Billionaire Democratic donor and liberal activist Tom Steyer says he will not support pro-life candidates in the upcoming 2018 elections.
“We’re pro-choice,” the hedge fund manager told Politico during the leftwing Netroots Nation conference in Atlanta, Georgia over the weekend.
“We do not work for a single candidate who is not pro-choice,” he added. “I think people like to have litmus tests. We are explicitly pro-choice. We work a lot with Planned Parenthood, we work a lot with NARAL. We are absolutely committed to it.”
A woman's right to control her own body is a civil right. We're for civil rights. https://t.co/vW6ItQiZB6
— Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) August 14, 2017
Steyer was asked to weigh in on the controversy over abortion that has ripped the Democratic Party – whose 2016 platform was the most pro-abortion ever – as it struggles to become more inclusive of pro-life candidates and, ultimately, regain control of Congress.
The debate came to a head in April when Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Tom Perez announced that pro-life individuals are not welcome in his party.
“Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” Perez said, as HuffPost reported. “That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.”
Perez’s comments came after the DNC decided to support Heath Mello in the Omaha, Nebraska, mayoral race. Mello, it was discovered, had previously voted in the state legislature consistent with his personal pro-life views.
Abortion lobbying group NARAL Pro-Choice America immediately slammed the DNC for its embrace of Mello.
“The actions today by the DNC to embrace and support a candidate for office who will strip women — one of the most critical constituencies for the party — of our basic rights and freedom is not only disappointing, it is politically stupid,” fumed NARAL’s president, Ilyse Hogue.
Perez responded to the scathing bashing with the compliant statement that he “fundamentally disagree[s] with Heath Mello’s personal beliefs about women’s reproductive health,” adding that “every candidate who runs as a Democrat should do the same.”
A number of Democrats – including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and former 2016 presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders – attempted to soften Perez’s exclusionary message.
“I couldn’t disagree more with what Tom Perez said, I think it’s not correct that our party should have litmus tests about who wants to join our party,” pro-abortion rights Sen. Claire McCaskill (MO) said in response to the DNC chair’s announcement, as reported by the Atlantic. “We may disagree on various issues, and I just don’t think we should say ever anyone is not welcome in our party based on one of those issues.”
“What Mr. Perez said makes no sense to me,” objected Sen. Joe Donnelly (IN), who identifies personally as pro-life. “This is a deeply personal issue, and we should be about respecting one another.”
“I don’t know why we would want to start walking away from folks, like myself, who have a personal conviction on the pro-life issue,” Donnelly added. “We ought to be able to include everyone, as opposed to saying ‘no, we don’t want these folks, even though they fight with us on jobs, even though they fight with us for economic rights, even though they fight with us on healthcare.’ It just seems to me to be very, very short-sighted.”
In contrast to Perez, Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) – chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) – announced in July that “there is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates” on abortion rights.
“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,” Luján said, according to the Hill.
Last week, however, DCCC spokeswoman Meredith Kelly contradicted her boss with the statement, “The DCCC has no interest in working with Democrats for Life of America, despite their attempts.”
“Protecting a woman’s health care, her right to choose, and her economic security are fundamental tenets of the Democratic Party, and as long as Republicans control Congress and the White House those values are constantly at risk,” Kelly said.
The Atlantic reported, nevertheless, that Kristen Day of Democrats for Life said the “lines of communication are open” between her organization and the DCCC.
The firestorm that has erupted within the Democratic Party led Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, to observe, “Spokeswoman Meredith Kelly’s statement that the DCCC flatly refuses to work with Democrats for Life contradicts the comments previously made by her boss, Rep. Luján.”
“It is further evidence that Democratic Party leaders are likely stringing pro-lifers along, using them for their votes without intending to back away from their extreme position on abortion,” she added.
Leftwing groups are protesting the notion that abortion is a negotiable issue by claiming the procedure is necessary for women to be able to contribute to the economy.
“Democrats will fail to retake power in 2018 if we allow ourselves to be forced into a false choice between a populist progressive agenda and reproductive justice,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America. “Abortion rights are inextricably tied to the fight against economic and racial inequity, full stop, and until all leaders of our party fully understand that we’re going to keep losing.”
Nevertheless, last week, Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) also rejected the notion that his party needs to embrace “ideological purity,” and said the Democratic base is “shifting.”
“I’d say, look, even on the abortion issue, it wasn’t very long ago that a number of Catholic Democrats were opposed to abortion,” Brown said. “So the fact that somebody believes today what most people believed 50 years ago should not be the basis for their exclusion.”
“In America, we’re not ideological, we’re not like a Marxist party in 1910,” Brown added. “We are a big tent by the very definition.”
Ironically, Steyer, who reportedly spent some $165 million on Democrats during the 2014 and 2016 election races, praised Brown when he was asked by Politico about potential 2020 Democrat contenders.
“The best thing I can say is people do not realize how good Jerry Brown is, full-stop,” he said. “If you ask me about anyone else, it’s sort of like: Do you know who hit third for the San Francisco Giants after Willie Mays retired? How’d it go for him?”
HuffPost also reported that Harris – considered to be a potential 2020 presidential contender – said Democrats “can’t afford to have a litmus test in a way that really is a purity test.”
“My focus is going to be supporting all of my colleagues and doing everything we can to at least maintain our numbers as it relates to 2018 election,” she added.
The decision by Steyer and other Democrats to make abortion on demand its highest level priority, however, is at odds with recent data.
A Marist/Knights of Columbus poll released in January found that 83 percent of Americans oppose the use of tax dollars to support abortion in other countries, with 61 percent also opposed to funding abortions in the United States with taxpayer dollars. These results include 87 percent of Donald Trump supporters and 39 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters.
Additionally, the poll showed 55 percent of Clinton supporters and 91 percent of Trump supporters approved limiting abortion to – at most – the first trimester of pregnancy.
Knights of Columbus leader Carl Anderson said:
There is a consensus in America in favor of significant abortion restrictions, and this common ground exists across party lines, and even among significant numbers of those who are pro-choice. His poll shows that large percentages of Americans, on both sides of the aisle, are united in their opposition to the status quo as it relates to abortion on demand. This is heartening and can help start a new national conversation on abortion.
“The majority of Americans in favor of abortion restrictions has been consistently around 8 in 10 for the better part of a decade.” Barbara Carvalho, director of the Marist Poll, also observed, “Though self-identification as pro-life or pro-choice can vary substantially from year to year, the support for restrictions is quite stable.”