Some of us have been saying for a long time that one reason why Democrats have done poorly in recent years is their obsequious worship at the pro-abortion altar. A Zogby Poll not long back showed that 43% of Democrats are pro-life. Yet all the Presidential candidates and much of the party machinery have treated this large body of voters with disdain.
What's new is that independent Presidential candidate Ralph Nader has taken note of this. In Nader's Dear Anybody But Bush Liberal Democrats message on his campaign Web site, he states, "The Democrats need to be shown in the field how to appeal to the millions of voters whom they have turned their back on because many of them are against abortion and gun control."
A clear message conveyed by Nader is that not only have Democrats hurt themselves by not appealing to pro-lifers, but that Nader is going to show them how to do it! Nader seems to want to welcome progressive pro-lifers.
We don't really have any indication that Nader is turning pro-life. In his Green Party candidate days, he mouthed conventional pro-abortion rhetoric. Many observers noted, however, that he never seemed comfortable talking about abortion. Now free from any political party, his long list of issues on his campaign site doesn't have a word about abortion.
How does he plan to appeal to progressive pro-lifers without taking a pro-life stand on abortion? Apparently by providing a progressive platform which doesn't include language catering to pro-abortion special interests, and by giving pro-lifers some respect. He seems to realize there are millions of pro-lifers who rebel at voting for Bush, reliably pro-life on abortion but with horrendous positions on most other issues of concern, but also at voting for Kerry, somewhat better on some issues but zealously pro-abortion. Many of us are not single-issue voters, and are open to voting for candidates with generally good issue positions even if not explicitly pro-life on abortion, as long as they aren't actively pro-abortion.
It is quite evident from Nader's message that part of what he is seeking is to change the Democratic Party. It certainly needs reform. It is encouraging that one element of the Democratic Party reform Nader seeks to catalyze is openness to pro-lifers.
Nader's overall strategy is interesting. His campaign site features not only the Dear Anybody But Bush Liberal Democrats message but also a Dear Conservatives Upset With the Policies of the Bush Administration message. He seeks a coalition of the discontented crossing the usual dividing lines of American politics. In part, this strategy seeks to avoid drawing votes only from those otherwise inclined to vote for Kerry, and thereby improving Bush's relative position. He points to polls indicating that in the past large numbers of those attracted to him would not have otherwise voted Democratic.
The still fairly new Democrats for Life of America is working to build an organized Democratic pro-life movement. We can hope that Nader's efforts to appeal to this constituency will encourage Democratic Party officials and candidates to become more open to pro-lifers, and be a valuable adjunct to the organizing efforts within the Party.