Bernie Sanders and new DNC Chair Tom Perez have been taking their “unity tour” on the road lately, and only underscoring the fact that the mindset of progressive activists these days allows Democrats to unify their party only by driving out dissenters. You might think Sanders – who is so far left he still only tenuously embraces the Democratic Party label – is, of all people, immune from criticism to his left, but he violated one of the Left’s most sacred cows by campaigning in Nebraska for Heath Mello, a candidate for Mayor of Omaha who has voted for a number of modest abortion restrictions as a state legislator. How modest? Mello earned a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood in 2015, but Daily Kos withdrew its endorsement of Mello for this heresy:
Prior to Wednesday, Daily Kos was unaware that Heath Mello, a Democrat who is running against the incumbent Republican mayor of Omaha, Nebraska, had supported legislation in the Nebraska state Senate eight years ago that would require women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound…However, as soon as we learned this information, we withdrew our endorsement, because this legislation clearly runs contrary to Daily Kos’ deepest values, including our support for women’s reproductive rights and our staunch opposition to laws that in any way impede women’s access to reproductive health care…according to a contemporaneous Associated Press report from 2009, the bill Mello co-sponsored “requires the physician performing the abortion to tell a woman an ultrasound is available, but it doesn’t require the ultrasound to be performed.” If a woman does elect to undergo an ultrasound, the images from the ultrasound must be displayed simultaneously. Mello called the measure a “positive first step to reducing the number of abortions in Nebraska.”
That’s right: Mello pledges fealty today to the “pro-choice” cause, but eight years ago, he voted to inform women that they could get an ultrasound; fear of even that modest bit of scientific information is enough to get endorsements pulled in today’s Democratic Party. Given that Perez is chairman of the party, defeated an opponent even more closely tied to the Left for his job, and is thought (despite his own very hard-left record) to represent the more “moderate” wing of the party by virtue of his ties to big donors, you’d think it would be his job to suggest that maybe a party that’s too purist for Bernie Sanders should be a more welcoming place for Democrats trying to win elections in places like Nebraska.
Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez became the first head of the party to demand ideological purity on abortion rights, promising Friday to support only Democratic candidates who back a woman’s right to choose. “Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” Perez said in a statement. “That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.” “At a time when women’s rights are under assault from the White House, the Republican Congress, and in states across the country,” he added, “we must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice.”…
Perez initially defended the DNC’s acceptance of an anti-abortion Democrat. “Our job at the DNC is to help Democrats who have garnered support from voters in their community cross the finish line and win ― from school board to Senate,” Perez said….But Perez changed course Friday and delivered a big victory to the reproductive rights movement, saying that he “fundamentally disagree[s] with Heath Mello’s personal beliefs about women’s reproductive health” and that “every candidate who runs as a Democrat should do the same, because every woman should be able to make her own health choices. Period.”
Dick Durbin underlined that people who consider themselves pro-lifers can be welcome in the Democratic Party only “as long as they are prepared to back the law, Roe versus Wade, prepared to back women’s rights as we’ve defined them under the law.” And that doesn’t just mean allowing abortion to remain legal, as Mello’s case illustrates: it means no limitations, however modest, on abortion – not even efforts to inform women of their choices and the nature of the life growing within them. In fact, Democratic orthodoxy now extends far from “pro-choice” to treating abortion as something the government should subsidize and thus encourage more of: the Democratic Party platform in 2016 called for repealing the Hyde Amendment (which restricts federal funds from being used for abortions), a position backed by supposed moderate, Catholic Tim Kaine in the fall campaign. Democrats routinely threaten to shut down the government if Planned Parenthood (the largest abortion provider in America, performing over 300,000 abortions annually) is not subsidized with federal funds. Democrats have pushed for legislation to repeal a Trump executive order banning federal funds from being used for abortions overseas. In every way, the Democratic Party today stands unified not only against legal restrictions on abortion, but for government subsidies of abortion. The fiction that anyone can vote Democrat today without embracing abortion as an affirmative good is falling to tatters.
And yet, many people who vote Democrat or are open to voting Democrat don’t agree with the party’s stance. A 2016 Pew poll found 28% of Democrats, 37% of independents, and 41% of those who identify as moderate or liberal (including 14% of liberals) believe abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. Demographically, the poll found that 41% of women, 40% of African-Americans, 43% of black protestants, and 50% of Hispanics want abortion to be illegal in most or all cases. And that’s not even including the people who want it to be legal but subject to regulations and not taxpayer-funded. A 2015 Public Religion Research Institute poll found the same answer among 54% of Hispanic Millennials (the same poll found that over 70% of African-American and Hispanic respondents consider themselves “pro-life,” even many who also embrace the “pro-choice” label – a finding suggestive of a significant population of moderates on the issue). Other polls of Millennials found a sizeable pro-life contingent.
Abortion polling is at least as subject to wild fluctuations and variability by question phrasing as any other issue polling, but the overwhelming mass of polling data shows that there is a non-trivial number of Democratic voters and potential voters who do not want the party to be a lockstep “abortions for all” party. That’s particularly the case outside the coastal enclaves where the party is already strong (the thirteen states where Hillary Clinton won a majority, the seventeen states where they hold a majority of the House seats). The chairman of the party just told those voters they are unwanted and disposable.