It’s not looking good right now. The Democratic Party elected a new, younger, more ideologically extreme chairman than the older guard of liberal political veterans. Then this happened.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez is now demanding conformity from his party members on the issue of abortion, claiming that “every Democrat” must support a woman’s right to terminate her unborn child and promising to only support Democratic candidates who line up on his side of this ideological aisle.
“Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” Perez said in a statement. “That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.”
There goes federalism. This vision for a party trying to regroup and regain leadership is one of big government on steroids. Even liberal party stalwarts were forced to speak out as moderating voices when Perez lurched left of them, and essentially threw down the gauntlet.
Like Bernie Sanders, who dared to support a mayoral candidate in Omaha, Nebraska who had a “mixed record on abortion, highlighting divisions within the party even as the DNC seeks to mend fences with its high-profile unity tour.” Progressives started peeling away and withdrawing support for candidate Heath Mello after learning that eight years ago, he supported an ultrasound bill that would actually give women considering abortion the ability the make a better informed choice.
That bill, according to the Nebraska Legislature, required that a woman seeking an abortion “be told of her right to request a list of places she can get a free ultrasound,” but did not require her to actually get the procedure, as critics initially claimed.
Note that it was an option for real choice. Full stop. And that’s what stopped the Democratic party leadership from backing their party candidate.
He lost the race as a result, but exposed the party’s deep divide over abortion, an inevitability in these extreme times. Which also casts more light on media reporting, since almost all major media changed their style books years ago and refer to pro-life positions as ‘anti-abortion’ or ‘anti-choice’. Some choice, Mello’s candidacy, and new party leadership, revealed.
His run was a promising sign, he said, for a candidate “with a proven record of working bipartisan and tackling some big issues and, yes, to some extent, is a pro-life Catholic Democrat.” It’s hard to be either a pro-life or a Catholic Democrat.
Nancy Pelosi has long, and very publicly, been the latter. But even she has felt the urgency of speaking out about these distinctions, and whether and how they fit in her fractured party.
Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says that it's absolutely possible for someone to be a member of the Democratic Party and also be against abortion…”I have served many years in Congress with members who have not shared my very positive — my family would say aggressive — position on promoting a woman's right to choose.”
She went further, in a Washington Post interview last week.
The Democratic Party should not impose support for abortion rights as a litmus test on its candidates, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday, because it needs a broad and inclusive agenda to win back the socially conservative voters who helped elect President Trump.
“This is the Democratic Party. This is not a rubber-stamp party,” Pelosi said in an interview with Washington Post reporters.
“I grew up Nancy D’Alesandro, in Baltimore, Maryland; in Little Italy; in a very devout Catholic family; fiercely patriotic; proud of our town and heritage, and staunchly Democratic,” she added, referring to the fact that she is the daughter and sister of former mayors of that city. “Most of those people — my family, extended family — are not pro-choice. You think I’m kicking them out of the Democratic Party?”
Meanwhile, this past Tuesday evening, Democratic Chicago Congressman Dan Lipinski, longtime champion of the working class, a Catholic, pro-life stalwart and one of the only remaining ones of his kind, held a town hall meeting in his district. And he was targeted yet again by abortion activists, as he has been for months.
It’s a time of clarification. Elected officials and citizens alike need to step up, get engaged, take part in public debates, learn the facts and speak out, prepared to make a defense for what they believe. And – as long as it is true – stand by it and encourage others. Come what may.
Sheila Liaugminas writes from Chicago. She is a journalist, author and host of A Closer Look on Relevant Radio.