To Win the House, Democrats Should Bring Back the Big Tent

A decade ago I was fortunate enough to watch my US Senator accept the nomination of our party in our hometown. John Kerry reported for duty at the Boston Garden, and I enjoyed almost every minute of my first national convention.

I say almost every moment because it was at that convention when the party took a step backwards on abortion. The previous platform supported abortion, but added that “the Democratic Party is a party of inclusion. We respect the individual conscience of each American on this difficult issue, and we welcome all our members to participate at every level of our party.”

That language was cut in 2004, and we all know how that election turned out. Kerry lost, the Republicans increased their majority in Congress, and we headed off towards the financial collapse and the Great Recession.

Today my party has a 30 vote deficit in the House, and it doesn’t look like we will be taking it back anytime soon. This is attributable to any number of reasons, not the least of which being gerrymandered districts, but imagine how many seats would be competitive again if we really opened up the Party to pro-life Democrats. How many seats could we win back if we invited, encouraged, and supported pro-life Democrats as they ran for office?

It’s worked before. Despite being a Democratic-leaning state, Pennsylvania voters elected Rick Santorum to the Senate twice, largely because of the abortion issue. When a pro-life Democrat came along in the person of Bob Casey, he trounced the incumbent by a 59–41% margin. There are plenty of other states and districts where we could see similar results.

The party is not going to switch its position on this issue tomorrow, as much as we would all like it to. By electing a Democratic majority that includes pro-life members, however, we can help make sure that when women face unexpected pregnancies that they have the support they need not only to carry the baby to term, but then also to either raise it or to put the child up for adoption.

Not only would this be good politics, it would be great policy as well. The party could gain back pro-life voters, all the while making sure that every parent has the resources needed to raise healthy, vibrant, successful children. That is a goal everyone should be able to get behind.

The night before then-Senator Kerry accepted our nomination, a large group of pro-life Democrats gathered a short walk away under the golden dome of the Massachusetts State House. Nothing would please me more than to see another us all welcomed at the next convention not down the street, but under the big tent of the Democratic Party.