In a new interview with The Atlantic, former Obama administration official Michael Wear insisted that his party is failing to reach out to evangelicals. Wear, who left the Obama administration to found Public Faith and is now promoting a book about his time in the White House, is an evangelical who opposes both abortion and marriage equality. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he thinks the Democratic party should adopt a softer tone on culture war issues.
“Reaching out to evangelicals doesn’t mean you have to become pro-life,” he argues. “It just means you have to not be so in love with how pro-choice you are, and so opposed to how pro-life we are.” Later in the interview, Wear laments that the party “...used to welcome people who didn’t support abortion into the party. We are now so far from that, it’s insane.”
It’s true that Democrats have historically tolerated abortion opponents in the party. See: Bart Stupak, who successfully pressured President Obama to issue an executive order banning the use of ACA funds for abortion. Or the Hyde Amendment, which Obama has repeatedly re-authorized. The Democratic party platform didn’t pass a call to repeal Hyde until this year. Wear begged them to reconsider.
It’s obvious the party’s been willing to compromise with abortion opponents. It’s also obvious that women have suffered every time they’ve done so. And that is particularly important to emphasize now as American women prepare for four years under a Republican administration that promises to be sweepingly antagonistic to abortion rights. American women need a party that won’t hesitate to frame abortion access as a moral good. The party Wear seems to want is a party women can’t afford to support.
There’s also little evidence to support Wear’s assertion that the party is overly hostile to evangelicals. Hillary Clinton is a committed Methodist who is known to have attended Bible studies in Washington, D.C. Obama is also deeply religious. Both are latecomers to the cause of marriage equality. And their faith commitments aren’t unusual for Democrats: There’s only one Democrat currently serving in Congress who’s ever identified as non-theistic.
The country is becoming increasingly secular and increasingly liberal on issues like marriage equality. The Democratic party won’t win by catering to social conservatives, and it shouldn’t try.
This post has been updated.