The Democratic Party in this country is currently in the wilderness. After getting an old fashioned ass-whooping in the 2016 election, the party is looking to regroup and reassert its relevance. But none of that can when the party that purports to deplore litmus tests (think Supreme Court nominees) is using such a test of its own when it comes to reproductive rights. If it fails to truly be a big tent party, Democrats will continue wander in the political purgatory.
I think we can certainly stipulate that Democrats got absolutely shellacked in 2016 with no better example than President Trump. (Does anyone else still have a problem saying or writing that?). Republicans control both house of Congress and the majority of governorships and state legislatures. What does that tell us?
Dems have always abhorred Republicans’ litmus tests or “either you’re ___ or you’re out.” But now the Democrats are doing the exact same thing and it can be fatal to attempts to retake the initiative in our political discourse.
When a political party is turned out by the American people, it can either cling to its most basic tenets or it can try to build consensus. Just like Democrats who are still whining about Bernie, the national Democratic Party has declared any Democrat who is anti-choice to be persona non grata.
The issue came to head over a mayor’s race in Omaha, Nebraska where the Democratic candidate had a history of voting against abortion rights as a member of the state legislature. National party chair Tom Perez, who showed promise when he cleaned house of the staff who performed so miserably in 2016, doubled down on the litmus test.
“Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state,” Perez said. That’s the perfect plan to eliminate from the party any person who questions the extent to which abortion rights should apply.
There are Democrats who approve of abortion on demand even so far as partial-birth. Others supports abortion rights in general. Still others abhor abortion but believe—for whatever reasons—it should remain legal and hopefully, very, very rare (count me in this category). And there those who oppose abortion rights—think Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.
Should those in that final column be ostracized and banished from the party? If we want to limit the scope of the party’s possibilities, go ahead and say, “Yes.” If we want to expand the party and win on other issues such as economic and social justice, accessible and affordable health care, etc., we might want to welcome differing opinions into a truly big tent.