Bend, Indiana who carried a sign that asked President Obama not to sign the Freedom of Choice Act. “But I’m rooting for America.”
Teshka and three friends have driven straight from South Bend to watch Obama’s inauguration, although Savannah Herms, 15, was disappointed in the way that crowd booed former President Bush. “We were clapping respectfully and people laughed at us. I asked them why; they said because of Katrina. Who cares what the president did? You have to boo him?”
The attitude of Teshka and his friends was the norm: the tone of the March was gritty and beaten, reflecting the fact that, as Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) said, pro-life activists have “had it easy” since 1994. “For fourteen years we’ve either had control of the Congress, or, as over the last two years, a president who could veto pro-abortion legislation.” Sensenbrenner pledged to stop “all this bad stuff,” like funding of NGOs that fund abortions, and asked the crowd to join a “24-month campaign” with the implied goal of cutting down the Democratic majority.
There were a few tokens of opposition to the president, the most striking of which was a sign that read “Hitler Killed Jews, Obama Kills Babies.” Mostly, there were attempts to co-opt Obama’s popularity. Students for Life passed out purple signs with the message “Yes We Can … Terminate Abortion.” One home-made sign: “Want CHANGE? Create a culture of life in America. Reject FOCA.” Another: “If Obama = CHANGE, Babies = INNOCENCE.” Dozens of marchers co-opted a quote from Pope John Paul II with signs that said that a nation with legal abortion was “a nation without HOPE.”
The religious organizers of the event addressed many of their comments to Obama, some as prayers, some as challenges. One demanded the president stop copying Lincoln by riding trains and instead “sign an Emancipation Proclamation to stop the killing of the babies.” The 24 members of Congress and two senators (Sam Brownback of Kansas and Louisiana’s David Vitter) who addressed the crowd were, generally, just as polite to the new president, with an air of we’ll-get-you-next-time. “We’ve lost an election,” said Brownback. “We haven’t lost the war!”
Or take the speech of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), the man who can’t stop obsessing over Obama’s middle name. “Know the answers to two questions,” he told the crowd. “Do you believe in the sanctity of all human life? Yes is the answer. The next question is, when does life begin?” The crowd shouted “conception,” and King smiled. “The next question is: President Obama, when did your life begin?” The crowd roared, and King passed the mic.