Politico asks a question that’s largely been answered already: “Is there room to be anti-abortion in today’s Democratic Party?” One might have thought that Tom Perez and Dick Durbin already answered that — with a resounding no. However, Jennifer Haberkorn thinks that pro-life Democrats are about to make a big comeback in the 2018 midterms, thanks in part to disaffection with you know who:
Shortly after Democrats for Life’s founding nearly two decades ago, its website listed as many as 43 House Democrats in the group’s coalition. Today, Democrats for Life endorses two sitting House members and three senators. Its leaders won’t reveal the group’s membership numbers, but in a nod to their scarcity, members jokingly refer to themselves as political “unicorns.”
Many anti-abortion Democratic activists have slid comfortably into their role as political misfits, driven by a deeply held belief that a fetus is perhaps the most vulnerable member of society and warrants protection—but similarly drawn to the Democratic Party’s broader values. But now, as the Democratic Party leans into what it hopes is a 2018 midterm election wave, these Democrats for Life are genuinely hoping to stage a comeback. The group’s leaders argue that the party won’t win majorities in Congress unless Democrats welcome more moderate candidates who don’t want their party to be synonymous with abortion rights—particularly in heavily Roman Catholic or blue-collar states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, and conservative but heavily Hispanic states like Texas.These Democrats also think they can attract moderate Republicans who oppose abortion but are otherwise disenchanted with Trump.
The midterms will be a test of this theory. All three sitting Democratic senators endorsed by Democrats for Life—Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania—are up for reelection and face close races. Democrats for Life is also backing a handful of challengers in gubernatorial and congressional races, including some who have already lost primaries this cycle. …
“If you’d ask the average Democrat, the average pro-choice Democrat, ‘Would you rather have a party in control of Congress and in control of the White House but not have federal funding of abortion as part of their policy ambitions—would you prefer that to what we have now?’” Wear says. “I think the answer is pretty clear.”
As someone opposed to abortion, I’d love this to be true. It would take the issue of protecting human life out from its current status as frozen in partisan politics and would result in much better protection for unborn children. Elections would be fought over issues more properly left to prudential judgment and voters in both parties would have a better set of choices as a result.
But it ain’t happening, no matter how much the rump Democrats for Life organization tries to sell it. Party leaders have insisted that Democratic candidates stand foursquare with abortion on demand, both publicly and privately. A handful of sincere Democrats may still oppose abortion, but voting for them won’t initiate pro-life policies. Even Tim Kaine, who often posits himself as personally opposed to abortion but unwilling to legislate against women’s choices, backed Hillary Clinton’s call to eliminate the Hyde Amendment and start providing federal funding for abortions as her running mate.
For instance, the DCCC made some noise a year ago about working with pro-life Democrats. That opening didn’t even last two weeks before they retreated in the face of NARAL outrage. Voting for Democrats means putting Congress into the hands of party leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Dick Durbin, all of whom have demanded fealty to the NARAL/Planned Parenthood wing of the party.
That doesn’t mean that Democrats won’t pick up some disaffected Republican votes in these midterms. It’s likelier to happen in places where Democrats already dominate, but it might happen in competitive districts too, as routinely happens in midterms. They won’t cross over in the hopes that Democrats have suddenly become more pro-life, or that their pro-life presence will bend the party’s direction even a smidgen. They’ll cross over because of dissatisfaction with Trump. But even that impulse might be seriously tempered by the Democratic embrace of radicalism and full-on socialism, including radicalism on abortion.