As Democrats compete to take on President Bush in 2004, they still fear the power of his appeal on the prominent issues of the day: war and taxes. They rhetorically ape his appeals for national security and economic stimulus. But on one issue, these emerging candidates will not budge, no matter what. They are lock-step radicals on abortion.
On January 21, the militant pro-abortion group "Naral Pro-Choice America" held an abortion-affirming dinner. Their leader, the ever-shrill Kate Michelman, laid down her marching orders. Every judicial nominee who ever stood in the way of a 12-year-old getting an abortion without telling her mother must be filibustered and defeated. And there on stage were six kiss-me-Kate Democrats, all tap-dancing on her hard line: Howard Dean, John Edwards, Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and Al Sharpton.
Just how far out on the fringe can we find the Michelman agenda? The latest Gallup poll tells us only 24 percent favor abortion for any reason. Another 14 percent think it should be "legal under most circumstances." Add those together and you get barely a third of public opinion. The other side now carries the majority: 18 percent want abortion completely illegal, and 42 percent say "illegal under most circumstances." That 60 percent can elect a president - easily.
And yet the Democrats are all chasing that 24 percent, the abortion-on-demand fringe, with absolutely zero fear that they'll look "out of the mainstream" to the American people. Why? Because they know the Democratic primaries are dominated by feminist pro-abortion militants, and so are the "mainstream" media.
Ryan Lizza of the liberal New Republic magazine explains the realities of politics: "There remains an iron triangle of Democratic constituencies - blacks, labor, pro-choice women - whom every candidate must appease during the primaries."
But it is the perception that is always more powerful, a perception created and nurtured by the supposedly mainstream news media. Reporters are congenitally incapable of portraying the abortion lobby as sitting on an ideologically extreme pole. Oh, they love to do that to the pro-lifers - perpetually portrayed as a ultraconservative millstone around Republican necks that will ruin the GOP with women and "moderates" and "independents."
Just three years ago, reporters complained that candidate Bush was "squeezed by the right" into a "hardline" pro-life position, but they weren't fazed at all as Al Gore and Bill Bradley competed for Kate's kiss. Now six Democrats sit like school boys on a NARAL stage, and the only pandering extremist for "intolerance" is the president who touches the March for Life with a ten-foot telephone pole from St. Louis.
No group gets a freer ride from the political press than Kate Michelman's, even as it keeps renaming itself to de-emphasize its passion for the abortion procedure. "Naral Pro-Choice America" now rolls out of reporters' keyboards so easily, you wonder if next, they won't rename the other groups as Kate Michelman wants, like the "National What Opponents Call Right to Life Committee."
Dan Balz of The Washington Post covered the NARAL dinner. He found no "liberals" in attendance, but he calmly passed along the militant rhetoric as objective journalism, writing the candidates "pledged last night to lead the fight to protect abortion rights and battle intolerance." Adam Nagourney of the New York Times was there, and he also didn't identify NARAL or anybody else there as "liberal." Ronald Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times did notice that "liberal" groups like NARAL would be active in 2004 - using the L word in the very last paragraph. Jill Lawrence of USA Today carried no labels, either. But she alone wondered if some of the rhetoric was too "jarring," such as Howard Dean claiming that if the Bush administration continued on its anti-abortion path, soon U.S. women wouldn't be able to go to school.
Al Sharpton drew big cheers for insisting that the "Christian right" ought to meet the "right Christians" who favor abortion. He also claimed abortion promoters were the "real patriots" because they favored "freedom for all Americans." Can you imagine the reaction to a Republican candidate saying their position was the most Christian or the most patriotic? Reporters would be choking on their Evian bottles. These reporters left out the patriotism sentence, but passed on the "right Christians" line without a hint of objection.
If reporters weren't militant feminists, if they took their job seriously as nonpartisan observers, they would observe that each party has a base on a pole of the abortion question. But Kate Michelman sits at one extreme calling the other pole extreme - though it's now certifiably the mainstream - and the media elite just take her dictation, year after year, destroying their own credibility as "moderates" or "independents," or, it's almost to laugh, "objective."