BOSTON — As delegates gathered at Boston’s Fleet Center on Monday, a smaller group of loyal Democrats met a few blocks away at the state capitol to mull over the party’s future — and their role in it.
Democrats for Life of America, Inc., a pro-life group, had hoped to have one of their own speak at the convention this year. Instead, they were given the brush-off.
They were clearly disappointed. But they’ve come to expect that kind of treatment ever since the late Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey was blocked from giving a pro-life speech in 1992. For all its rhetoric about inclusiveness, the party shuns its own pro-life wing.
And yet these pro-life Democrats say they’re not going anywhere. Former Boston mayor and ambassador to the Vatican Raymond Flynn said they would save the party’s soul — and perhaps it’s life as well.
“The people here in the Fleet Center are not bad people. They just want to win elections,” he told the group, which included Eunice Shriver and Bob Casey Jr.
“We just need to prove to them that Democrats can win as pro-lifers.”
A long time ago, Democrats did.
In the 95th Congress (1977-8), the Democrats had a 292-seat majority that included 125 pro-life Democrats. To many Democrats, the pro-life stance it seemed a natural fit with the party’s self-image as defender of the little guy.
That changed in the 1980s when the party became pro-choice. “Reagan Democrats” now had one more reason to join the other side. They did and soon the party’s pro-life wing began to shrink.
Today, in the 108th, the Democrats have 206 seats and about 30 pro-life Democrats. To pro-life Democrats it is not a coincidence that the party’s loss of its majority status coincided with the disappearance of their fellow pro-lifers.
The remaining pro-lifers have tried to make this point to party leadership, with little apparent success. They argue that if the party would only compete for pro-life votes rather than giving them up to the Republicans it could make inroads into “Red” Bush states.
Democrats could even make inroads to the youth vote that way.
MTV’s Rock the Vote released a poll Monday that found that 41% of first-time voters, an overwhelming plurality, think abortion should be legal only “in the most extreme cases.”
Another 13% want it outlawed entirely. Overall 54% of first-time voters lean pro-life.
“It’s more bad news for the pro-choice movement,” said Hans Riemer, Rock the Vote’s political director.
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