So Richard Mourdock has lost, presumably in significant part because of his comments on abortion in cases of rape and incest.

I don’t know whether anyone has already made this analogy, but Mourdock’s ill-fated remarks reminded me of Michael Dukakis’s comments on the death penalty during the 1988 Presidential debates. To refresh everyone’s memory, Dukakis was asked about his reaction if his wife were raped and murdered in a Willie Horton-esque scenario – wouldn’t he want her killer to get the death penalty? And he answered, blandly and calmly, that he’s against the death penalty as a matter of principle. This principled stand was widely ridiculed, and his lack of emotion called a major gaffe that symbolized everything people worried about with Democrats generally and this candidate in particular.

Mourdock, of course, showed plenty of emotion – but the emotion he showed was empathy toward the life he aimed to keep from being snuffed out, not empathy toward the women who might be thinking of voting for him.

That was my point in my post from a couple of weeks ago. The absolutist anti-abortion position can be a highly principled one, just like the absolutist anti-death-penalty one. But it’s not one that most people share. And in both cases, the absolutist position appears to show unconcern for the suffering of someone who has been violated. If you want to prioritize that principled stance, and you also want to win elections, you had better be prepared to do an especially good job of showing that you are not showing that kind of unconcern.