The Left's Litmus Tests of 2014: Abortion and Homosexuality

Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Vice President at Family Research Council. This article appeared on, August 11, 2014.

According to the New York Times, the Democratic Party has found a new theme with which to animate and expand its base: abortion and homosexuality.

"Democrats seize on social issues in 2014 midterm elections," blares the headline. According to reporter John Harwood:

(Democrats) aim to match President Obama's feat in 2012, when the incumbent used topics such as same-sex marriage and contraception as weapons to offset his vulnerability on the economy. Now the values wedge cuts for Democrats ... Acceptance of same-sex marriage has expanded with astonishing speed.

Much of Harwood's article describes how Democratic candidates in Virginia, Colorado and elsewhere are focusing on abortion, contraceptive access, and related issues to help them gain purchase with voters. According to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's pollster Mark Mellman, the agenda of the social Left - elective abortion on demand, federal mandates requiring businesses to provide potentially abortion-causing drugs, same-sex "marriage - is "why people are voting for us these days - not for our economic prowess."

What an admission! With nothing to offer concerning jobs, growth, opportunity, or prosperity, some Democratic leaders are working to instill fear that conservative efforts to support a culture of life are cruel and hostile to women and that because conservatives believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman, we "hate" homosexuals.

Why is this not surprising? America's standing in the world is at a post-World War II ebb. Crisis after crisis emerges and metastasizes, from Ukraine to North Korea to Iraq as a Democratic President has long dinners with African dictators and assorted cultural elites.

Although the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics just issued a report saying our unemployment rate remains above six percent, this doesn't capture the true picture. As Dan Diamond writes in Forbes, the "real" unemployment rate - including those "discouraged workers who have settled for part-time jobs or have given up looking altogether" - is an astonishing 14.3 percent.

Obamacare continues to suffer from adverse federal court rulings and we learn today from the Congressional Budget Office that "Almost 90% of the nation's 30 million uninsured won't pay a penalty under the Affordable Care Act in 2016 because of a growing batch of exemptions to the health-coverage requirement."

So, in the absence of either a good story to tell about its achievements or an agenda of hope and promise for America's families, the Left has taken to the politics of fear ("Republicans hate women!"), misrepresentation ("Conservatives want to take away your birth control!"), and resentment ("the Religious Right hates gays!").

Ironically, polling data show that the substantial majority of Americans are opposed to unrestricted access to abortion on demand. According to the Gallup Poll published earlier this month, 71 percent of Americans believe either that abortion should be legal only with restrictions or should not be legal at all. As my colleague Cathy Ruse, formerly chief counsel on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, has noted, the "war on women" riff isn't gaining the Left any real ground:

Of the hundred cases filed against the mandate, many of the plaintiffs are women. There are women who run charities, like the Little Sisters of the Poor, but also women who run family businesses. Nearly one-third of the business plaintiffs in these cases are women. These businesswomen just won, big. What do women on the bench think about the (Obama contraception) mandate? Most of them don't like it. So far, women judges in the lower courts have voted to stop the mandate 24 times. In only 15 cases have they voted to let it proceed. Yesterday's votes from the high court don't change the equation.

As Sarah Kliff of Vox Media writes, "It's not just Hobby Lobby: The Pro-Life movement is winning." The hundreds of pro-life measures enacted in the states over the past three years prove her point.

So what's the Left's real game plan? Animate otherwise disengaged voters whose allegiance to a socially liberal program of cultural change might bring them to the ballot box if they are sufficiently riled-up.

Throughout history, rival political parties at times have exploited the weaknesses of human nature - fear, insecurity, anger, etc. - to build support for themselves and rage (and thus votes) against their opposition. What is striking about emerging trends in races around the country is twofold: (1) The tacit admission of the Democratic Left is that it has nothing positive to say about what it's accomplished or what it proposes and (2) its overt appeal to personal sexual autonomy as supreme to all other liberties and values, including the sanctity of unborn life and the central importance of both a mother and a father in a child's life.

Thankfully, some women are fed-up with their attempted manipulation by the Left. "We need to name and shame Democrats who play the 'war on women' game," says former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. "Too often, Republicans have allowed the label to stick because of a misguided theory that by ignoring a charge it just goes away...We need to organize strong conservative activists, especially women, and energize them to take action on behalf of our conservative principles."

The Left's political, intellectual, and social bankruptcy is revealed by the absence of domestic and foreign policy successes or ideas emanating from it. Factual distortion and political vulgarity might win the occasional election, but is it to this that representative self-governance has been reduced in our time?