Pro-life Democrats

Democrat takes political stand against abortion: Wait a minute, isn't this governor a Catholic?

Democrat takes political stand against abortion: Wait a minute, isn't this governor a Catholic?

Let’s start here: Is it news when Democrats who are, to one degree or another, Catholic take actions that support abortion rights, especially with legislation linked to late-term abortions?

Well, ask Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Pretty soon, we may hear discussions of this issue linked to former Vice President Joe Biden.

So now let’s ask a variation on this question: Is it news when a prominent Democrat who is a Catholic takes actions to limit abortion rights, while openly linking his political views on a variety of progressive “life issues” to the teachings of his faith?

I would say a strong “yes.” Then again, I spent decades attempting to vote as a pro-life Democrat. (Confession: I gave up and registered with a third-party in 2016.)

The political desk at The Washington Post (mildly) agrees, on this point, when covering the current drama unfolding around Gov. John Bel Edwards, down in the complex political state that is Louisiana. The headline: “Louisiana’s Democratic governor just defied his party and signed an abortion ban into law.

How about The New York Times? Hold that thought. First, here is a key passage that is buried pretty far down in the Post coverage. It does contain a crucial word — “Catholic.”

In Louisiana, the nation is seeing some of the last remaining antiabortion Democrats, a class of politician that has grown obscure in recent decades.

Edwards has been a high-profile member of that group since he was elected governor in 2015. Like other antiabortion Democrats, he likes to say he’s “pro-life for the whole life,” because he opposes abortion and supports policies such as Medicaid expansion and a higher minimum wage. In his post-vote statement, he said he believes that “being pro-life means more than just being pro-birth.”

The Army veteran and Catholic has said he traces his long-held views on abortion to his faith — and so do many of his constituents, he said.

“That’s the way I was raised,” Edwards said in an October episode of his monthly radio show. “I know that for many in the national party, on the national scene, that’s not a good fit. But I will tell you, here in Louisiana, I speak and meet with Democrats who are pro-life every single day.”

Yes, it would have been interesting to have heard more about how these “consistent life” Democrats apply their beliefs to political realities linked to immigration, gun control, the death penalty and a host of other “seamless garment” issues discussed in Catholic circles.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Pro-life Democratic cowboy wants to be governor of South Dakota: What's faith got to do with it?

Pro-life Democratic cowboy wants to be governor of South Dakota: What's faith got to do with it?

The New York Times had what was — in many ways — a lovely story this week about a pro-life Democratic cowboy campaigning to be the next governor of South Dakota.

However, the piece fell short in one key area. Since this is GetReligion, think faith.

More on that in a moment. But first a bit of important background: In case you’re not familiar with politics in the conservative-leaning Mount Rushmore State, no Democrat has won the governor’s race in that rural state since 1974.

So if Billie Sutton were to win, it would be a big deal.

On the positive side, the Times story was colorful and full of interesting details. It opens with this vivid scene:

BROOKINGS, S.D. — First came the Republicans, all smiles and matching blue T-shirts as they marched in this college town’s annual Hobo Day homecoming parade. Then the tractor team rolled past, and the dairy club, and the Corn Palace Shriners.

Finally, at the end of the line: the Democrats. Behind as usual.

Farmers and ranchers from this rural state once sent liberal icons like George McGovern to Congress, but these days, Democrats have all but vanished into the plains, a stark example of how far the party has tumbled in rural America. They hold no statewide elected offices in South Dakota. They make up less than 20 percent of the State Legislature. Their numbers are shrinking so fast that they rank below registered independents in a dozen counties.

But on a sunny Saturday, shaking hands and nudging his wheelchair up the parade route, came Billie Sutton, a 34-year-old state senator and onetime rodeo rider who is making a surprisingly competitive run for governor against South Dakota’s four-term Republican congresswoman, Kristi Noem.

Mr. Sutton is running as an anti-abortion conservative Democrat with cowboy cred and a stirring life story. His supporters think he can show Democrats how to start rebuilding the party in socially conservative states where the ag-heavy economy rises and falls with rain cycles and soybean prices.

Good stuff, right?

But as I kept reading, I crossed my fingers. Would the Times go all the way, I wondered, and explain the reasons for Sutton’s opposition to abortion? Would religious beliefs come into play at all?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

She's a Democrat, pro-life and from Missouri. Why can't The New York Times say she's Catholic?

She's a Democrat, pro-life and from Missouri. Why can't The New York Times say she's Catholic?

The New York Times floated a story with an interesting headline on Tuesday: “Is it Possible to be an Anti-Abortion Democrat? One Woman Tried to Find Out.”

It is the story of a 77-year-old politician who, figuring that she didn’t have a whole lot to lose at this point, got a plank added to the state Democratic Party platform that welcomed pro-lifers.

The response wasn’t what she expected.

We (well, mostly tmatt) have written about pro-life Dems before and how they’ve been made homeless in the past two decades. This Times report shows us that nothing’s going to change any time soon.

By the way: There’s a religion ghost in this story and it’s a pretty obvious one.

ST. LOUIS — Joan Barry has been a member of the Missouri Democratic Party for 53 years. As a state legislator, she voted regularly for workers’ rights, health care and programs for the poor.

So when the party began writing a new platform after its crushing losses in 2016, Ms. Barry, a member of its state committee, did not think it was too much to ask for a plank that welcomed people like her — Democrats who oppose abortion.

At first the party agreed and added it. Missouri’s Democratic senator, Claire McCaskill, even called Ms. Barry to praise her.

But within days, Ms. Barry began receiving angry emails and Facebook messages. People called her a dinosaur, a has-been and worse. Her children started to worry.

Missouri, the story added, used to be the nation’s bellwether state. That stopped when President Barack Obama was elected in 2008 and since then, much of the state has drifted to the right. At this point, its Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, is one of the more vulnerable officeholders up for election next month. The video atop this blog post lays out what’s at stake.

Simply put, both political parties are fighting tooth and nail for this Senate seat.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Think piece: Some 'news' about a stunning lack of intellectual diversity in liberal arts, religion faculties

Think piece: Some 'news' about a stunning lack of intellectual diversity in liberal arts, religion faculties

When you think of centers for right-wing thought, you usually don't think of Brooklyn, as in New York City.

However, a Brooklyn College (that's part of CUNY) faculty member -- Mitchell Langbert -- recently posted an academic paper at the National Association of Scholars website with this title: "Homogeneous: The Political Affiliations of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty."

Now, the results of this study are stunning, but not all that surprising. By definition, the contents of this academic paper is "conservative news," even though it's from Brooklyn, which is about as hip-left as a zip code can get. You can tell this is conservative news simply by doing a logical search for this study in Google News. Click here to check that out.

Thus, this weekend's religion-news "think piece" is from a conservative source, as in PJMedia.com. Here's the overture:

There are more than ten Democrats for every one Republican among elite professors at America's top liberal arts colleges, a new study found.

Worse, Democrats outnumber Republicans by 70 to 1 in religion departments, and that wasn't the worst disparity.

Yes, we will return to that religion angle. Hold that thought, and read on:

Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor of business management at Brooklyn College, examined the party affiliations of 8,688 tenure-track, Ph.D.-holding professors at 51 of the top 60 liberal arts colleges in U.S. News and World Report's 2017 rankings, and found that there were 10.4 times as many Democrats as Republicans.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Your weekend think piece: Billy Graham, Jeffrey Bell, Michael Gerson and 'Starbucks' politics

Your weekend think piece: Billy Graham, Jeffrey Bell, Michael Gerson and 'Starbucks' politics

The Rev. Billy Graham worked hard to avoid political questions, at least in public.

But there was one fact about his life that, for decades, he didn't hide. Graham was a registered Democrat.

In other words, the world's most famous evangelist grew up in the old South, pre-Roe vs. Wade, and he didn't grow up rich. Thus, he was a Southern Democrat. Most evangelicals were. Culturally conservative Democrats didn't become an endangered species until quite late in Billy Graham's adult life.

I thought of that fact the day Graham died. I sat down early that morning with an "On Religion" column already finished. All I had left to do was a quick edit and then ship it in. But first, I opened Twitter and there was the news that many religion writers had been expecting for years.

I knew what I was going to write when Graham died, as a sidebar to the major coverage across mainstream media. But I hadn't written it. Thus, I was on a hard deadline for the first time in many years. That column focused on Graham's sermon at civic memorial service for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 (click here to read it).

It was hard not to think about the current state of American politics, and evangelicalism, while writing that column.

But what about the column that I had already written? It ran this week and, amazingly enough, it focuses on some very similar themes -- looking back to the crucial years when the Democratic Party began cutting it's ties to traditional religious groups.

The key figure in this column was Jeffrey Bell, a political strategist who died on Feb. 10. Bell was a Republican, but he also was known for his work to create a presidential campaign for the late Gov. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, an old-school Catholic Democrat who was also vocally pro-life and pro-religious liberty.

Why did Bell think that conservative evangelicals and Catholics needed the option of backing a Democrat? That question is at the heart of this "think piece" collection for this weekend.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Ken Woodward, et al: History behind Democrats losing some key faith ties that bind

Ken Woodward, et al: History behind Democrats losing some key faith ties that bind

It's for a deep, deep dive into my GetReligion folder of guilt, that cyber stash of items that I really planned to write about pronto, but then things (oh, like the post-election mainstream news media meltdown) got in the way.

I remembered this particular item because of my recent posts about NBC News and Politico coverage of challenges facing the Democratic Party, which has gone off a cliff in terms of its fortunes at the level of state legislatures (and governors' mansions) in the American heartland (and other places, too). Of course, Democrats are in trouble in Washington, D.C., as well -- but after some truly agonizing close losses.

To sum up those posts: Both NBC News and The Politico totally ignored the role of religious, moral and cultural issues in the current predicament facing the modern Democrats. That "pew gap"? Never heard of it.

But there are people who are thinking about that issue, such as Emma Green at The Atlantic. Scores of faithful readers let us know about the recent piece there that ran with this headline: "Democrats Have a Religion Problem." It's an interview with conservative evangelical Michael Wear, who served as former director of Barack Obama’s 2012 faith-outreach efforts.

For example: What does Wear think of the modern party's attempts to deal with pro-life Democrats, such as himself? Green states the question this way: "How would you characterize Democrats’ willingness to engage with the moral question of abortion, and why is it that way?"

Wear: There were a lot of things that were surprising about Hillary’s answer [to a question about abortion] in the third debate. She didn’t advance moral reservations she had in the past about abortion. She also made the exact kind of positive moral argument for abortion that women’s groups -- who have been calling on people to tell their abortion stories -- had been demanding.
The Democratic Party used to welcome people who didn’t support abortion into the party. We are now so far from that, it’s insane.

Please respect our Commenting Policy