Saving ObamaCare requires a Democratic majority that includes pro-life Democrats


Since 2008, the Republican Party has gained control of nearly 1,000 additional seats in state legislatures, giving it the most legislative seats in its history. Recently, the Republican Party gained its 34th governor, the most it has ever had. This GOP dominance of state politics is matched by control of the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, Senate, and the presidency. The Democratic Party is in its worst shape since the 1920s.

The coalition assembled by President Franklin Roosevelt is dead. The most promising approach to building a new majority coalition is to stop the exclusive litmus test on abortion that precludes anti-abortion Democrats from running, to find the strongest candidates for each district and state, and to rebuild the party around an inclusive shared progressive commitment to economic justice.

{mosads}Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), despite her exclusively pro-choice voting record, supports this proposed new inclusivity. She remembers that pro-life Democrats were the ones who put the Affordable Care Act over the top, delivering health insurance to tens of millions of Americans.


Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), agrees. He remembers the successful strategy the DCCC used to take back control of the House in 2006 and win critical races in 2008, which laid the foundation for President Obama’s legislative accomplishments.

If we want to protect healthcare, strengthen the social safety net, and build a more just economy for all Americans, the Democrats need to create a strategy that can win between the coasts and that is centered on economic justice for all.

While some abortion-rights activists believe that economic justice and equality require that poor women abort their children, pro-life Democrats believe that we can and must do better for poor and working-class women. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 75 percent of women seeking abortion are poor or low-income. No woman should ever feel obligated to choose abortion because of her economic circumstances. Women deserve a better alternative. People on both sides of the abortion debate should agree on this point.

Some have charged that allowing anti-abortion Democrats to run in pro-life districts is a way of ignoring the wishes of the poor, women, and African-Americans. The evidence, however, shows that support for a small-tent strategy is found predominantly among affluent white liberals. One poll finds that just 7 percent of African-American Democrats support a small-tent approach, compared to 35 percent of white Democrats. Poor and working-class Democrats, likewise, are more likely to oppose an abortion litmus test than are Democrats in the highest income brackets. And fewer Democratic women favor exclusively restricting Democratic Party support to proponents of legal abortion than Democratic men do, rejecting this approach by a two-to-one margin.

Overall, a strong majority of Democrats oppose an exclusive abortion litmus test. Only inside an elite bubble that is disconnected from the larger part of the Democratic base that is not wealthy and white can one believe that the base wants to sacrifice every other issue for exclusive ideological purity on abortion.

A big-tent approach is not just about appealing to centrists or conservatives. It would be welcomed by countless Democrats, including a considerable number of Latinos and African-Americans, who frequently vote for the party despite rejecting its increasingly extreme position on abortion.

It could help to win over pro-life progressives who are registered Democrats but often vote third party or abstain when the Democratic candidate opposes all restrictions on abortion, as well as pro-life Democrats who, in conscience, vote Republican despite agreeing with the Democratic Party on economic justice and most other issues. It is unclear exactly how many Americans fall into each of these categories, but we know that together, there are tens of millions of these voters, as most polls over the last decade show that between a quarter and a third of the Democratic Party identifies as pro-life.

It is true that many abortion-rights activists view unlimited access to abortion paid for by taxpayers as a fundamental human right, but this simply cannot be said of a majority of Americans. Many pro-choice Americans would not exclaim that “abortion is liberty.” Many do not see abortion as a positive good, and tens of millions of Democrats favor some restrictions on abortion.

Hillary Clinton once said that abortion represents a sad, tragic choice for many women. In the past, Democrats often talked about making abortion “safe, legal, and rare.” There is no evidence that making room for Democrats who do not view abortion as a positive good that should not be restricted in any way will shrink the coalition by persuading the minority of abortion absolutists to abandon the party.

While some might sincerely believe the crude accusation that opponents of abortion “revel” in the suffering and death of women, most Democrats are able to understand that pro-life Democrats simply reach a different conclusion on this matter while sharing so many progressive values.

Tens of millions of pro-life Democrats and progressives support the protection of unborn life because we believe in social justice, equality, human rights, and the protection of vulnerable human beings. We share these values with many pro-choice Democrats. We simply believe that all human beings possess these rights and deserve these protections, even prior to birth.

Despite the many flaws and failings of President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans, the status quo approach will not produce a large, sustainable majority for the Democratic Party. Democrats across the spectrum recognize this problem.

To avoid the prospect of continued Republican dominance, Democrats can try to double down on a strategy that is designed to appeal to affluent white voters and recruit pro-business candidates who support abortion-on-demand. Alternatively, the Democratic Party can restore its big-tent approach on abortion, recruit strong candidates who will address economic inequality and injustice, and rebuild the party around a shared commitment to economic justice for all Americans.

The latter approach is not only our best chance to take back Congress; it also gives us the best chance to build a coherent policy agenda that uplifts the poor, benefits the working class, and strengthens the middle class. For the Democratic Party and the country, now is the time to embrace this strategy.

Kristen Day is the executive director of Democrats For Life of America and represents over 20 million pro-life Democrats who would like a voice within the Democratic Party. Day also advocates for policies to reduce abortion in America by providing more support to pregnant and parenting women and their families.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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