Democrats for Life of America gather ’round a message: ‘We want our party …

Anti-abortion activists rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19, 2018, during the annual March for Life. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(RNS) — In a political era dominated by growing wealth inequality, resurgent white supremacy and the Party of Lincoln reduced to presidential Twitter farce, a reasonable person might ask: Where are the Democrats?

Sidelined in Congress and decimated in statehouses, today’s Democrats have lost the winning touch that gave us the New Deal, the Great Society and four decades of uninterrupted control of the House of Representatives. To get it back, they might do well to note what’s happening in Denver this weekend (July 20-22) as Democrats for Life of America convenes for what’s planned to be an annual conference.

It wouldn’t hurt Dems to make room for faith language once again. The party’s unlikely coalition of Southern Protestants, white “ethnic Catholics” and Jews has given way to a secular-led party that cannot speak the language of faith sincerely and is skeptical of religious beliefs, especially when held by white people.

And while there are many explanations for political behavior and party realignment, the parties’ elevation of abortion politics and ever more constrained and extreme views goes a long way toward understanding why the party of workers, civil rights and the common man struggles so mightily to win elections.

Democrats for Life of America has a simple message: “We want our party back.” A small but determined band of happy warriors, pro-life Democrats are some of the most interesting figures in American politics. Their continued existence in spite of marginalization by the party poses serious questions that the American political system cannot ignore.

Some of the organizers and speakers at the Democrats for Life event have, despite devoting significant portions of their careers to the party, received nothing but scorn from Democratic elites.

They advocate for what Roman Catholics and other religious people call a “consistent pro-life ethic,” emphasizing not only opposition to abortion but also support for social spending, family-friendly immigration policies and robust government guarantees of equity and access in health care and education.

In other words, the Republican Party would shun them even more.

Once tolerated, pro-life Democrats have been mostly ostracized by the Democratic Party for a generation now. What makes them interesting is that they are a massive group. The DFLA can credibly claim to speak for some 21 million people, a huge slice of the Democratic electorate.

Some of the speakers for the Democrats for Life of America conference in Denver. Screenshot

In a 2014 report sorting Americans into various political typologies, the Pew Research Center noted the “Faith and Family Left”  — some 15 percent of the U.S. population who are likelier than the general public to say that religion is important to them and that the government should do more to help the needy. As Americans become more liberal on social issues, abortion remains the exception to that trend.

And while the abortion-rights debate, like most political matters, is fundamentally about questions of law and public opinion, abortion is considered by many (though not all) to be a uniquely religious issue, and one that moral perspectives heavily inform.

There is a subset of religious Americans whose faith affirms every plank of the Democratic Party platform, but this group is vanishingly small, as some of its progressive disciples opt out of religion altogether.

But most Americans who profess a faith find that their religious commitments cut across the two parties. Democrats of faith must contend with their party’s affirmation of the sexual revolution, while religious Republicans are badly out of sync with mainstream Christian ethics on, well, almost everything else from economics and social spending to immigration and the environment.

Anyone who proclaims a consistent life ethic by opposing war, capital punishment and abortion while affirming migration, health care and social spending is going to be politically homeless in America. Both parties actively undermine your values daily. And independent candidates, while helping break the two-party duopoly, seldom campaign on the “seamless garment of life.”

Democrats forget that Rep. Nancy Pelosi was propelled to the House speakership in 2007 by the votes of moderate Democrats without whom the party could never dominate national politics.

And the great irony is that abortion-rights supporters make the most progress when there are more Democrats in elected office, even if the margin is grown by adding pro-life Democrats.

But the Democrats have decided that they would rather be pure and right than win. That’s why the party has adopted ever more extreme abortion planks, moving from “Safe, legal and rare” to something more akin to “On demand, without apology and at public expense if needed.”

Of all the Pew types, the Faith and Family Left is one of the lowest-income and least-educated. It also has the highest share of African-Americans, Hispanics and foreign-born, according to Pew.

The Democratic Party can safely assume that most pro-life Democrats will never leave. On other issues, they are the ones who need the party the most. Thus they can be taken for granted as long as our two-party system holds onto its polarized grip on American hearts and politics.

But until better political options emerge through electoral reforms, new competition and structural changes, the Democrats for Life of America remains one of the most maligned yet potentially consequential groups on the political scene. Unlike tortured religious Republicans who know in their hearts that politics have warped their faith, pro-life Democrats stand tall with an enviable, almost infectious, integrity and hope.

National Democratic leaders will happily ignore their own basket-of-deplorables gathering in Denver this weekend. That’s a shame. But with enemies like these, who needs friends?

(Jacob Lupfer, a frequent commentator on religion and politics, is a writer and consultant in Baltimore. His website is www.jacoblupfer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jlupf. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)

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  • It wouldn’t hurt Dems to make room for faith language once again.

    Which for this author obviously means having the official Democratic Party Platform change its wording to mimic the Republican Party’s absolutist position against any kind of abortion under any circumstance. Not gonna happen.

    National Democratic leaders will happily ignore their own basket-of-deplorables gathering in Denver this weekend. That’s a shame. But with enemies like these, who needs friends?

    Democrats for Life are still Democrats who more than likely voted for Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, which makes them, by definition, not deplorables in the manner Hillary Clinton used that term that since she was clearly referring specifically to Trump voters. Ergo, argument fail.

  • He suggested that the Democratic National Committee remove the excommunication that began with the refusal at the 1992 Democratic National Convention to give Bob Casey, Sr., a speaking slot for a minority plank.

    That led to his comments in a series of news conferences the party was censoring his pro-life views even though he agreed with the party on nearly all other issues.

    And after a speech by another pro-choice supporter from Pennsylvania, DNC supporters actually sent a camera crew in search of Casey to humiliate him.


    “Not gonna happen.” looks like whistling in the graveyard.

  • Hey RNS! Just wondering if you have any middle to right-leaning writers at your publication; or just left wing ideologues?

  • They let right wing bigots like Tony Perkins and Franklin Graham post here all the time. Jacob Lupfer is one of you guys.

    So buzz off.

  • I read the first paragraph and rolled my eyes – I don’t think I’ve read one article here in 6 months that wasn’t trashing trump, white guys, the church or America in general.
    I’ve got a full time job, I can’t always monitor these articles for accuracy; much less refute the constant DNC talking points spouted by the Godzilla-looking gentleman.

  • “faith language?”

    Don’t you think you should go beyond language? How about some action?

    The GOP is top heavy with fake Christians. All they have is “faith language.” They are the most unchristlike people you will ever find anywhere.

    BTW . . . Jesus Christ is and always has been a liberal.

  • To the pro-life Democrats my comment is: This isn’t YOUR party. Turning the party into the lost Republican party will never work.

    I agree that the Democratic party needs to be revitalized, too many of the leaders have lost touch with the “real” world, and the “real” needs and issues of the majority of the American people.

    The focus needs to be on “WE the people, in order to form a more perfect Union.” This means finding the middle ground that respects the rights and freedoms of ALL people, not just of the elite, or the ones that have the “right” religious affiliation, or have the money to pay for campaigns…..

  • When the right to abortion is a moral issue on both sides, can compromise be possible? One side sees a woman’s right to be sovereign over her own body as a moral human right. The other side sees morality as the fetus being sovereign in its clams on the woman’s body,

  • And therein lies the rub. The problem is, the loudest voices on the right (I’m talking about the Catholic Church) have a long history of not being exactly certain when life officially begins. Until the late 19th century, 1869 to be exact, the Catholic Church held a diversity of opinion on that subject – even the likes of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas believed in what they called “delayed ensoulment” because they believed that the fetus in its earliest stages was not developed enough to contain the soul. What I want to know is, where’s the proof that today’s Catholics are right and Thomas Aquinas was wrong? How do you prove when a soul enters a body? The answer is, you don’t. It’s all taken on faith – someone else’s faith.

  • Well, both parties need to step away from the extremes and make room for those who want to work on addressing the problem in a way that weaves itself through the extremes.

    In other words, yes, the Dems need to make room for anti-abortion people but the focus needs to be on how to reduce the incidence of abortion first through reducing unplanned pregnancies and then through actions that improve a woman’s emotional and financial ability to bear and raise another child. If you want to insist a woman bear a child are you willing to pay the health care costs during pregnancy, pay for the birth, help the woman through the pregnancy and then find a job or get back into school?

    Reducing unplanned pregnancies means that women have access to effective contraceptives through government programs or health insurance. Oh, and that includes health insurance of so-called religious employers, whether Hobby Lobby or the Roman Catholic Church.

    I think many Dems and Pubs are ready for some reasonable solution to limiting abortions after fetal viability – after 20 weeks???. Many European countries do this. But we need to be careful about assuring women can get abortions anytime when their health is threatened or when there is a devastating developmental abnormality. What is a devastating developmental abnormality? Don’t know – needs discussion but if you want to insist a woman bear a child with an identified abnormality, you should be willing to help pay for the care of that child, the health care costs, any special needs, special schooling, housing and care for the child’s entire life.

    Both sides need to compromise, find a place to begin to actually address the problems and stop with the stone throwing. The extremes of either/or aren’t getting us anywhere.

  • I’m an independent but I’d love to see both parties get reined in more toward the sensible center. The way it is now, moderates can’t get nominated in either party and general elections have devolved into bitch-slap sessions..

    On the national level, I’d love to see us get away for a while from morality politics and just concentrate on keeping the trains moving. Sadly, I don’t see that happening. Righteous indignation sells and politicians of both parties know how to exploit it.

  • So, after recognizing the problem–wealth inequality, pushbacks against all forms of the New Deal and the Great Society–this group immediately leaps to the wrong answer: “We need more religion!”

    Uhh, no. We need more focus on the working class and labor, formerly the base of the Democratic Party and now largely ignored by most DNC platforms. Yes, Trump is a bigot–but he’s a RICH bigot, and the Republicans in Congress are working hard to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor, business as usual. Too often, the Democratic response has been “Economics? Well, err, uhhh… hey, look over there! Transgender bathrooms!”

    Splitting off yet another identity-politics faction, this time grounded in religious differences, is not the best way to rebuild a Democratic coalition.

  • You’re correct. The vast majority of Americans, most polls show, favor a middle-ground position on abortion. Yet the two major parties have chosen to stake out absolutist arguments.

  • In politics, compromise must always be possible. Refusal to compromise is not a civic virtue.

  • There’s nothing left-leaning about criticizing Trump; he’s objectively awful on multiple fronts. If some far-right evangelicals weren’t glued to him as hard as Trump is to Putin’s butt, they’d recognize his blunders, corruption, and lies just as easily as the entire world does.

  • Loving your Mexican heritage = Normal and Healthy
    Loving your Jewish Heritage = Normal and Healthy
    Loving your White Heritage = White Supremacism; racist, n.azi hater who wants to kill 8 gazillion jews.

  • It wasn’t the trump part.
    Trump has issues – no doubt; but I like what he has done.
    He had a bad week – let’s move on to his next scandal as laid out by the MSM.

  • i greatly appreciate–and appreciate the irony of–Bob giving a link to the nat hentoff’s notice of casey’s death . casey was a multi faceted leader and was a liberal democrat of the old school . people of that ilk are much needed today .

    Bob, however, wants to comment on the democratic party and suggest that it is a one issue party . without noting that the republican party is even more in the harness of one issue people . where are the republicans, parallel to these anti abortion democrats, protesting the anti-life-after-birth policies of the trump administration ? some exist, but seem without direction or organization .

    and i doubt deeply that Bob would ever note them as what the republicans need .

  • sell your comment to some farmers who needs a lot of fertilizer for their fields .

    the people who are called out as white supremacists are people who talk white supremacist ideas . i loudly and proudly express my irish-american background and have never been called a racist or anything else . that is because i state what i am and don’t slur or make up things about others .

  • These Dems should have long ago proposed a political “grand bargain” in the form of “we will trade you conservatives the abortion issue for no high-end tax cuts”. They didn’t have enough sense to do that and would not have succeeded anyway, but they might have learned what “pro-life” is about and what it is used for. Too late now. The Dems have lost everything they stood for and will not be getting most of it back ever.

  • What is your definition of “Supremacy”?
    The media likes to blur the lines between “Nationalist” and “Supremacist”.
    What is your definition of ‘supremacist’?

  • many, even Catholics, hold that human rather than biological life begins with the appearance of brain waves. And that death occurs with the disappearance of brain waves.

  • Religion often believes that civic virture exists onlty when government conforms to its beliefs.

  • It was doing quite well until the Reaganauts kicked off a campaign to dismantle it. Or would you rather we didn’t have desegregation, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, National Endowment for the Arts, NHTSA traffic safety, public broadcasting, etc., etc.?

  • What white heritage? Whites have many erhnic heritages. Only in certain parts the United States do people think there’s such a thing as an all encompassing heitage. You cite Jewish heritage as considered legit. Well, Jews are almost all white in the US. Irish pride, Italian Pride, Texas Pride, etc, etc,. is unapologetically celebrated. Ethnic or local heritage is not based on an us against them mentality.. So called white pride is. Ethnic and local pride allows for mixed race inclusion. In Ireland there have been black Miss Irelands because the person was Afro-Hibernian. Black pride is something a small, excluded minority uses to foster the desire for achievement and universal social justice. Is that a theme for white pride?

  • your previous comment was “read more” . i would like to, but your profile is marked “DEAL WITH IT / this user’s activity is private” . why am i not surprised ?

    mine is not . if you want more information about me, you can find 3700 comments open and available for your enjoyment .

    when you open yours, i will spend the time to answer specific questions about my opinions .

  • You should probably just come out and admit to all of us you are posting from a Russian gulag.

  • Yup. Because whereas those other groups are historically oppressed out groups White Christians were the ones usually doing the oppression.

    “White Pride” = A desire to attack others on the basis of race.

  • So you missed the ones where the right wing bigots were proclaiming their desire for discrimination under color of law or supporting gulags for children.

    We have traded comments on those articles. Your memory is selective.

  • Mine was public as well until someone hacked my account and tried ‘doxing’ me.
    “Supremacist” is a far cry from a “Nationalist.” 9 out of 10 people the media portrays as ‘supremacists’ are simply Nationalists.
    David Duke is a prime example.
    I live in the heart of the American ReDoubt. I have yet to met a White man or woman who wishes to rule over non-white peoples. They simply love their Heritage; are proud of their Heritage and enjoy fellowship with their own. This is not Supremacist. This is simply “Nationalism”.
    Asia for the Asians; Africa for the Africans……….White Nations are open for Everyone! This is Genocide.
    If you are a White man, I would encourage you to read “Coudenhave-Kalergi Plan for White Genocide” by the Occidental Observer.
    Read Amren articles on a daily basis as well.
    Good day.

  • Noel Ignatiev is a Jew. He wants to genocide the White race. Does that make any sense that he would want to ‘genocide’ his own race? NO.
    If you are Theologically minded — Read — “Who is Esau-Edom” by Charles Weisman.

  • Again, haven’t heard of gulags. I’m all for securing border.
    Can’t have a country without a border.

  • Yes, yes, yes, yes, maybe, and no to the rest.
    Actually it was a lost cause when the unions and stateists thought they knew better.

  • ” I have yet to met a White man or woman who wishes to rule over non-white peoples.”

    They prefer murdering them instead. Thanks for clearing that up for up.


    In fact people like yourself comprise the most common domestic terrorists in the nation.

    How about this, instead of trying to ruin the Central/Pacific Northwest, why don’t you go to a real White Supremacist paradise, Russia. I am sure people here will take up the collection plate for your trip.

    Because lets face it, America’s true heart is in ridding the world of Nazis. Not making them feel at home.



  • Exactly what I was going to say. If we use that as the standard, something based on solid science, then people like Elagabalus won’t have to worry that they will be forced to take anything on someone else’s faith.

  • Refusal to compromise is at times a requirement.

    “All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take.” – Mahatma Gandhi

  • You’ve had this corrected enough times there are no excuses left.

    Augustine and Thomas had personal opinions independent of their church.

    At no time, ever, in the entire history of Christianity did any church couple the complete immorality of abortion with something called “ensoulment”.

    At no time, ever, did the Catholic Church make a magisterial statement on “ensoulment”.

    This obfuscating cr-p, this nonsense, adds zero to a conversation.

    The science is that life begins at conception. Period.

  • We’re in more or less the same situation we were prior to the Civil War.

    You can’t compromise on fundamentals like slavery.

    Oddly in both situations, in the Dred Scott decision and Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ended the political process and set the stage for the coming battle.

  • Ah, your “compromise will solve it” uber solution for every ailment.

    Roe v. Wade was supposed to do that: open season for the first trimester, some issues in the second trimester, and provision for outright bans in the third trimester.

    That worked out swimmingly, didn’t it?

    Here’s the drill: if you believe that life begins at conception, “limiting abortions after fetal viability – after 20 weeks” is like saying “only the particularly dark negroes will be slaves”.

    If you believe abortion is a fundamental human right, “limiting abortions after fetal viability – after 20 weeks” is like saying “shut your mouth, slave, and get back there picking cotton”.

    In either case it will be right back in court.

    The compromise possibilities pretty much concluded when Harry “Smartest Man in the Room” Blackmun concocted Roe v. Wade.

    No, now we’re going to have to settle this the hard way with a constitutional amendment.

  • And yet the Democratic Party has completely shut out their own Pro-Life Democrats. Period.

  • I’ve got a great compromise right here: if you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one. Problem solved.

  • You can be pro-life all you want. Criminalizing abortion however is a wrongheaded policy.

  • Bob, whatever excuses you wanted to make in support of the neo nazi was probably amusingly stupid. But I have you blocked because I don’t need to read it.

  • White genocide = declaration a neo Nazi is an incel who is incapable of the social graces needed to make.

    Sorta makes you wonder how these guys never manage to connect the dots of “I’m a slobbering racist misogynist who screams about women needing to shut up and get back into the kitchen” and “hey, I wonder why women don’t like me?” and “I need a woman if I’m going to make a white baby”.

    (Side note, these are also the same guys who are always yapping about the ‘survival of the fittest’, seeming utterly disinterested in the fact that they’re removing themselves from the mating pool….)

  • Not a chance, Democrats are firmly tied to the death cult that modern feminism has become, and can’t give it up. They had a chance with Bill Clinton to again become the Democrats of FDR and Truman, but threw it away for identity politics that not just ignored but attacked a big chunk of their base. Or rather former base.

  • If by liberal you mean “inclusive,” you’re mistaken. Many New Testament verses attest to the fact that Jesus (or the Messiah) was strictly for the Jews. Christianity has been built on Paul’s web of lies that Jesus came for gentiles.