There’s no doubt that the far-left progressive wing steers the Democratic Party ship – just look at the current slate of presidential hopefuls and the party platform in general. But what about those Democrats who fall more in the middle of the political spectrum? If the DNC elites think these voters will simply follow the party in any direction, as long as it’s away from Trump, they may be going all-in on a risky bet. Will the gamble pay off come election day – or is it a bust with the less radical base?
Moderate Democrats are showing signs they may no longer be willing to follow the party’s increasingly hardline pro-abortion stance. With two major abortion bills killed in the Senate this week, this issue is front and center for the upcoming election, but not all are standing by the DNC’s progressive line.
That Hard-Left Turn on Abortion
There was a time when Democrats preached that abortions should be “safe, legal, and rare.” Say what you will about Bill Clinton, but give credit where it is due – his phrase made an effective motto. Polls showed that most Americans believed abortions should be legal in at least some cases, but many also considered the practice immoral.
How fitting, then, that the tactic devised by one Clinton was tossed aside with the next. Not long after the 2016 Hillary Clinton debacle, DNC chairman Tom Perez drew a line in the sand: Abortion should be legal and available on-demand, at any time and for any reason – no apologies required – and there is no room in the Democratic Party for anyone who feels differently. As Liberty Nation’s Graham J. Noble wrote:
“The Democratic Party is hardly a bastion of ideological diversity. At this point, there are two factions within the DNC; one of which is being pushed out by the other. The former is what might be called the party of Bill Clinton, in which it was still acceptable to demonstrate bipartisanship and express some viewpoints that differed from the party’s official platform. At that time, it was even possible to add a hint of conservativism to one’s liberal sensibilities and still call oneself a Democrat. The later faction is made up of hardline, ideologues known as progressives. Within this faction, there is simply no room for dissent. They have become the embodiment of the adage, ‘It’s my way or the highway.’”
Pushing Back Against Progressives
Many moderate – some would even call themselves conservative – Democrats refuse to swallow the progressive pill. During an Iowa town hall in late January, Democrats for Life of America’s (DFLA) executive director, Kristen Day, tried to get presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg to support a more moderate platform that would include pro-life Democrats. She was sorely disappointed. As she told USA Today, he “did not really seem to want the vote from me or people who share my views.” But while Mayor Pete isn’t willing to cross that line in the sand, others are.
On Monday, Feb. 24, six Democrats jumped ship and, along with two independents, joined the GOP in Mississippi. The new Republicans are:
- Former Democrat Matt Sullivan, district attorney for the Thirteenth Circuit Court Division.
- Former Independent Guy Easterling, chancery clerk of Covington County.
- Former Independent Bobby Wayne Mooney, justice court judge for the Northern District of Covington County.
- Former Democrat Cindy Austin, chancery clerk for Smith County.
- Former Democrat Anthony Grayson, circuit clerk of Smith County.
- Former Democrat Mary Lou Powell, tax assessor-collector of Smith County.
- Former Democrat Danny Arender, Beat 4 supervisor in Smith County.
- Former Democrat Hulon West, justice court judge for the Southern District of Smith County.
“There are conservative Democrats all across the state of Mississippi,” Mr. Sullivan told a local news outlet, “and there was once upon a time when the conservative Democrats controlled this state.”
Just a day later, on Feb. 25, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called for a cloture vote on two bills. The Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act would require medical professionals to attempt to care for any infant who survives an abortion attempt. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would ban any abortions beyond the 20-week mark. Both bills have been tried in the Senate every year for a while now, and both have failed each time. A three-fifths majority is required and even had the vote fallen exactly along party lines, there just aren’t enough yeas to get either passed.
Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) both voted against the 20-week ban but supported requiring care for surviving babies. That was to be expected, as both often fall on the pro-abortion side of the argument. All other Republicans voted in favor of both.
Three Democrats broke ranks on the pair of bills, two of whom are endorsed by the DFLA and regularly refuse to toe the party line on abortion. Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) generally do vote pro-life. Doug Jones (D-AL) also voted with the Republicans and the two pro-life Dems, but his record isn’t so consistent. Jones was an advocate of unrestricted abortion his entire political career up until he needed to be a tad more conservative to beat Roy Moore in Alabama’s 2017 special election – and he’s up for re-election again this year.
Future Former Democrats
DFLA’s Kristen Day issued a dire warning to Buttigieg and the other progressive candidates: “If you want the votes of 21 million pro-life Democrats – you have to earn it. We’re not going to give it to you for free.” In 2016 and 2018, these Democrats played the party faithful – but will they do so again in 2020? As much as they dislike Trump as president, the DNC’s treatment of pro-life candidates and voters has, as Day put it, “reached a boiling point.” She calls refusing to budge from the hardline stance a sure way to make sure 21 million voters either stay home or vote for Trump.
Did the presidential candidates and the DNC listen? So far, they’re still betting it all on abortion. We’ll see come November if they win or lose.
Read more from James Fite.