Why the Democratic Party Should Back Pro-Life Democrats

Former Congressman Bart Stupak writes:

In May, DNC spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa told The Atlantic that the “party does not believe in a litmus test.” And scores of other party leaders, including Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have also denounced the idea. Just last week, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Luján said that he’s willing to fund anti-abortion candidates.

Those are the Democratic politicians on the right side of history. Despite what Perez would have you believe, not all Democratic voters have strong, uncompromising views on abortion. According to a 2015 CNN/ORC poll, only 48% — not even a majority — of Democrats believe abortion should be legal under any circumstance. The rest of the picture is more nuanced: 42% believe the procedure should be legal only in certain circumstances, while 9% say that it should be illegal in all circumstances. That’s a sizable chunk of the party that we can’t afford to lose….

And “Right to Life” Democrats in Congress have consistently played key roles in enhancing the party’s platform on healthcare, equal pay, climate change and the economy….

What happened to the all-inclusive Democratic Party that I used to know? The one that welcomed diversity and differences of opinion, aided and encouraged the weakest in society and protected those who could not protect themselves — including the unborn.

Michael O’Loughlin writes:

Gov. Jerry Brown of California told NBC News on Aug. 6 that “hot button issues” such as abortion should not be “the guiding light for a national party that covers a very wide spectrum of belief.”

Appearing on Meet the Press, Mr. Brown, a onetime Jesuit novice who chose instead to pursue a career in law and politics, said that “it wasn’t very long ago that a number of Catholic Democrats were opposed to abortion. So the fact that somebody believes today what most people believed 50 years ago should not be the basis for their exclusion.

“In America, [political parties are] not ideological. We’re not like a Marxist party in 1910. We are big tent by the very definition,” he continued.

He suggested that measures to promote a strong economy or robust national defense could unite Democrats, saying that if any litmus test were applied to candidates, it should be “caring about, as Harry Truman or Roosevelt used to call it, the common man.”

Mr. Brown pointed to the vast differences in opinion on social issues throughout the United States and said Democrats have to compete everywhere.

“America is not one place. Alabama is not San Francisco or California,” he said, suggesting that Democrats “can’t let these hot button issues, that work great in particular congressional districts one way or the other, to be the guiding light for a national party that covers a very wide spectrum of belief.”

Michael Sean Winters writes:

Stephen Schneck, former director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies, explained the politics of Luján’s decision: “Let me be blunt. Single-issue activist organizations like NARAL are eviscerating the Democratic Party’s appeal across wide swaths of the electoral landscape,” Schneck told me. “Does the party ever want to win Electoral College votes in Ohio? Does it want to win governorships in Louisiana? Does it want to pick up House seats in Minnesota, Iowa or Pennsylvania? Does it want to hold on to Joe Donnelly’s, or Bob Casey’s, or Joe Manchin’s Senate seats? Then it needs support from pro-life voters.”…

“Depending on the poll, between 20 and 30 percent of self-identified Democrats are pro-life,” Schneck adds. “At a time when the Democrats hold the fewest elected offices since Herbert Hoover was president, it would be political suicide to alienate those supporters.”

I am glad the leaders of the Democrats in the House get it and hope they will follow through on their promise and not look for reasons to deny funding to pro-life candidates down the road. Let’s hope the presidential candidates in 2020 resist the urge to play to the extremes in order to emerge from a crowded field. Let’s hope the pro-choice and pro-life progressive groups will recognize the need to search for common ground.