So last time, I shared my thoughts on false equivalence as it pertains to the two main political parties in the US. At the end of that piece, I hinted at boxing people in and purity tests. In general, you have to be careful with both.
A purity test is basically this: “If you do not support x, you are not our candidate.” Or: “If you do not support x, we will not vote for you.” You might also know it as a litmus test. Abortion tends to be a big litmus test for Republican candidates…I can’t think of a presidential election where it hasn’t come up. The number of pro-choice Republicans has never been higher than 39% in recent years, so you can see why this is a big deal for Republican voters.
This fight has now shifted to the left…not quite the same battle, but the same subject. Party leaders over the past few months have basically solidified their stance in that they will not require their candidates to be pro-choice. Bernie Sanders has also agreed with this principle, though he is still politically independent. This stance from the leaders of the left has upset reproductive advocates, as well as NARAL and Planned Parenthood. Compared to Republicans, Democrats are on the opposite end of support from Republicans…no lower than 59% (see the last link) in recent years. Independents split the difference…varying between 41 and 55%. Democrats have never had a litmus test that I can recall, at least on a national level.
So what does one make of this? On one hand, there have been quite a few Democratic officials and officeholders in recent times that have leaned conservative or have had conservative stances on items such as abortion. They don’t call the Democratic Party the “Big Tent” for nothing. On the other hand, in light of the pressures being put on abortion by state legislatures, abortion is probably at its most fragile state in 25 years. As I see it, abortion is a vital women’s health right, and therefore is a civil right. I don’t personally like abortion…quite frankly, I don’t know many people that do. And if people are personally opposed to it, I see nothing wrong with that. But to want to restrict that right by law is to restrict the rights of women…and we’ve been down that road plenty already.
Having said all that, I also understand why the Democratic leadership and Bernie Sanders are navigating the territory as they are. I don’t agree with it, because I’d rather us lose on defending civil rights…but I understand it.
Democrats have been accused of focusing too much on “identity politics”: focusing too much on particular populations, such as blacks, LGBTQ, women, etc. I’ve spoken to officials in the party who tell me it’s important to connect with voters, even if it’s just on a particular issue. While I don’t disagree, I do worry that this could fragment us more than unite us. I’m not all super-concerned about getting “white working-class voters” back into the fold. But I think the Democratic Party platform is a good one, and we need to get people on board with as many parts of it as possible.
(I’ve mentioned the Democratic Party platform before…read it for yourself here.)
Conventional wisdom says that Democrats and Republicans fight for 20% of the electorate, because 40% are already voting for Democrats and 40% are already for the GOP. I don’t know how true that actually is, but the record seems to support said wisdom. I’ve always thought the GOP to be more rigid in their party line than the Democrats, though 1) I am a Democrat and potentially biased, 2) The Tea Party and 3) Donald Trump. However, we see from supporters of Bernie Sanders a potential new rigidity forming. You don’t hear a lot about it in the media, but you do see the folks active on social media. How serious are they? It’s hard to say…Bernie is still working with the Democrats, soooo…*shrugs*
Coming up in my next piece–what could be my pièce de résistance!–I’m gonna try and tie all this together…maybe…