A tin ear

We've been discussing the op-ed by Commonweal contributor Melinda Henneberger in the New York Times, but I didn't see a link to it among the posts. So here is a link, and here is an excerpt to whet your appetite:

The standard response from Democratic leaders has been that anyonelost to them over this issue is not coming back and that regrettableas that might be, there is nothing to be done. But that is not what Iheard from these voters.

Many of them, Catholic women inparticular, are liberal, deep-in-their-heart Democrats who supportsocial spending, who opposed the war from the start and who cross theirarms over their chests reflexively when they say the word Republican.Some could fairly be described as desperate to find a way home. And ifthe party theyd prefer doesnt send a car for them, with a reallypolite driver, it will have only itself to blame.

What would ittake to win them back? Respect, for starters and not only on thenight of the candidate forum on faith. As it turns out, you cannot callpeople extremists and expect them to vote for you. But real respectwould require an understanding that what supporters of abortion rightsgenuinely see as a hard-earned freedom, opponents genuinely see as aself-inflicted wound and though I can feel some of you tensing as youread this a human rights issue comparable to slavery.

There was a brief period in the wake of the 2004 elections when it looked like the Democrats were beginning to recognize that their collective extremism with respect to abortion was hurting them with voters.  Lately, however, they seem to be comfortable riding the wave of public revulsion over the incompetence of the Bush Administration, with the hope that this will carry them to victory in 2008. 

MSNBC ran an interesting piece the other day on two conferences this past week, one by Democrats for Life, the other by the liberal Campaign for America's Future.  Comments by one attendee at the latter conference--who was asked what she thought of the group Democrats for Life--suggests that for many Democrats, abortion remains the litmus test of party orthodoxy:

Ive never heard of this group. Id have tolook at why they consider themselves Democrats, said Mimi Stewart, aDemocratic state legislator from Albuquerque, N.M., when asked aboutDemocrats for Life.

Stewart,in town to attend the Take Back America event, said, Womensreproductive health is a huge issue for me. I really dont feel thegovernment should be telling women what to do. I believe that in mygut. I would be more interested in a coalition with a pro-choiceRepublican than I would be with an anti-choice Democrat.

(HT: Peggy Steinfels for the Henneberger op-ed; Open Book for the MSNBC article)

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