Some state Democratic officials are furious over their party’s adoption of a new platform that includes a provision welcoming “a diversity of views” on abortion.
The new platform, approved last Saturday, contains an amendment that reads: “We respect the conscience of each Missourian and recognize that members of our party have deeply held and sometimes differing positions on issues of personal conscience, such as abortion. We recognize the diversity of views as a source of strength, and welcome into our ranks all Missourians who may hold differing positions on this issue.”
The abortion amendment set off a wave of protest among the pro-choice elements of the party who derided it as a slap in the face to women. Some critics, feeling betrayed, pledged to no longer give resources to the party, according to a story in the Riverfront Times.
A little background. The amendment was introduced by Joan Barry, a former obstetrics nurse and state representative from St. Louis County. Barry, who is pro-life, said the Democratic Party has plenty of pro-life members and could be more successful at the ballot box if more voters realized it. She said that pro-life Democrats are tired of being treated like second-class citizens in their own party.
That didn’t sit well with some of Barry’s fellow Democrats. “I would rather lose an election than have pro-life Democrats,” one of her party members is reported to have shouted at the state committee meeting.
Losing elections is something Democrats have gotten used to in Missouri. Outside of the major urban centers, Democrats have lost their swagger. Republicans own rural Missouri.
Our state used to be a bellwether state nationally and solidly Democratic in the state Legislature. It had been that way for decades up until the last 15 years or so. Today, there are GOP supermajorities in both chambers of the state Legislature and President Trump buried Hillary Clinton by 19 percentage points.
As others have noted, no state represents the exodus of once-reliably Democratic voters better than Missouri. White working class voters have left the party in droves. That’s not solely because of the abortion issue, but it is a factor, especially in places like Franklin County with large Catholic populations.
As the Democratic Party has moved further to the left nationally, it has lost support in places like middle Missouri. The reality is that there is no lane for socially conservative Democratic candidates to run in anymore.
But it doesn’t make sense for a party that is already losing traction to freeze out potential members over an issue that is as divisive as abortion. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone more liberal that Sen. Bernie Sanders and even he has argued that “you can’t exclude people who disagree with us on one issue.”
Democratic candidates should be allowed to represent their constituents’ views. That just makes sense. We are glad that the state Democratic Party has taken this position. If Democrats want to regain their luster — especially in outstate Missouri — they need to have a big tent.