“Making room for pro-life Democrats.” What does it mean?

Amy Klobuchar charmed Meghan McCain today by saying that, although she’s always been “pro choice,” she “believe[s] we’re a big tent party, and there are pro-life Democrats and they are part of our party, and we need to build a big tent.” That’s mighty big of Klobuchar.

Pete Buttigieg may or may not be as big. He doesn’t read pro-life Democrats out of the party, but says he won’t “trick” them by moderating his pro-choice positions, which are extreme. The best Buttigieg can do “big tent” wise is say to pro-life Dems “we may disagree on that very important issue, and hopefully we’ll be able to partner on other issues.”

Come to think of it, Klobuchar isn’t really offering pro-life Democrats anything more than this; she just sounds nicer. Which raises this question: What does it actually means for pro-abortion Democrats to “make room” for pro-life Democrats?

I suppose it means nothing more than rejecting Bernie Sanders’s view that “being pro-choice is an essential part of being a Democrat.”

What does Sanders mean by that? He seems to mean, at a minimum, that you can’t be a genuine Democrat if you are pro-life.

Why not? Consider a voter who is (1) pro-life but doesn’t regard this issue as paramount and (2) agrees with Democrats on the issues he or she considers paramount. It might well make sense for such a voter to be a Democrat. It makes no sense to say that he or she isn’t a genuine one.

Why did Sanders deny this obvious reality? Maybe he was just pandering to hard core feminist leftists.

But maybe there was something more going on. Bernie Sanders comes out of the socialist tradition, not the liberal one. The socialist tradition includes a strong authoritarian streak.

Socialist groups have long been notorious for “reading” those who disagree with them on almost any point “out of the movement.” That’s why there were always so many splinter socialist groups — a source of amusement for John and me when we were socialists, or worse, in college.

Sanders claims to be a Democratic Socialist. However, the Democratic Socialists I knew were strongly anti-communist and even more strongly anti-Soviet Union. Their main beef was with communist and Soviet totalitarianism. Yet, Sanders still seemed okay with the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, decades after nearly all socialists had completely given up on it.

Taking all of this into account, I think Sanders’s position on pro-life Democrats reflects his authoritarian streak. Klobuchar’s latitudinarian position reflects the traditional liberal outlook. Buttigieg’s stance falls in between, but is much closer to Klobuchar’s.

I don’t mean to say that Sanders’s position is bad politics. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party increasingly, and alarmingly, also contains an authoritarian streak.

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