by J. P. Richardson
When the United States Senate on April 22 voted 99-0 to pass the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, the senators boldly broke through the stopped-traffic gridlock of senatorial intransigence, showing the country what our two-party system can accomplish when everyone aims for the common good above partisan interests. A long time had passed since Democrats and Republicans voted unanimously on a bill that includes language about abortion. Maybe this is a first, in fact. If not a first, the first was so long ago that we don’t remember it.
Every citizen ought to remember this one. Win-win-win-win. Victims of human trafficking win, first and foremost, because the bill would provide help, both immediate and long-term, that victims desperately need. Right-to-lifers win because the language of the Hyde Amendment, which has prevented federal funding of abortion for many years, is preserved in the bill. Democrats win because Republicans agreed to vote to confirm President Obama’s nominee for attorney general, Loretta Lynch. And, last but not least, babies not yet born who might have been aborted win their rightful opportunity to keep living their natural lives.
We at Democrats for Life of America wish to thank the 99% of the U.S. Senate who voted for this bill – the Senate Democrats, in particular – for looking out for the most vulnerable, the most helpless, the weakest, the most in need of protection and care from the rest of us. “Looking out for the little guy,” and “the strong protecting the weak,” and finding “strength in numbers” to work for “the common good” – though they might seem little more than clichés that have lost the power of meaning in our time – remain the fundamental values of the Democratic Party.
These primary values meet at the intersection of our common humanity – right-to-life Democrats, right-to-abortion Democrats, Republicans, all Americans – and when abortion was moved to the center of debate over the anti-trafficking bill, these bedrock values held solid and refused to give way. Citizens could see them plainly and understand clearly that we all are upheld and strengthened by them. All Americans have reason to be grateful for this vote of unity to protect and support human life, born and unborn.
We think that Democrats ought to see in the unanimity of this vote that it’s time for unity within our party, too. A unity of diversity, diversity within a larger unity. To invoke another ancient cliché, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” It’s time for the party that preaches inclusivity to overcome the practice of exclusivity, time to include the excluded. Time to swing wide the gates to the garden of diversity. Time to open the doors of freedom in the house of welcome to all. Time to set up and draw back the flaps of the Big Tent Democratic Party.
Democrats in the Senate joining together on the anti-trafficking bill – working together for the greater goal of serving the common good – show the way for Democrats everywhere to work together for the good of our party and the good of our country.
The next step? The U.S. House passed the legislation on May 19, 2015, and it has been on the president’s desk since May 21, 2015. We hope and expect that President Obama will sign the bipartisan bill. The victims of human trafficking urgently need – and deserve – the earliest possible exit from their trail of trial and travail, without getting stalled in governmental traffic jammed by crisscrossing special interests and partisan lane-blocking by the elected representatives of the people.
What happens after the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act becomes law? Can the cooperation among Democrats to enact this milestone legislation in 2015 help to pave a smoother road to the national elections of 2016? Various polls have been telling us that a swaying of public opinion, especially among younger Americans, is in progress across the land toward increased respect for the right to life. The time is ripe, and right, to open up and air out the Big Tent. Let’s raise the Big Top and expand the diameter until there’s room again in the Democratic Party for every Democrat. One size – spacious and expanding – fits all.