John Bel Edwards

Thinking about beating Trump: How many Democrats would back a pro-life Democrat?

Thinking about beating Trump: How many Democrats would back a pro-life Democrat?

The conservative interfaith journal First Things is not the place that one would normally look for an essay offering advice to Democrats who absolutely, positively, want to defeat Donald Trump in the next race for the White House.

I had intended to put this piece up as this past weekend’s “think piece,” but was not able to get that done. My free WIFI options in the North Carolina mountains were much worse than normal. Where I hang out, there isn’t even service on my smartphone.

So what is going on with this First Things piece by John Murdock, an attorney in Texas?

First of all, he takes very seriously the evidence that many, many conservative Protestants and Catholics really didn’t want to vote for Trump the last time around, but felt they were stuck in a lesser-of-two evils crunch — because of Hillary Clinton’s stances on issues such as abortion and religious liberty.

So what if the Democratic Party ran a candidate — a popular governor in a state Trump carried — who is a consistent Catholic on moral and social issues as well as a solid Democrat on a host of economic and justice issues. Yes, we are headed back into those interesting pro-life Democrat waters, again (following up on some interesting coverage at The New York Times).

We are talking about Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana. Hold that thought, because we’ll come back to it.

Let’s start with this interesting Murdock analysis of the Hyde Amendment issue. That’s the longstanding ban on using federal dollars to fund abortions.

Polling by Morning Consult earlier this month found that 38 percent of likely Democratic primary voters supported the Hyde Amendment, as did 49 percent of the overall electorate (with only 33 percent opposed). That largely corroborates what Marist polling found in early 2018. Their survey showed that 24 percent of Democrats “strongly oppose using tax dollars to pay for a woman’s abortion.”  Another 19 percent were “opposed,” making the total Democratic opposition to taxpayer-funded abortions 43 percent. While these voters may have other issues — like civil rights, immigration, or healthcare — driving their election day choices toward the Democrats, many would still prefer a more pro-life candidate if one were available. Today, none are. 

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Why do many Bible Belt Democrats oppose abortion? Truth is, that's a religion-beat story

Why do many Bible Belt Democrats oppose abortion? Truth is, that's a religion-beat story

Democrats who, to one degree or another, oppose abortion are currently having another fleeting moment of mainstream media attention.

If you have been around for several decades (and you spent those decades as a pro-life Democrat) you have seen this happen before. Basically, this happens whenever the leadership of the Democratic Party and, thus, editors in some elite newsrooms, are tempted to believe that it’s in their political interest to win back conservative Democrats in parts of the Midwest, South and Southwest.

Right now, there are some Democrats who want to nominate a candidate that Donald Trump cannot, somehow, defeat in a few heartland states. But is that worth compromising on abortion, backing restrictions favored by a majority of centrist Americans and even large numbers of Democrats who do not live in the Acela Zone between Washington, D.C., and Boston?

Yesterday, my colleague Julia Duin wrote about a New York Times piece focusing on these issues — sort of. The headline noted a familiar hole in the coverage: “New York Times finally profiles pro-life Democrats but forgets to add what religion they might be.” Why did Times editors publish this story? Duin writes:

I’m guessing it is a follow-up on their April 9 story that had poll data showing how the Democrat Party’s hard-left activists don’t represent most of the party faithful.

So they sent a reporter not to the South, where a lot of conservative Democrats live, but to western Pennsylvania. Having lived four years in the county just north of Pittsburgh, I know that it’s the Bible Belt of the Rust Belt. But as far as I could tell, the reporter didn’t go near a house of worship. That’s a big journalism problem, in this case.

This brings me to a new piece in the New York Post that ran with this headline: “Why many Dems in the South back the new anti-abortion laws.

This is not a hard-news piece. It’s an opinion essay by Salena Zito, but it includes lots of information gathered while reporting in Bible Belt-flyover country. GetReligion (other than weekend think pieces) normally doesn’t focus on opinion material, but I thought readers might want to see some this essay — since it directly addresses facts the Times team avoided in that recent A1 story.

Those two crucial subjects linked to the lives of pro-life Democrats? That would be race and religion.

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Alabama 101: New York Times (sort of) gets that Roy Moore is TOAST if facing pro-life centrist

Alabama 101: New York Times (sort of) gets that Roy Moore is TOAST if facing pro-life centrist

As people say down here in the Bible Belt: "Bless their hearts."

In this case, we are talking about folks on the national desk at The New York Times, who set out to explain why there is a chance that former Judge Roy Moore will still win a ticket to the U.S. Senate in Alabama, in his race with liberal Democrat Doug Jones. The headline: "Alabama’s Disdain for Democrats Looms Over Its Senate Race."

The bad news is that, if you just scan the headline, you'd think that the unfolding train wreck in Alabama is all about party politics and that's that. Any religion angles to this soap opera? What do you think?

The good news is that, about 800 or so words into this piece, the Times team starts digging into some complex and interesting information about why so many Alabama voters -- people who really, really don't want to vote for Moore -- may end up voting for him anyway or writing in a third option. Fact is, it's kind of like a bad flashback of the 2016 presidential race.

What's going on? Way, way into this report there is this:

John D. Saxon, an Alabama lawyer and a decades-long stalwart of Democratic politics, said he had recently been out Christmas shopping when a man he did not know approached him in a parking lot. The man had a message for Mr. Jones.
“You tell him if he’ll change his position on abortion, I can get him all the Republican votes he’s going to need,” the man said, according to Mr. Saxon.

A few lines later there is this second piece of the combination punch, care of Jared Arsement, who worked with pro-life Democrat John Bel Edwards, who was elected governor in deep-red Louisiana:

“If Roy Moore wins,” he said, “it will only be because of Doug Jones’s stance on abortion.”

Or, as I put things the other day on Twitter:

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Might this be the lede? Democrats allow pro-life Catholic to run (and win) in Louisiana

Might this be the lede? Democrats allow pro-life Catholic to run (and win) in Louisiana

Please raise your hand if you are getting more and more tired of political labels, especially when they are linked to issues of religion, culture and morality. Can I get a witness?

During the recent elections in that crazy alternative universe called Louisiana, Republicans struggled to pin a liberal label, of some kind, on the Democrat who was willing to be the latest sacrificial victim in the race for governor. Everyone knows that Louisiana is a deep red, culturally conservative state, so the Democrat was given little chance to win.

It helped, of course, that the heavily favored Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter did almost everything he could to self destruct. Cue up that campaign ad at the top of this post.

So the Democrat won. How did The Washington Post choose to label this unlikely victory

Completing a long-shot bid that ran counter to the conservative tide sweeping the Southern states, Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards was elected governor of Louisiana on Saturday, defeating his Republican rival, U.S. Sen. David Vitter. ...
A jubilant crowd of Edwards supporters greeted news of the Democrat’s win at the venerable Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans’s French Quarter as a brass band led an impromptu “second line” celebration through the packed ballroom.
Addressing the crowd, Edwards said, “I did not create this breeze of hope that’s blowing across our state, but I did catch it.” He reached out to supporters of his Republican opponent, pledging to be a governor “for all the people of Louisiana,” and congratulated voters for not giving in to the “deep cynicism about our politics and our future.”

So what was the key in this victory?

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