You know the Democrats are in trouble when even the Jesuit-run weekly America warns that they may have gone too far in their support of abortion.
This week, Tom Perez, DNC chair (pictured above) and Dick Durbin, Senator from Illinois, both came out and told Democrats who want to run for political office that, regardless of their personal views on abortion, they must support Roe v. Wade and a woman’s “right to choose” as public policy or risk losing the support of the party. The Democratic Party is big-tent, sure, but there’s a canvas wall to even the biggest of tents. Opposition to abortion, or even restrictions on abortion, are outside the Democratic tent.
Perez and Durbin’s statements were inspired by the mayoral race for — of all places — Omaha, NE. In Omaha, Heath Mello is the Democratic candidate for mayor. He is also a practicing Catholic who is on record for supporting restrictions on abortion. He is also on record for supporting Roe v. Wade. But, his support for Roe wasn’t enough to satisfy NARAL Pro-Choice America, which blasted Mello for his position on abortion, along with Bernie Sanders and Keith Ellison, the first Muslim-American in Congress, for attending a rally in support of Mello. Perez, for his part, initially supported Mello, but retracted his support when NARAL put the heat on. Sanders, for his part, insists that the Democrats must appeal to middle America, and says he doesn’t have to agree with a particular Democrat on every issue to support his or her candidacy. That seems a reasonable position for either of the two main parties. Needless to say, there are some Democrats who have reservations about abortion (some polls say as many as 28% think abortion should be illegal or at least restricted). To simply shut those Democrats out doesn’t seem wise policy for party leadership.
But, the Democratic leadership isn’t about wise policy. They are about ideological purity. Like the Tea Party on the conservative side, they seem to be tempted to the error of sacrificing the good for the sake of the perfect (let’s be clear: by “the good” in this case, I mean “the good” of winning elections, not “the good” of abortion, which is not a good, but an intrinsic evil). Ideological purity is the goal, not necessarily winning elections. Certainly, they can’t have deluded themselves into thinking that Americans are so gung-ho for unrestricted abortion that Perez and Durbin’s position is likely to increase their chances of winning elections. Then, again, maybe they do think that. After all, they figured the best shot at winning the White House in 2016 was to run the most polarizing, most establishment, most boring, most entitled, and least trusted Democrat of recent memory.
Perez and Durbin are both ostensibly Catholic. I’ve no idea how practicing they are in the faith. I know that Durbin, at least, was instructed by his pastor in Springfield years ago that his support for abortion disqualified him from receiving Holy Communion. According to one article I read, Durbin has respected his pastor’s instructions. Which means that, given a choice between toeing the party line or receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the living God of the universe as nourishment for the soul on the journey to salvation, Durbin chose the party line. A faustian bargain if ever their was one.
There is one advantage to this sad matter, and that advantage doesn’t belong to the Democratic Party. Rather, it belongs to the voters of America, especially those who are Christian and allow their Christian faith to inform their politics on abortion. Perez and Durbin have made it clear where the Democrats stand on abortion in no uncertain terms. Any confusion in the past over whether there was room in the Democratic tent for pro-lifers has been cleared up. Sadly, this leaves people like me, who are considerably less than enamored of the Republican Party, with few options when it comes to decisions on which party to support. Yes, there are other issues. Yes, the Democrats have a reputation for fighting for “the little guy” (though that reputation has become less and less deserved over the years in my mind). But, abortion is not merely one issue among many. It is, as an old roommate put it to me many years ago, a qualifying issue. Simply put, if you support the willful destruction of innocent human life in the womb, or anywhere for that matter, you don’t get my vote. Protecting innocent human life seems pretty basic to me and one of the reasons we have government in the first place. Oh, and don’t be smug about my being a “one issue voter.” I would argue that we all have our qualifying issues. Would anyone who supports so-called abortion rights vote for a candidate who, all other issues being on board, supports the disenfranchisement of women, or the extension of government funds to support the human trafficking industry? Of course not!
As usual, I will give thought and consideration to where a candidate stands on those issues that are critical to the welfare of the country. I hope every American would say as much. As a Catholic, and contrary to those Democrats and Republicans who claim Catholicism but are more inclined to have their politics inform their faith, I will strive to have my faith inform my politics. This will mean that I will often be disappointed in future elections. But, that’s no change from past elections. We do the best we can, and leave the rest to God.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.