Should Democrats Give A Little On Abortion If It Means Winning A Lot More?

Louisiana Democrat John Bel Edwards just won another term as that state’s Governor. He also happens to be anti-abortion

The obvious answer to us is “no”, especially with women’s rights under attack as never before. At the same time, for the first time, we’re thinking it may be something worth discussing…

We first wrote about this over a year ago, after a long discussion with a Democrat we’re friends with, who is strongly anti-Trump, but who also happens to be strongly against abortion. She feels while Trump is terrible, the Democratic Party is shutting her out.

But we never published what we wrote. Because when we read our own reporting back, it seemed like nonsense. Because to us it seems pretty simple: a woman should have an absolute right to choose what to do with her body. Nobody has the right to legislate that out of the way.

That said, when John Bel Edwards, an anti-abortion Democrat won a second term as Governor of Louisiana a little over a week ago, despite President Trump’s utmost efforts to torpedo him, we started thinking again about our friend, and that conversation.

We found the piece we’re linking to here (in the Pat Buchanan founded “American Conservative”), about why Trump’s tactics failed in the Louisiana election to be well thought out. It strongly argues that the main reason Edwards hung in there and actually won pretty handily is because he is anti-abortion. And in fact, he signed a highly restrictive “heartbeat” bill. Yes, the author, Rod Dreher, is a man and so are we, so we do realize while we can’t speak for Mr. Dreher, it’s easy enough for us to say. Of course there are a lot of other reasons and possible reasons (that Dreher also mentions) Edwards won.

We’re still not coming to a different conclusion, but we wonder if there isn’t a little path a few Democrats can tread on, if it’ll help the party win potentially a lot more seats overall, and not substantially impact party goals overall. Including those on abortion. Especially in places where it will definitely make a difference and in many cases, a big enough difference to perhaps win a lot more seats. In effect, giving voters to whom abortion is deal-breaker #1, a real option to the repugnance of Trump and his acolytes.

There’s been a lot of ink wasted over why Trump retains such appeal among evangelicals, when he’s such a blasphemer, and also embraces so many policies that fly in the face of the church’s teachings (basically any church). But there’s really no mystery to why Trump’s support among evangelicals does not seem to be eroding.

One word: abortion.

Anyway, the rest of this is what we wrote originally. You are welcome to tell us if our first instinct was right in not publishing it. (In fact, we’re sure you will…):

A friend of ours, who is a Democrat and anti-abortion, observed recently that many of her more Conservative, or even not more Conservative, but more religious friends have come to deeply despise Trump but will still vote for him and candidates he supports because of this one issue alone. She further asserted that the people she’s talking to would not require an outright ban on abortion in all cases (just more restrictive), and would support things like free birth control (which a lot of “pro-life” advocates do not).  And she wondered aloud whether there’s room in the Democratic Party for anti-abortion candidates, who right now might easily win a lot more red state and Republican votes, especially from women.

The answer, however, seems to be no. While Bernie Sanders supported an anti-abortion Democratic Mayoral Candidate in Nebraska (who lost in a primary), saying “You just can’t exclude people who disagree with us on one issue,” national abortion rights advocates blasted this viewpoint as “politically stupid”.

And according to Vice, there were a total of zero anti-abortion Democratic candidates in the Congressional districts Democrats flipped in the Midterm elections. According to the Huffington Post, DNC Chair Tom Perez early last year said “women’s rights to safe, legal, and accessible abortion” is “not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state”. Urging his party to speak with “one voice”. After push-back from anti-abortion Democrats who wondered if they still had a place in the party, he did do some damage control and met with some of them. But there’s still no real resolution.

If making a compromise, or at least not having it be a litmus test, means potentially winning back Congress and the Senate (and maybe equally importantly various state legislatures), would it be worth it? Or might that backfire with an anti-abortion Democrat alienating more voters than Democrats could potentially gain, even in deeply red states? Might evangelicals refuse to vote for an anti-abortion Democrat anyway because they know the key to ending Roe v. Wade is Trump naming one more Supreme Court Justice and a Republican majority is much more likely to deliver that? And would an anti-abortion Democrat be able to convince any Conservatives they’re worth voting for since their votes on that issue will get lost in a sea of Democratic colleagues who oppose them?

We don’t know the answers to these questions, (nor are we advocating for anything here), but they may be worth examining. There’s evidence the special election in Alabama that sent Democrat Doug Jones to D.C., wouldn’t have even been close except for this one issue. Jones would’ve won by a mile. Abortion (and a bunch of old-timers who vote party line no matter what) was enough to keep a Republican candidate competitive, who’d been more than credibly accused multiple times of molesting underage girls

Democrat Conor Lamb who won election to the House in Pennsylvania, skirted  the issue, saying he personally is anti-abortion, but would respect the party platform and the law. But Lamb was a particularly attractive candidate for other reasons; we’re not sure this argument would continue to work if rolled out in other races.

Trump realizes the crucial importance of this one issue, which is why he invokes images of babies getting ripped out of the womb in the 3rd Trimester, which no one is advocating. (Since then, he’s taken it even further, embellishing his lie by saying Democrats advocate killing babies after they’re born).

So what should Democrats do about this? No doubt right now they’re compelling some voters they otherwise might get in 2020, many of them religious women, to keep out. But by changing their stance, they might alienate even more. Even if they take it state-by-state and case-by-case, which is the way Republicans slowly chipped away at legislatures. And even if it’d mean winning back a lot of red state seats for sure, we’re still not convinced that prospect should prompt moderation of a defining and closely and long held tenet of the Democratic Party. It pretty clearly shouldn’t. Women’s rights are such a central pillar to the party. It’s something that probably shouldn’t be an area of compromise at all.