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Democrats debate how big a tent the party should have

Several top democrats have said that abortion issues should not be a litmus test for democratic candidates.
Several top democrats have said that abortion issues should not be a litmus test for democratic candidates.
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After losing both the White House and Congress in the 2016 election, the Democratic Party is working to rebuild and reunify itself before the 2018 midterms, where many see opportunities for Democrats to snatch districts that might typically vote Republican but are unhappy with their representatives’ support of the current administration.

But recently, different wings of the party have found themselves at odds over an issue you might not expect to be divisive.

Recently, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised eyebrows among some party colleagues when he said that the party would not withhold campaign money from candidates who are against or have personal or moral reservations about abortion. Former Vice President Joe Biden, for example, said in the 2012 vice presidential debate that he believed life begins at conception but refused to force that view on someone else through government rule. Others, like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and California Governor Jerry Brown, have said that they are strongly in favor of a woman’s right to choose but feel there is room in the party for those who may feel differently. Abortion rights activists have come back and argued that Democrats should not be abandoning one of its core values just to win some extra seats in Congress.

The debate raises a larger question about how big an ideological and philosophical tent Democrats are willing to put up. The issue is a difficult one, pitting inclusion of all wings of the party for the greater good, even if they may disagree with a core value or two, versus the view that some policy positions just can't be compromised. The debate has come up in another issue within the Democratic Party: single-payer health insurance.

Do you think Democrats should help fund candidates who are pro-life or do you see this as abandoning party values for the sake of winning? Is there room for pro-life Democrats within the party? Political parties need flexibility, but do you think there are some issues that are or should be non-negotiable? How would pro-life Democrats from the past fit into today’s party?


Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America

Ed Espinoza, director of Progress Texas, a political communications firm based in Austin, Texas; he's the former Western States Director for the Democratic National Committee and a superdelegate in 2008