As the party tries to win back its majority in Congress, pro-life Democrats are apparently welcome to run and won’t be denied campaign funding assistance. The chairman of the Democratic campaign committee told The Hill Monday that no party “litmus test” exists to demonstrate ideological suitability to run in the 2018 midterm elections.
“There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates,” New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Luján told The Hill. “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 decision is not without controversy as the party could anger social liberals who consider “reproductive rights” a core Democrat value and human right. They also compose a large portion of the party’s grassroots activists who volunteer and work to elect Democratic candidates.
Dissent is already growing. “Throwing weight behind anti-choice candidates is bad politics that will lead to worse policy,” Mitchell Stille, campaign manager for NARAL Pro-Choice America, told The Hill. “The idea that jettisoning this issue wins elections for Democrats is folly contradicted by all available data.”
Luján is electing to broaden the selection of potential Democratic candidates as he targets dozens of constituencies now held by Republicans.
“To pick up 24 [seats] and get to 218, that is the job. We’ll need a broad coalition to get that done,” Luján said. “We are going to need all of that, we have to be a big family in order to win the House back.”
The big tent paradigm is an idea shared by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, who have both suggested the Democratic Party can support pro-abortion policies but tolerate pro-life candidates. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders is also in agreement with that position.
There is some historical precedent for today’s outreach to pro-lifers. In the 2006 midterm elections, some Democratic candidates differed with the official party policy on abortion. That was also the year when the party last secured control of the House.
The debate over whether Democrats can be pro-life has raged over the past few months — Heath Mello, who is pro-life and running to be mayor of Omaha, has received the support of DNC chair Tom Perez and Sanders.
According to Perez, it is all part of an electoral strategy “to help Democrats who have garnered support from voters in their community cross the finish line and win.” Yet within a few days Perez was describing his party’s commitment to abortion as “non-negotiable.”