Some Democratic officials are beginning to realize that if they want to avoid a repetition of their harsh 2016 defeat in the upcoming 2018 midterm campaign cycle, they may need to back down from their unpopular, staunchly pro-abortion platform. The change, which is further dividing the already struggling party, comes just a year after the Democratic Platform Committee approved the party’s new, most abortion-supportive 2016 platform and just a few months after the DNC chairman said that every candidate wishing to run as a Democrat needed to support abortion.
On Monday, Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), told The Hill that “there is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates” and that therefore, his party will not withhold financial support for candidates who oppose abortion. “As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America,” he continued. Recognizing the difficult task that lies ahead of his party in 2018, Luján admitted that Democrats may have to compromise on the issue of abortion:
To pick up 24 [seats] and get to 218, that is the job. We’ll need a broad coalition to get that done. We are going to need all of that, we have to be a big family in order to win the House back.
Luján’s new policy of acceptance towards pro-life Democrats breaks with the 2016 Democratic Party Platform’s fervent support for abortion. That document says that Democrats “believe unequivocally” that all women should have access to safe and legal abortion.
Luján’s words also disregard DNC Chair Tom Perez’s statement in April that every Democrat should embrace abortion:
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. At a time when women’s rights are under assault from the White House, the Republican Congress, and in states across the country, we must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice.
Democratic politicians’ responses to Luján’s stance show just how divided their party is. While both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have held that candidates should not be blocked out of the Democratic Party due only to their opposition to abortion, some of their colleagues in Congress adamantly disagree.
When asked about the DCCC’s willingness to fund Democratic candidates who are against abortion, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) responded, “Well, I won’t.” She continued, “The party is pro-choice, there may be some exceptions to it, but by and large, I think that’s the case.”
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) also expressed her disappointment that there was no abortion litmus test:
I’m going to support pro-choice candidates in next year’s election and I’m actively recruiting great pro-choice female candidates across the country to run.
The stark division amongst the Democratic Party on this controversial issue has not gone unnoticed. “They can have all of the ‘unity tours’ and slogan rollouts they want, but the Democrats’ internal divisions are going to cost them even more elections going forward,” Michael Ahrens, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee said.
However, the DCCC is risking this party division in their desperate attempt to wrangle in as many voters as they can, even if they have to support a small amount of pro-life candidates in order to do so. This is necessary because of the public’s increasing opposition to elective abortion, as evidenced by a recent Gallup poll which found only 29 percent of all Americans and 46 percent of Democrats believe abortion should be legal in all circumstances.
For the Democrats, it’s a long shot to take hold of even one chamber of Congress next year. But this new announcement shows at least some of them are willing to compromise on one of their party’s most extreme social issue positions if that might improve their odds even slightly.
Photo credit: Anna Levinzon via Flickr, CC BY 2.0