Why Pro-Life Health Care Is Good For Democrats

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Despite the Democrats' celebration over passing health care reform in the House, the Stupak amendment threatens to cause them real problems. The provision, which made it into the final House bill and will no doubt be a factor as the Senate debates its own health care legislation, bans funding for abortions in the new government-run public insurance option. It was credited with saving the House bill at the time, but has since caused fractures between moderate and progressive Democrats. Despite all that, a handful of liberals are now suggesting that taking the moderate, pro-life position could actually be good for the typically pro-choice Democrats. Here's why.

  • Worthwhile Sacrifice of Going 'Big Tent'  Peter Beinart says the move "restored the old hierarchy that between the 1930s and the 1960s helped Democrats establish dominance on Capitol Hill. Today, to a degree we haven’t seen since then, the Democratic Party is about economic protection first, and cultural freedom second." He describes the party of old as "a big, ugly, tent" that tolerated regrettable cultural conservatism in pursuit of broader goals. "Yet it was that big, ugly Democratic Party that from Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson pushed through Social Security, the Wagner Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Food Stamps, Head Start, Medicare and Medicaid (with occasional help from the then-extant progressive wing of the GOP)." Beinart praises moderate Democratic leadership and the "netroots" liberal grassroots that opposes single-issue litmus tests. He concludes, "For cultural liberals, it was ugly. They had better get used to it: Big parties are ugly. But if you want to rebuild the American welfare state, there is no alternative."
  • Against Pro-Choice Absolutists  The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne rejects those Democrats drawing a line in the sand over abortion. "Democratic supporters of abortion rights need to accept that their House majority depends on a large cadre of antiabortion colleagues. They can denounce that reality or they can learn to live with it," he writes. "The truth is that even with the Stupak restrictions, health-care reform would leave millions of Americans far better off than they are now -- including millions of women. This skirmish over abortion cannot be allowed to destroy the opportunity to extend coverage to 35 million Americans. Killing health-care reform would be bad for choice -- and very bad for the right to life."
  • But Big Tents Don't Last  The American Prospect's Tim Fernholz warns that Democrats won't hold Congress forever. "[E]very majority contains the seeds of its own undoing," he writes. "There's going to come a time when this Democratic majority has the chance to do something so big and important that it will destroy itself by alienating its conservative and moderate members." Whatever that thing is, "I hope the leadership at the time has the principles and the guts to pass the law and blow up their majority. That's what it's there for, after all."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.