After capturing the fervor of the intensely progressive wing of the Democratic party in the 2016 presidential primary — despite never having been a member of the party at all — Vermont senator Bernie Sanders seems to be falling out of favor with the ruling social-justice-warrior class.
What proved his undoing was not, in fact, a sudden recollection on the part of Democrats that the party’s base is not composed entirely of socialists. No, Sanders’s star has fallen because he has revealed himself to be insufficiently dedicated to the radical pro-abortion movement.
This progressive consensus arose after Sanders had the gall to endorse Omaha mayoral candidate Heath Mello, a Democrat who has been dubbed “anti-abortion” for supporting a bill that would require doctors to inform women that they have the right to an ultrasound prior to an abortion procedure. No, the law would not compel women to receive an ultrasound — as some outlets incorrectly reported. It would require that they be informed of their right to receive one.
Sanders’s willingness to support such a backwards-thinking misogynist has exposed his drastic unsuitability as a leader of the Democratic party. According to a growing contingent of progressives, their leaders must wholeheartedly embrace abortion-on-demand as a core tenet of the Democratic party, and one integral to every other progressive value as well.
A recent Salon piece by Anna March, for example, knocks Sanders for supporting Mello. His endorsement reveals his lack of genuine enthusiasm for abortion, March complains. Further, she added, it shows his misunderstanding of “intersectionality” — the progressive theory that systems of oppression (racism, sexism, ableism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined or redressed separately.
“Being pro-choice is not an optional part of being a progressive,” March states. “Full stop.” And later: “One hundred percent pro-choice is the only pro-choice position.” March insists that the Sanders endorsement of Mello proves that he believes “reproductive rights are negotiable” (though this assertion is easily contradicted by his rhetoric and record).
March also claims that Sanders’s recent focus on winning back working-class voters is “white-male dog-whistle rhetoric” that alienates the party’s real base, which consists of those who care primarily about unlimited “reproductive rights.” Any concern for the middle-class Americans who voted for Trump is simply “perpetuating the dangerous myth” that those voters’ needs are more important than abortion.
Democrats must not only be pro-abortion, they must support completely unlimited ‘reproductive rights,’ funded by the government with the aid of all taxpayers regardless of religion or conscience.
An op-ed in Wednesday’s New York Times follows in a similar vein, insisting that “abortion is a progressive economic issue” and castigating top Democrats for not doing enough to advance a fully pro-abortion agenda.
The piece’s author, Bryce Covert, contends that DNC chairman Tom Perez didn’t reassure pro-abortion Democrats enough in the wake of the Sanders–Mello controversy. This, despite Perez’s full-throated pro-abortion stance, clarified in a statement by him last week: “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 . . . ”
Covert then outlines a convoluted case for how economic injustice creates conditions that compel women to have abortions, claiming that “there is no economic justice without reproductive freedom.” Democrats such as Sanders and Perez are therefore wrong not to trumpet a “woman’s right to choose” when they’re debating economic policies.
Even aside from this ghoulish fixation on abortion as the animating principle of the Democratic agenda, these attacks on Sanders are truly bizarre given the senator’s unflinchingly pro-abortion record. In 1993, he sponsored an iteration of the Freedom of Choice Act, and more recently he co-sponsored a bill to eliminate all state restrictions on abortion.
According to the New York Times itself, Sanders has opposed “bills banning partial-birth abortions, banning minors from crossing state lines to get abortions, and criminalizing fetal harm during the act of another crime.” For his extensive efforts, he has been rewarded with a 100 percent lifetime voting record from both NARAL and Planned Parenthood.
But for today’s Democratic party, 100 percent is no longer enough. Democrats must not only be pro-abortion, they must support completely unlimited “reproductive rights,” funded by the government with the aid of all taxpayers regardless of religion or conscience. And as these latest arguments prove, vocal support of these aims isn’t quite enough anymore, either; Democratic politicians must make them the primary focus of their rhetoric and legislation, or else they no longer qualify as true progressives and must be cast out.
If Bernie Sanders is no longer “pro-choice” enough for the progressive movement, its worship of abortion must be descending to ever-new depths of derangement. In their vision, the future American Left will be defined not by economic socialism but by absolute sexual autonomy, enabled by the murder of innocents and spearheaded by politicians who endlessly cheerlead the sanctity of “choice.”
Such a landscape would doubtless appeal to pitchfork-wielding progressives like March and Covert, but it could spell doom for the Democratic party. Very few people in this country support the unlimited extermination of unborn children, and the louder Democrats champion that extermination, the farther most Americans will run.
— Alexandra DeSanctis is a National Review Institute William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism.