A few week’s ago on the podcast Benedict and I discussed Tim Farron resigning as the leader of the Liberal Democrat party in the UK because he couldn’t square his Christian beliefs with being the leader of a progressive party. At the time, Benedict asked me if people who hold decidedly non-progressive views should be allowed to serve in leadership of a progressive party, and that was honestly a difficult question for me to answer. My pragmatic side fought with my moral side in trying to figure out what I even thought about that question.
In the end, I came down believing that someone who holds beliefs opposed to the key platform of a party shouldn’t be excluded from party membership, but probably shouldn’t be in the leadership of the party. We want to retain people as supporters even if there are key areas of disagreement, but we want those we look up to portraying the ideals and values that the majority of the party holds.
In the last few days, this issue came closer to home after the head of the DCCC proposed funding candidates that don’t support abortion rights. His argument? That Democrats need sweeping wins, including in red districts, where there is little liberal base. Again I am conflicted, I am a staunchly pro-choice Democrat, who also has a background in political science and firmly believes that politics is the art of the possible not the perfect.
To start with, there is a very good case to be made that in many districts, a liberal Democrat doesn’t stand a chance in an election, and that abortion is an issue very important to many single issue voters who may otherwise vote Democrat. We could, potentially, by running candidates that are closer to their ideals, pull away some independent or Republican voters.
On the other hand, we would run the risk of watering down our moral standing, and even possibly losing some Democratic voters who feel that ideological “purity” is important. A woman’s right to choose sits on a precarious precipice in this country right now, and we do not want to risk doing anything that could tip that issue in the wrong direction.
Also weighing in on my decision is the fact that we live in a reliably 2 party country, and believe me, that isn’t changing any time soon. Suffice it to say that the reason we have two functional parties in the U.S. and will for the foreseeable future) lies in our system of representation and using first past the post voting. (Watch this YouTube video for a simple explanation) Because we really only have two functional parties, and most Democrats are heavily opposed to a wide number of Republican ideas, I do not believe there is a real risk of losing Democrat voters to this ideological flight.
But in the end, my decision rests on the idea that Women’s freedom is too important to gamble on a ploy at gaining more elected positions. Putting in place anti-abortion Democrats could upset the delicate balance we are currently stuck with. We should instead dedicate our time to persuading the other side that we provide the better plan for the future. Many people I talk to are cynical about our chances of actually changing minds in the current political climate, but I still hold out hope, and we can clearly see that the younger generations lean decidedly to the left, and as more of them reach voting age, the electorate should tip in our favor.
That isn’t to say that we should alienate pro-life Democrats, we still share much in common with them, but they likely have deeply personal reasons for their beliefs and even if I strongly disagree, I see the value of working with those I have differences with to achieve other similar goals.