Democrats have stepped into a vacuum of political malpractice by embracing unrestricted abortion rights as a position as uniquely Democratic as Social Security or universal health care. At the party’s 2012 convention, the president of Planned Parenthood was an honored guest and the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a lobby that famously opposed passage of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, was given an honored speaking slot.
Democrats have deviated from the Big Tent mentality on abortion and have returned to the blindly intolerant, and yet supposedly enlightened, mentality of the Dukakis Democrats. Culturally, for better and for worse, this is no longer the party of John F. Kennedy, which was welcomed in ethnic faith communities. Instead, culturally, the party is more Upper East Side in Manhattan than the coal country of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The value of personal autonomy has for many Democrats become an expansively defined secular sacrament that includes the right to terminate a pregnancy at any stage.
In taking such a position, Democrats miss the chance to affirm a holistic culture of life. Democratic positions on universal health care, retirement security for seniors and dignity for the developmentally disabled reflect a moral vision on respect for life. Traditional New Deal liberalism is part of a moral tradition that affirms life in all stages.
The party that lauds freedom of conscience and tolerance today finds it difficult to tolerate the conscience in action of Democrats who question the morality of “abortion on demand, regardless of ability to pay.”
Though many of these voters, whose vision of a moral society includes the New Deal legacy, will not run to today’s Republican Party of economic hedonism, they are not content. The present abortion position may bring with it the allegiance of the Dijon Mustard Democrats, but not much more.