Democratic Strategist: I’m Worried Abortion Purity Tests Will Render Us An Irrelevant Coastal Party

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Apr 25, 2017 1:20 PM
Democratic Strategist: I’m Worried Abortion Purity Tests Will Render Us An Irrelevant Coastal Party

It went from we’re not going to support pro-life Democrats, to we might have to in order to win state legislatures, and finally to sure—why not. The Democratic Party appears to be at a crossroads concerning one of their coveted issues. A tug-of-war between people who want to win and those who would rather stick to principle and proudly claim that they’re the pro-abortion party. Oh, and while we’re at it—maybe purge the pro-lifers from within the ranks.

What’s the message and who is the real leader here? You have Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez saying that there’s absolutely no room for pro-life Democrats, echoing his predecessor Howard Dean. Dean told MSNBC’s Morning Joe in March, that there may not be room in the Democratic Party tent for pro-lifers, which prompted an intense and incredulous response from co-host Joe Scarborough, who said that a huge chunk of the country has those views—and that the party is at risk of never winning again if they just threw this vote away. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) also reiterated the sentiments of Perez and Dean to CNN’s Dana Bash.

Then, there’s this détente position by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), where she essentially said that it’s fine to be pro-life, as not everyone will agree with my horrible position on abortion.

And finally we have Democratic strategist Lis Smith, the canary in the coalmine, who warned that purity tests over abortion could hamstring the party irreparably. Smith added that she’s worked in red states and the whole point of a 50-state strategy is to trust the grassroots on the ground in these areas to pick the best candidate to win. At times, the progressive elite that infests the urban areas of America isn’t going to get a pure liberal out in Nebraska. Heath Mello is a prime example of a Democrat running for mayor of Omaha. He was a member of the state’s unicameral state legislature, who voted for an ultrasound bill. This caused uproar among the Left. Still, Perez's statements don’t seem to be emblematic of a 50-state strategy. In fact, Smith warned it could lead to the opposite.

"My concern is that if we impose these purity tests, that we will purify ourselves into irrelevance and we will purify our party to the point where we can only win elections in states that touch salt water, and I think that is not the path forward for Democrats,” she said.

Matt Balan at Mediaite said that there appears to be signs of evolution from her 2012 attacks on Mitt Romney when Smith served as Obama’s campaign spokesperson:

“It’s troubling that Mitt Romney is so willing to play politics with such important issues. But we know the truth about where he stands on a woman’s right to choose – he’s said he’d be delighted to sign a bill banning all abortions, and called Roe v. Wade ‘one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history’ while pledging to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn it.”

Also, in 2012, ABC News’s Cokie Roberts scolded the Democratic National Convention for being “over the top” on abortion, noting that roughly 30 percent of the party identifies as pro-life.

In 2016, the Democratic Party made repealing the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for abortion except in rare cases, part of the platform. Donald Trump and the Republicans would eventually maintain Congress and win the presidency in a stunning upset that shocked everyone. The Left is still recovering, which brings us back to this civil war over abortion; anti-abortion Democrats know they need pro-lifers to seal the deal in elections (via Roll Call):

Illinois Rep. Daniel Lipinski is one of just three Democrats in the House — all men — who voted in January for legislation that would prohibit qualified health care plans from including coverage for abortion.

“There are people who I know in my district who say to me, ‘I was a Democrat but I can’t be a Democrat anymore because I’m pro-life,’” said Lipinski, who’s facing a possible primary threat from the left.

But there’s no easy answer for the Democratic Party. The platform’s narrow focus on abortion rights is borne of a commitment to protect the rights of women to control their own bodies — a self-determination issue from which few Democratic lawmakers in Congress want to back away.

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan has changed his position on abortion since coming to Congress. He now supports abortion rights, but he’s been vocal about keeping an open mind on social issues to make gains in regions of the country where Democrats are underrepresented.

“You need pro-life Democrats,” he said. “We’re not going to get home without them.”

Still, the rather cold reception DNC chair Perez has received on this Democratic unity tour, plus his pro-lifers out mantra, doesn’t appear to be the best sign of this renaissance that the progressive party needs in the era of Trump. The crowds wanted Bernie, but he’s not a Democrat, nor does he have any inclination or incentive to join this rat ship. It seems with Perez’s abortion remarks that he wants a 50-state strategy, but one that is dictated from Washington. That’s going to fail spectacularly, especially since raving lefty loons, like Perez, can’t win in the rural areas that the Democratic Party needs to regain to retake Congress and the presidency. To make matters worse, what we could call the Bernie wing of the Democratic Party doesn’t think that Perez and the DNC are progressive enough, setting the stage for other internal battles within the base.

We all know what abortion is—it’s sad that certain folks in the country need to have a debate like this about it. That’s why I’m proud not to be a Democrat.