The Democratic Party has decided to financially support candidates who oppose women's rights.
According to Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), the chairman of the House campaign arm, Democrats are willing to do whatever they can to win back the House in 2018, even if it means electing Democrats who oppose abortion, The Hill reported.
“There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chief said. “As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America.”
Mitchell Stille, who heads campaigns for NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that the decision is "bad politics" and it will ultimately lead to policies that are worse for Democrats in the long run.
“The idea that jettisoning this issue wins elections for Democrats is folly contradicted by all available data,” he said.
“To pick up 24 [seats] and get to 218, that is the job. We’ll need a broad coalition to get that done,” Lujan explained. “We are going to need all of that, we have to be a big family in order to win the House back.”
Both the House and Senate Democratic leaders have opposed litmus tests and tried to expand the options for Democratic candidates in red states, so Lujan isn't the only one. Though, Democrats aren't expected to win the 24 seats needed to win back control of the House. The strategy worked in 2006, when the party supported a number of Democrats who refused to support women's rights.
“Both [then-DCCC chairman] Rahm Emanuel and [then-DNC chairman] Howard Dean with his 50 state strategy understood that in order to win districts that had eluded Democrats in previous cycles, they were going to have to field candidates who didn’t look like national Democrats,” Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA) told The Hill. “People understood the class of ’06 was driven largely by the centrist candidates.”
Lujan confessed that he has sought counsel from Emanuel. Over the last several months, DNC chair Tom Perez and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) drew criticism for campaigning for Heath Mello, an anti-choice candidate running for mayor in Omaha.
Perez justified the decision by saying that the Democratic Party's job is to support all Democrats that win primary elections and move onto general elections. After the predictable backlash from the base, Perez was forced to release a statement saying that the party's stance on women's rights were "non-negotiable." A staffer for the DNC later told The Hill that Perez doesn't intend to create a litmus test.
After the backlash, party leaders tried to fix things with women's groups by meeting behind closed doors with groups like NARAL and EMILY’s List. However, while NARAL has been dogged in supporting women's rights, EMILY's List has been caught many times supporting less progressive and less pro-choice female candidates over more progressive male candidates with better track records on supporting women's rights across the board.
“Anyone who actually thinks that Donald Trump and the GOP candidates won in 2016 because of their opposition to abortion rights is sorely mistaken,” NARAL’s Stille told The Hill. “A small minority of voters vote strictly on an anti-choice platform. Those same voters just aren't going to vote for Democrats anyway — they fundamentally disagree with just about everything Democrats stand for.”
Stille's comments aren't just anecdotal. Anti-choice activists have taken to state houses across the country for years. They're known for delivering white roses to those with 100 percent anti-choice voting records and red roses to anyone who doesn't meet the 100 percent threshold. Frequently, the anti-choice movement has shown that there is no wiggle-room for them.
About 44 percent of Americans told Gallup pollsters that they identify as "pro-life," however, only 28 percent actually want to overturn Roe v. Wade and end legal abortions. When asked if people are pro-choice, pro-life, both or neither, the vast majority of Americans choose "both" or "neither" instead of identifying as pro-choice or pro-life.
Lujan, a close ally of Pelosi, would not rule out supporting a candidate who does not back Pelosi’s bid to become Speaker.
“We want to win back the House. Once we win back the House we can have the conversation as to who we’re going to elect as the new Speaker of the House,” Lujan said. “The only way that we’re able to have that real conversation is if we’re able to put the majority in play and win it back.”
Thus far, there are more than 200 Democratic candidates are running for seats currently held by Republicans. The move comes less than a year after the 2016 election in which the Democratic nominee was unapologetic about her pro-choice stance.
“Last week, Democrats unveiled a policy vision that centered on expanding economic opportunity. Let's be clear: Supporting reproductive rights, including abortion, is central to expanding economic opportunity to all Americans. They are fundamental to women’s economic security, health and well being," Planned Parenthood said in a statement.
"As a nonpartisan organization, Planned Parenthood will hold any political party, any candidate for public office, and any elected official accountable for not standing up for reproductive rights," the statement continued.