New Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Tom Perez has had a bit of a tough weekend in the world of social media. His statement, Friday, about the party’s stance on abortion – and his implied intention to withhold support from pro-life candidates – has effectively alienated many democrat voters and even several elected Democratic politicians. His statement also represents the party’s continued shift to the extreme left.
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 conservatism to one’s liberal sensibilities and still call oneself a Democrat. The latter 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.”
Struggle for control of the Democratic Party began, in earnest, the day that Barack Obama secured his presidential nomination. It ended when Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in the 2016 general election. Although Clinton – Obama’s former rival – has described herself as a progressive, she was never able to win the loyalty of the party’s extreme left. When the DNC colluded with her campaign to tilt the primary race in her favor and push Bernie Sanders out, the writing was on the wall for the old Democratic Party. Clinton’s defeat marked the moment that progressivism became the party’s dominant ideology.
In his statement Friday, Tom Perez was unequivocal, saying “Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” adding “That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.”
Perez seems to have put state Democrats and their supporters across the nation on notice. Elected Democrats, and especially those currently running for office, at the state level can no longer count on support from the DNC if they are inclined to side with the pro-life movement. Such a move jeopardizes the party’s chances of gaining ground in the southern states, where religious values are strongest, and support for abortion is marginal.
No doubt realizing the dangers of such a proclamation, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sought to play down the issue on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. Asked about Perez’s statement, Pelosi told Chuck Todd, “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.”
Pelosi, of course, is a true Washington insider who pays far less attention to her party’s fortunes in the states. As such, her agenda is to protect and grow the influence of congressional Democrats and, thereby, maintain her privileged position.
The election of President Donald Trump added a whole new element to the ideological rift within the Republican Party: There were already three distinct factions; the traditional conservatives, the neocons, and the libertarians. Suddenly, a whole new class of Republican voter has appeared; a nationalist-populist faction. Despite certain policy differences, the right should welcome the diversity of thought that has expanded the Republican Party’s appeal, even as the Democratic Party shifts further to the left and appears to narrow its base further.
Progressives do not play well with others; even those who describe themselves as ‘liberals’ are despised by the Democratic Party’s hardline leftists. By positioning the party’s National Committee firmly against any flexibility on the abortion issue, Perez is telling more traditional, moderate Democrats that they no longer have a home in the Democratic party. There may be little party support for traditional liberal-democrats in 2018. The party’s new breed of leaders appears to be gambling on a more extreme left-wing platform gaining enough momentum to revive the party’s fortunes. More likely, they will only succeed in alienating an even greater number of Americans, who grow increasingly weary of rhetoric and radical ideology, whilst their most fundamental economic aspirations continue to be ignored.