February 23, 2024

Playing the bioethical Trump card

What do bioethicists think of Donald Trump?

What do bioethicists think of Donald Trump?

Probably not much. Trump views on bioethical issues are either ill-defined or extreme: He flip-flopped on abortion this week, appearing to change position three times in the space of a day. And after the Brussell’s terrorist attacks he called for a liberalisation of US laws on torture of terrorist suspects.

Yet there’s perhaps more to the story than these off-the-cuff remarks. Leading US bioethicist and former presidential advisor Johnathan D. Moreno believes Trump implicitly represents a certain attractive moral conservativism; at least, a conservativism attractive to Republican voters.

In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Moreno discussed the evolution  of GOP rhetoric on bioethics in the past ten years. According to Moreno, many Trump supporters are protest voters reacting to the weakened social conservativism of the party. 

The GOP establishment made a decision following the 2012 elections to soft-pedal controversial social issues. As Moreno recounts,

“…after President Obama’s reelection the post-2012 Republican ‘autopsy’ report specified that ‘on messaging, we must change our tone – especially on certain social issues that are turning off young voters.’”

Moreno believes this turn away from social issues –including cloning and stem research – damaged the party’s prospects and alienated their conservative voter base. Trump, Moreno believes, represents a reaction to the soft approach to social and bioethical issues.

“both [Ted] Cruz’s appeal and Trump’s rise demonstrate that many conservative voters want their politicians to be seriously committed to moral values.

“What all this will finally mean for the party or for the American conservative movement no one can tell, but in the aftermath of the Trump cycle conservative elites would do well to revisit the role of bioethics in appealing to their most sympathetic voters.”

Interestingly, Princeton Professor Robert George, a member of George W. Bush’s President’s Council on Bioethics, has publicly chastised Trump for his “oafishness” and “demagoguery”. George co-signed a letter published in The National Review last month that labelled Trump “manifestly unfit to be president of the United States.” 

Playing the bioethical Trump card
Xavier Symons
Creative commons
politics and bioethics