Senator John Kerry and the Democratic party focused on changing the direction of America this election cycle, and people listened. The Kerry camp waged a serious campaign, but the fact is that America wanted a lot of things to stay the same. A perfect example of this was on “moral issues.” On Election Day, Democrats and Republicans alike sent a clear message to Washington: Protect our values.
Pro-life Democrats are not surprised by the outcome of this year’s election. In fact, pro-life Democrats have been pleading with their party to be respectfully included. Unfortunately, the “big-tent” Democratic party has allowed itself to be controlled by pro-choice forces and suffered as a result. For the past 25 years, pro-life Democrats have been leaving the party over the issue of abortion.
‐Twenty-five years ago, the Democrats held a 292-seat majority in the House; 125 of those seats belonged to pro-life Democrats.
‐Twelve years ago, Democrats held a 258-seat majority with about 50 pro-life Democrats. Subsequently, we lost the majority in the House and the number of pro-life Democrats dwindled to 35.
‐Two years ago, Democrats lost the majority in the U.S. Senate. Many attributed the loss to three key seats in strong pro-life states such as Georgia, Missouri, and Minnesota.
‐In December of 2003, a Zogby poll found that 43 percent of Democrats are opposed to abortion.
‐In June, a CBS poll found that “almost twice as many Democratic delegates as Democratic voters think abortion should be permitted in all cases.”
‐Three weeks before the election, another poll indicated that President Bush’s pro-life position gave him an eight-percent advantage over Senator Kerry.
Why is the national party ignoring these trends? The truth is that some pro-choice forces in the Democratic party would rather lose than run a pro-life candidate. But the national party is stronger when pro-life Democrats are embraced and encouraged. Today, too many pro-life Democrats do not feel welcome in their own party. Reagan Democrats left in the 1980s and did not return; many pro-life Democrats also migrated to the Republican party after the 1994 GOP tidalwave election year. Meanwhile, pro-life Democrats are winning races because they withstand the pressure of the national party and represent the values of their local communities.
‐Pro-life Democrat Joe Manchin won the governor’s race in West Virginia despite the fact that George Bush carried the state.
‐Due to the leadership of Minority Leader Pat Murphy in recruiting pro-life Democrats to run in pro-life districts, the Iowa senate is now tied and the Iowa house has moved closer to a Democratic majority.
‐In Minnesota, a pro-life Democratic candidate won in an “unelectable” seat that had been deemed Republican.
‐In Maryland, a pro-life Democrat was told that the state party would not support him because he was pro-life. He ran anyway and won.
If Democrats are going to be a majority party again, Democrats must embrace pro-lifers and encourage them to come back. To do that, we first have to prove that we’re sincere in our openness and that we stand behind our “big tent” policy of welcoming those with differing views on issues such as abortion.
Our issues have been hijacked by the Republican party. As Democrats we should take them back and lead an effort to protect life at all stages by ensuring freedom from violence, a livable wage, affordable health care, an opportunity to live and raise a family, and social security for retirees.
Every vote counts–including those of Democrats committed to protecting the rights of the unborn. Let’s not forget that in 2006 and, more important, in 2008.
–Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America.