By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. There is so much in this post which ran a year ago that remains relevant that I thought you might enjoy a second look as we close out 2017.
There’s been a fair amount of chatter, overwhelmingly positive, about an interview the former director of Barack Obama’s 2012 faith outreach gave to Emma Green of the Atlantic.
I am considerably less positive, although the interview, which ran under the headline “Democrats Have a Religion Problem: A conversation with Michael Wear, a former Obama White House staffer, about the party’s illiteracy on and hostility toward faith,” is very much worth reading.
Michael Wear has a new book out titled Reclaiming Hope, so it’s a fair assumption the interview was part of the publicity tour. That doesn’t make what he says–and more important what he doesn’t say and what is tucked between the lines–any the less worth considering.
You may have read how many “experts” confidently predicted the Evangelical community, specifically the White Evangelical community, would not deliver Donald Trump the kind of overwhelming support it had given to President George W. Bush and to GOP presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney.
So when a greater percentage than ever–81%–voted for Trump, there’s been some head-scratching (some more sincere than others) about what should Democrats do. The dominant response has been to double down: forget White Evangelicals and the White working class that was instrumental in Trump’s victory and rely on greater support next time around from single women, African Americans, and a growing number of Hispanics.
Wear does not offer that counsel. He understands both the “civic motivation” and the political wisdom of Democrats reaching out to voters who did not support them and particularly those who oppose abortion.
But as Green points out, “from a party point of view, it’s basically impossible to be a pro-life Democrat. Why do you think it is that the party has moved in that direction, and what, if anything, do you think it should do differently?”
Wear offers three reasons, two of which I’ll address.
The first is the oodles of money “women’s groups” (read the unholy pro-abortion trio of NARAL, PPFA, and EMILY’s List) have pumped into the campaigns of pro-abortion Democrats in 2012 and 2016. Wear doesn’t draw the obvious conclusion: Democrats are in thrall to pro-abortionists and their deep pockets.
The other reason has to be read in its entirety to grasp how utterly self-delusional/self-serving President Obama and his entourage were:
I think Democrats felt like their outreach wouldn’t be rewarded. For example: The president went to Notre Dame in May of 2009 and gave a speech about reducing the number of women seeking abortions. It was literally met by protests from the pro-life community. Now, there are reasons for this—I don’t mean to say that Obama gave a great speech and the pro-life community should have [acknowledged that]. But I think there was an expectation by Obama and the White House team that there would be more eagerness to find common ground.
A man dedicated to preserving and fortifying Roe v. Wade and who would spend much of his second term abridging the right to religious freedom of large sectors of the Catholic community–this was a search for “common ground”?
Why shouldn’t the pro-life community protest? Not only was a man who was soft on infanticide as an Illinois state Senator allowed to deliver the commencement address at Notre Dame, Obama was given an honorary law degree. You would have to be willfully blind not to see how Obama’s policy stands were inconsistent with Catholic teaching and fitted with blinders not to see what was coming.
Two other points. First, Wear does a better job explaining why Democrats don’t reach out to the Evangelical community. Most of the explanations are equally applicable to their unwillingness to reach out to pro-lifers.
One is Democrats “think, in some ways wrongly, but in other ways rightly, that it would put constraints around their policy agenda.” True. If they bothered (and they didn’t and they won’t) to explain why Hillary Clinton et al. were so bent on eliminating the Hyde Amendment, it would fall on deaf ears. The public writ large, not just pro-lifers and Evangelicals, do not want their tax dollars spent on abortions. Period.
“Another reason,” Wear told Green, “why they haven’t reached out to evangelicals in 2016 is that, no matter Clinton’s slogan of ‘Stronger Together,’ we have a politics right now that is based on making enemies, and making people afraid. I think we’re seeing this with the Betsy DeVos nomination [to become Secretary of Education]: It’s much easier to make people scared of evangelicals, and to make evangelicals the enemy, than trying to make an appeal to them.”
In other words, it is easier to demonize than to understand why in good conscience people oppose various anti-life Democratic policy initiatives. To do the latter implies Democrats give at least some credence to pro-life objections.
Second, Green asks, “How would you characterize Democrats’ willingness to engage with the moral question of abortion, and why is it that way?” Wear responds
There were a lot of things that were surprising about Hillary’s answer [to a question about abortion] in the third debate. She didn’t advance moral reservations she had in the past about abortion. She also made the exact kind of positive moral argument for abortion that women’s groups—who have been calling on people to tell their abortion stories—had been demanding.
Translated with context added? Clinton had long, long since left the “abortion safe, legal and rare” camp. Whether she ever truly believed that reducing the death toll was a desirable objective (as opposed to mouthing the words for political purposes), only she knows for sure.
We do know that Hillary Clinton never met an abortion she would ban, including partial-birth abortions and abortions of pain-capable babies; believes it is our collective duty to underwrite hundreds of thousands of abortions annually; pushes fervently to export abortion world-wide; and pledges to protect Roe v. Wade by nominating only supporters of this disastrous decision to the Supreme Court.
Finally, Wear rambles on about Obama’s felicity in the use of religious imagery but in fact, he dabbled in that as infrequent as he attended church.
Contrary to Wear, Obama was not “able to paper over a lot of the religious tensions in the party that other, less skilled politicians will not be able to paper over.” He threw a bone (in the form of a meaningless caveat) every once in a while, but his religious faith had only one place in his policy formulations: to justify what Obama wanted to do, which was always to forward and promote the anti-life agenda of PPFA and NARAL.