This is an extraordinary move—Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, says that Democrats won’t rule out funding anti-abortion candidates in red parts of the country. Per The Hill:
“There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates,” said Luján, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman. “As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America.”
The DCCC is responsible for working to get Democrats elected to the House of Representatives, and a big part of that operation is fundraising. The political calculation behind a “no litmus test” policy—Luján did not mention abortion specifically, but he didn’t have to—is clear. In red parts of the country, it’s tempting to see a pro-choice candidate as a dealbreaker, and rather than concede that ground to Republicans, some Democrats have argued that it’s better to field anti-abortion candidates that otherwise align ideologically with party interests. Clearly, that faction has won out at the top of the DCCC.
Earlier this year, Tom Perez and Bernie Sanders made headlines by campaigning with Heath Mello, an anti-abortion Democrat running for mayor of Omaha, NE. Perez later said that support for abortion rights were “non-negotiable” within the party, and Democrats had to extend an olive branch to abortion rights advocates. Now, that relationship will likely become frayed yet again.
Per The Hill:
“Throwing weight behind anti-choice candidates is bad politics that will lead to worse policy,” said Mitchell Stille, who oversees campaigns for NARAL Pro-Choice America. “The idea that jettisoning this issue wins elections for Democrats is folly contradicted by all available data.”
“Anyone who actually thinks that Donald Trump and the GOP candidates won in 2016 because of their opposition to abortion rights is sorely mistaken,” NARAL’s Stille said.
Stille could well be right. When liberal parties have gained interest and momentum in the west in the past five years, it has come as a result of a renewed commitment to democratic-socialist policies. In other words, the way to generate a movement is to move left. By attempting to placate an imagined red-state voter who could be swayed to the side of Democrats if this one issue is ignored, the DCCC is demonstrating the kind of third-way, centrist thinking that has essentially neutered the party in America. This is yet another sign that the Democratic party can only be a vehicle for victory if there’s a true commitment to progressive politics, and that the establishment is woefully unprepared for the changing political landscape in America.