Does everyone remember that special U.S. House of Representatives election down in suburban Atlanta, the one that Democrats and Republicans poured millions of dollars into as a kind of referendum on President Donald Trump?
The winner, a Catholic conservative named Karen Handel, defeated a young aggressively secular outsider named Jon Ossoff.
That was a pretty big news story, right? And speaking of rather important national news stories, does anyone remember the provocative statement that Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez made a few weeks before that, when he proclaimed:
"Every Democrat, like every American ... should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health. This is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state." In fact, he added, "every candidate who runs as a Democrat" should affirm abortion rights.
So this week's Crossroads podcast (click here to tune that in) started with those two stories and attempted to connect the dots, building off my recent post that ran with this headline: "Who is Karen Handel, winner of that big Georgia race? Surprise! Press ignored a key angle."
The basic question: Would Handel, in a House district that Trump barely won, have been able to win if Democrats had been willing to run a candidate who was an old-fashioned, pro-life, culturally conservative, "Blue Dog" Democrat?
Ah, but would such a candidate be acceptable to the current DNC leadership in the age of Sen. Bernie Sanders and millions and millions of edgy, young, idealistic Democrats -- many of whom, according to researchers, would surely fall under the "Nones" umbrella? You remember the "Nones," as in the rising tide of religiously unaffiliated Americans? That's a big story, too.
So we have a big story linked to another big story linked to yet another big story. So one would assume that a Washington, D.C. meeting between the leaders of the group Democrats for Life with the aforementioned Perez, primarily to discuss the party's willingness to run pro-life candidates in House districts in places like Georgia, would attract quite a bit of news attention.
Right? Maybe? Well look at the Democrats for Life photo at the top of this post, showing reporters gathered to meet with DFL leader Kristen Day. It's not exactly a throng, is it?
So why wasn't this a major news story? After all, one could argue -- as I did in the podcast, building on the views of scholar John C. Green -- that this story was an example of the religious-secular dilemmas facing modern Democrats in an age in which a coalition of Nones, atheists, agnostics, SBNR folks and liberal believers has become the party's largest voter niche.
Well, the folks at Crux covered the meeting. I guess this was a "Catholic" story. The key, it says, is that the "coalition put together by Franklin Roosevelt" of northern liberals, African-American churches, Southern conservatives, Catholics, evangelicals, heartland farmers and urban laborers, has hit the rocks. Thus Democrats have hemorrhaged an "astonishing 1000 legislative seats since 2008."
That sounds like a rather big story, too. It appears that religion -- and moral issues such as abortion -- are crucial. Especially in an age with so many conflicts about religious liberty and other moral-religious issues.
The explanation for this sorry state of affairs is complex, but a big part of it comes from the enforcement of a coastal moral and political orthodoxy that has dramatically shrunk the party in the Midwest and South. This has been particularly true when it comes to abortion policy.
Indeed, when Democrats had a big tent on the most divisive issue of our time, welcoming the one-in-three members of the party who identify as pro-life, it turns out that they actually won majorities. In 2005, for example, then-DNC chair Governor Howard Dean beautifully executed a 50-state strategy in which the party supported pro-life Democrats who could beat Republicans in battleground districts.
This strategy netted, among other things, the seats necessary to pass the Affordable Care Act, the most important piece of Democratic legislation passed in two generations. Let’s be clear about this remarkable and under-reported fact: without pro-life Democrats, the legislation that has forever changed how American culture thinks about its duty to the most vulnerable would not have passed.
In 2009, however, the 50-state strategy went away, replaced with the simplistic abortion orthodoxy of coastal elites.
So what happened in the meeting with Perez?
Those interested in the future of the Democratic Party can be thankful that someone at The Atlantic was willing to talk with Kristen Day afterwards. Note that the was willing to share a list of her group's negotiating points. Did the Associated Press and other media outlets refuse to take her call?
Day said that members of her organization as well as other Democrats who identify as pro-life, including Democratic congressman Daniel Lipinski of Illinois and other current and former elected officials, attended the meeting, which takes place as the party is struggling to win back power in Washington.
Democrats for Life of America delivered a list of requests to Perez that the group wants the DNC to fulfill in order to reach out to, and welcome, more pro-life Democrats into the party, according to Day.
A copy of the list shared with The Atlantic calls for “a public statement on the Democratic National Committee website and a letter from the chairman to all state and local party chairs explaining that the party does not support an abortion litmus test and pressuring people to change their position on life” as one in a series of actions the pro-life group wants to see from the DNC. The group also wants the party to drop the section of its platform opposing the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding of abortion in most circumstances.
Clearly this was not an important news story, which is strange since this meeting was the next development in several other stories that received major attention.
What's going on here?