President Donald Trump likes to say he’s going to win so much, you’ll get tired of winning. Maybe Democrats have taken the president too literally.
The Democratic Attorneys General Association is leading the charge to excise all abortion moderates from the good graces of the party. It announced it will not endorse or assist any candidates who do not support unfettered abortion access.
While state AGs may not seem incredibly relevant, they are an important stepping stone toward governors’ mansions in many states. So, considering the Democrats’ weak bench for plausible candidates in red states, the decision not to compete for attorney general is significant. That is what national Democrats are doing by supporting only abortion absolutists in pro-life states — they are deciding not to compete.
Would it bother me if no other Democrat were elected governor in a red state for the next decade? Not particularly. But it should bother Democrats. And it should bother Democratic Party bosses. And it should really bother the campaign committee whose entire reason for existence is to get Democrats elected.
National Democrats are only hurting themselves by setting nationwide purity tests on issues about which a majority of voters disagree with them. It appears as if Democrats are indeed tired of winning.
Consider this state-level purity test in light of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ recent reelection. In a time of increasing state polarization, it should have been a huge victory for the Democrats to retain the governor’s mansion in ruby-red Louisiana. But it wasn’t the Democratic Party that ultimately secured Edwards’ reelection.
What makes Edwards different from the sea of losing Democratic nominees in a myriad of red states? It doesn’t take a political scientist to figure it out. He won on the strength of his abortion position.
Edwards was running against a well-funded, if somewhat uninspiring, Republican challenger. Edwards won a tough race, exceeding expectations and clearly illustrating how a Democrat can win in a challenging atmosphere. And he did so by defying what is now the litmus test of another official organ of his party.
Edwards is pro-life. Proudly pro-life. Super pro-life. And he made sure every voter in Louisiana knew it. Edwards has been one of America’s most pro-life governors — notably signing the “heartbeat bill” to protect human life from the moment a baby’s heartbeat can be medically detected. Edwards has also enthusiastically defended his state’s commonsense emergency transfer law, a 2014 patient protection law sponsored by another Louisiana Democrat, state Rep. Katrina Jackson. The U.S. Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of this patient protection law this spring.
Edwards won because he was pro-life — particularly by distancing himself from the national Democratic infanticide crowd. Edwards gave voters the space to cast their ballot for him because they trusted both candidates were solid on the human right-to-life issue. While voters in Louisiana overwhelmingly oppose abortion, many are undoubtedly passionate about Democratic-priority issues, such as criminal justice reform or expanding Medicaid, but too many Democrats have refused to give themselves the chance to earn those votes because of their extreme position on abortion.
In short, Edwards is a shining example of a relatively progressive, pro-life Democrat with a battle-tested record of winning in Trump country. One would think Democrats may be interested in replicating Edwards’ winning strategy. If Trump is as vulnerable as many in the media believe, Democrats should be finding moderates on the life issue to run for statewide office, from Montgomery to Little Rock and from Jackson to Boise.
But despite what university professors might believe, politics is not a science, and political leadership rarely acts rationally. Instead of focusing on their impressive winning records, national Democrats are continuing in their attempt to purge pro-life Democrats from the party.
No longer can local candidates appeal to their constituencies. Instead all must wear the pink hats and cheer as the Empire State Building is lit up pink to celebrate the destruction of human life, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo did after New York made it lawful to end human life throughout pregnancy for any reason.
These extreme positions are not only costing Democrats elections they need to win if they want to be a competitive party, but they’re also deeply out of step with American attitudes on abortion, as an Americans United for Life/YouGov poll underscored earlier this year, showing that self-identified pro-choice Americans overwhelmingly oppose New York-style abortion extremism.
Victory or purity? This is the question facing American voters in 2020 as they consider their options. When it comes to earning the votes of millions of moderate Americans, Democrats are apparently tired of winning.