THE national Democratic leadership has made it plain that there is no room in the party for opposition to abortion. Being pro-choice is not simply a majority position; it has become a mandatory position. The Democrats no longer have a big tent. Instead it reminds me of the tent at a revival meeting of religious enthusiasts.
At the Democratic National Convention there was much talk about the party being the party of "inclusiveness" -- of males and females, whites and non-whites, gays and straights, etc. Yet Gov. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, a pro-life Democrat, was not allowed to address the delegates or present a minority report on the party's abortion position. A pro-choice Republican was allowed to speak, but the two-term governor of our fifth-largest state was the victim of a gag rule because he didn't follow the party line.
This pro-choice intolerance should not have been totally unexpected.
For one thing, a kind of anti-intellectualism has long been part and parcel of the pro-choice movement -- a categorical refusal to discuss the central question: Is the fetus a persont?
Anyone who is intellectually serious and honest will not dismiss or run away from this obvious and enormously important question. But as a rule, pro-choicers dismiss it. And when people get in the habit of doing this, there is no telling what acts of intellectual levity or dishonesty they will move on to next.
For another thing, pro-choice true believers have a tremendous sense of social superiority relative to the average pro-life American. And with good reason -- they really are socially superior. They tend to be better educated, wealthier and more privileged than their pro-life counterparts. They drive better cars and live in better houses. They have better taste in coffee, wine, food and music. They are more likely to watch "Mystery."
As a rule, socially superior people feel morally superior as well. If they did not, they would have a guilty conscience about their privileges. This tendency to grab a bigger share, then to congratulate oneself on having deserved it, is one of the stronger bits of empirical evidence for the reality of Original Sin.
At any rate, pro-choicers look at pro-lifers with a mixture of disdain and pity. They consider them to be both vulgar and morally offensive -- not at all the kind of people whose views need to be listened to, let along encouraged.
Finally, the pro-choice enthusiasts have a fanatic winner-take-all mentality. Confronted by diametrically opposed views -- one that wants abortion on demand, the other that wants its total abolition -- the traditional liberal mind would look for a compromise. It would attempt to balance opposing views and interests, denying both parties the whole loaf but giving each a part, while encouraging them to negotiate their differences.
But pro-choice true believers will have nothing to do with such wimpy liberalism (nor, it must be admitted, will pro-life true believers). They want a complete victory; no consolation prize should go to the other side. They profess to be liberals, but theirs is a liberalism of a most unliberal type.
The pro-choice tone of the Democratic convention was more than simply strident; it was downright sectarian. Pity us pro-life Democrats. We have been locked out of our own house, yet we have no desire to enter the Republican house next door. We are political pariahs.
But it was my party before it became the pro-abortion party, so I have no plans to cut and run. I choose to stay and fight. It may be too much to expect that we can soon persuade the national Democratic Party to respect the life of the unborn. But perhaps if we fight really hard, we may eventually get it to respect diversity of opinion.
David R. Carlin Jr., a Rhode Island state senator, is a candidate for Congress. A longer version of this article appears in the current issue of Commonweal magazine.