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Support the Big Tent of the Democratic Party

May 9, 2012

With the Republican party becoming completely unacceptable as a valid electoral choice, this initiative assumes greater importance than ever. Please sign, and please pass on!

The idea is to support the following language in the Democratic platform:

“We respect the conscience of each American and recognize that members of our Party have deeply held and sometimes differing positions on issues of personal conscience, like abortion and the death penalty.  We recognize the diversity of views as a source of strength and we welcome into our ranks all Americans who may hold differing positions on these and other issues.

However, we can find common ground.  We believe that we can reduce the number of abortions because we are united in our support for policies that assist families who find themselves in crisis or unplanned pregnanciesWe believe that women deserve to have a breadth of options available as they face pregnancy: including, among others, support and resources needed to handle the challenges of pregnancy, adoption, and parenthood; access to education, healthcare, childcare; and appropriate child support.  We envision a new day without financial or societal barriers to bringing a planned or unplanned pregnancy to term.”

  1. Bruce Cole permalink
    May 9, 2012 3:34 pm

    So, I signed, already! With the following comment:

    “I have not voted for a regularly nominated Democratic (or Republican, for that matter) candidate for the Presidency in many, many elections because at that level the Democrats are wrong about abortion and related matters, and the Republicans about nearly everything else.”

  2. johnmcg permalink
    May 9, 2012 3:59 pm

    If I am reading this correctly, this petition:

    1.) Permits the Democratic Party to abandon its opposition of the death penalty even as momentum continues against it as many states are abolishing it.

    2.) Simply demands that the Democratic Party pursue the policies it would pursue anyway, and allow some people to claim that one reason for pursuing these policies is to reduce the number of abortions.

    I did not vote for either candidate in 2008, though if forced to vote for one I would have voted for Obama. What has disappointed me so much about him isn’t so much his positions on the unborn, which were about what could be expected, but the lack of ambition.

    The White House used its Twitter account to rally young people to post on behalf of….. making sure their own student loan interest rates didn’t go up. Not for the poor. Not for health care for the unemployed. Not even on behalf of some minority group. But for their own student loan interest rates.

    That may or may not be a good idea, but I hoped for more.

    I just find it all depressing. We don’t try to accomplish anything anymore, just point out how awful the other guys are. Mitt Romney is the other side of this weak tea petition. What exactly does he want to accomplish as president besides not be Barack Obama? Anyone have a clue?

    The unborn and death row inmates (to say nothing of the millions of others who are incarcerated) deserve better than this. I pray that we will find a way to give it to them.

  3. Kurt permalink
    May 9, 2012 8:19 pm

    To both Bruce and John, who are honorable people, I would just say that democracy is not a specator sport, Get involved in your local party commitee. Speak up at party meetings. Run for Central Committee or state convention delegate. Abstaining is not the answer. Fuller participation is.

    • johnmcg permalink
      May 10, 2012 9:02 am

      I suppose a good thing that would come of this would be the Democratic Party being explicitly open to pro-life people.

      Still, it seems odd that I would choose as my agent of change a Party that I need to petition in order for it to simply be open to me.

      • Kurt permalink
        May 10, 2012 11:26 am

        John, you don’t need to petition. The Democratic Party is open to pro-life committeemen. I’m one myself. In fact, in my experience, a person in consistent agreement with the policy positions taken by the USCCB will find the Democratic Party far more open than the GOP. In fact I don’t know any GOP committeemen who would pass that test and I know for my own state Republican Committee it would be an absolute bar.

  4. Bruce Cole permalink
    May 9, 2012 10:28 pm

    What makes you think I’m honorable???

    Actually, I am a registered Democrat and vote on lots of other races and issues.

    • Kurt permalink
      May 10, 2012 11:26 am


      Your eloquence, thoughtfulness and stunning good looks.

  5. Rolando permalink
    May 10, 2012 6:26 am

    I signed it two days ago.

  6. iprimap permalink
    May 10, 2012 8:18 am

    “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14

    There are no big tents in Heaven.

    • Julia Smucker permalink*
      May 10, 2012 10:55 am

      Hmm, now this does raise a challenging question: how to reconcile the “big tent” with the “narrow road”? That’s an ecclesiological paradox that I’ll have to think about. I really do believe that both metaphors are true, somehow.

      • Brian Martin permalink
        May 10, 2012 1:48 pm

        First i suggest that you not pick single verses and interpret them in a fundamentalist fashion. The verse does not suggest that people of different opinions on a variety of things are not saved. It does, however suggest that God expects people to be focused on Him, and that it is easy to not do that and live in the pleasure of the moment.
        If what Iprimap says is true, about there being no big tents in Heaven…then the Catholic Church must not in fact be the true church, because it’s a pretty bloody big tent. Catholicism being the Largest (by far) Christian denomination. In fact Catholicism by itsely is as large a group or larger, than most other individual religious groups. That sounds like a big tent to me.

    • Andrew permalink
      May 10, 2012 1:50 pm

      An examination of the lives of the saints has been enough to convince me personally that, in fact, there are big tents in Heaven. They have to be big enough to hold both Joan of Arc and Francis of Assisi, both Thomas Aquinas and Therese of Lisieux.

      I have always understood the “narrow way” to mean that the path of discipleship is challenging no matter how you do it, and that many cannot follow it because it is a life of joy but not a life of ease. In other words, there are many ways to be a saint, but none of them are shortcuts!

    • Julia Smucker permalink*
      May 10, 2012 2:14 pm

      Just to clarify: without presuming to know exactly what was intended by iprimap’s comment, what I was taking from it as a valid challenge was decidedly NOT the narrow soteriology that Brian is rightly critical of. My question was rather on how the vital tension is maintained between the openness of this big tent, vast enough to contain this entire motley crew that is the Church, and the hard (and yes, in some sense narrow) challenge of discipleship that all of us in it are called to. In this regard I think Andrew has captured the paradox quite well.

      • Brian Martin permalink
        May 10, 2012 2:29 pm

        Perhaps you are right…I escaped fundamentalism, and tend to see it’s shadow lurking…even where it isn’t, however, the statement of there being no big tent in heaven pointed me in that direction…I believe Julia and Andrew are also illustrating my opinion.

  7. Julia Smucker permalink*
    May 10, 2012 9:25 am

    I wholeheartedly agree with the common-ground, solutions-oriented approach to the problem of abortion as expressed here, and it’s surely good news for pro-life Democrats that someone is trying to make room for it. Unfortunately, I remain cynical of any party platform’s ability to stretch that far. The true big tent is the Church, but (for this very reason) how that translates politically is not always easy to pin down. Catholic Social Teaching gives us some clue at least, but it doesn’t fit any party’s mold, and wouldn’t be much use if it did.

    • Brian Martin permalink
      May 10, 2012 10:04 am

      I quite agree with Julia. I’m not so sure that the Democratic party has any desire to pay any attention to “pro-life democrats” Clearly, the Church transcends political parties…or political systems for that matter. This does, however, make it inevitable that participation in the political system comes down to choosing the lesser of evils. Looking at the likely presidential field, I am quite tempted, for the very first time in my life, to not vote.

    • Andrew permalink
      May 10, 2012 2:11 pm

      I certainly agree with the cynicism that Julia expresses here. I don’t think that this petition should be viewed as something where all Catholics should be expected to get on board the Democratic Party because they are considering making one small token concession to the abortion issue.

      What I do see is that it is an opportunity for those of us who are already partial to the good elements in the Democratic Party to start influencing the party in a Catholic direction. This is a potential way for those of us on the inside to act as leaven from within, and to work towards transforming the party towards something that Catholics could support more whole-heartedly. (It may never happen, but I think it is a worthwhile endeavor anyway.)

      Thanks for the link, MM. I signed today.

      • Julia Smucker permalink*
        May 10, 2012 11:20 pm

        “Leaven from within” is a respectable thing to be in my view, and a very Vatican II image at that.

        The petition makes me almost wish I were partial enough to the Democratic Party to sign it, but as a dedicated independent I don’t quite feel qualified. I hope you stay with it though, Andrew; they need your voice.

  8. digbydolben permalink
    May 10, 2012 11:36 am

    Not voting is not an option when the Republican Party is practically promising to support a Third American War in the Middle East, initiated by the increasingly apartheid Zioinist State.

    • brian martin permalink
      May 10, 2012 6:58 pm

      hmmm, the republican party is not the only party beholden to the war machine.
      The Peace prize “won” by Mr. Obama is little better than a used piece of political toilet paper. I see little difference between the parties, wackadoodle rhetoric from both extremes aside. Life has little value to either party. People and causes are used to gain power, but when power is gained, nothing is changed. It doesn’t matter democrat or republican president, the rich get bailed out, the poor suffer. poor and working class kids become literal cannon fodder for politician’s ego masturbation. Sorry, I guess you caught me at a disillusioned point. but really, not voting may be following my conscience

      • digbydolben permalink
        May 10, 2012 10:29 pm

        Excuse me, but little things like diplomatic maneuvers COUNT–and they count particularly in avoiding “wars of choice.” Obama’s regime, as corrupt and hypocritical as it may be, IS committed to diplomatic efforts to convince the Iranians not to develop nuclear weapons. Romney and his neo-conservative supporters have clearly demonstrated complete lack of confidence in such efforts. Moreover, unlike Obama, they actually SUPPORT increased Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory. These are extremely dangerous positions to take.

  9. Rolando permalink
    May 10, 2012 2:48 pm

    I don’t think the narrow gate quote really applies. A the time of it’s writing, the idea that salvation could only come through Faith in Christ and his Resurrection would certainly have seemed exceedingly narrow considering the wide array of polytheistic traditions that dominated the day. I think it’s always dangerous to take one verse, out of context perhaps, and then try and leverage in to a commentary on current political circumstance. Having said that, let me say that there may be a kernel of truth. It is more likely that our human nature will lead us to exclude or discriminate against those not like us or from other faith traditions. To be more accepting and to allow for and consider divergent points of view and people from divergent ethnic, religious, and political points of view is far more difficult. It could be seen as more narrow path in a society and culture hell bent on creating ever smaller camps. A society and culture that seems to want to purge rather than evangelize. Christ threw open the door to the Gentiles who were formerly excluded from God’s mercy by the Jews of that time. Let us be more like Christ and widen the tent. No?

  10. Thales permalink
    May 10, 2012 9:35 pm

    I wish you all the best in your effort. It would be wonderful for the country if there was a stronger pro-life presence in the Democratic party, but I wonder how realistic that is. Once upon a time, there was such a presence, but as time goes by, it just seems that the pro-life voice in the Democratic party gets marginalized more and more. Certainly, it seems there is very little openness to it (and some outright hostility) in the Democratic leadership.

    • Kurt permalink
      May 11, 2012 3:11 pm

      I know I sometimes take Thales choice of words more precisely than he intends, but as a Party officer myself, I don’t think there hostility towards pro-life presence. Democratic Party leaders and activists who are pro-life are generally treated without hostility, much unlike gay Republican activists and leaders who face personal hostility in their participation in their party. But yes, on the issue of abortion rights rather than persons who hold those views, the Democratic Party I think has moved farther in the pro-choice direction.

      At the same time, the pro-life movement has moved in the direction of hostility towards liberalism and the Democratic Party, carefully selecting its issues to dovetail with Republican economic issues and disowning protection of the unborn if it would bring them into coalition with the Democrats (I can elaborate on this if folks want.)

      • Thales permalink
        May 12, 2012 9:29 am

        You know better than I do about the sentiment in the Democratic Party than I do—-I’m only commenting about how it looks to me from the outside about the Party’s current leaders (e.g., Obama/Biden/Pelosi/Sebelius). So I defer to you. As I said, I wish the effort all the best, because our country would be much better with a stronger pro-life presence in the Democratic party (and in the GOP too!)

        • Kurt permalink
          May 12, 2012 3:13 pm


          Well, I’m concerned about false perceptions of the Party and I would appreciate guidance as to where these impressions come from.

          I am aware that Obama/Biden/Pelosi/Sebelius are each pro-choice in their views. But I’m not aware of any deep hostility to pro-lifers in the Party by any of those four. In some cases, I can say this from direct experience, for example I have helped put together a fundraiser for the re-election of a pro-life Democrat in which then Speaker Pelosi was the guest of honor. (Come to think of it, I have done that more than once).

          I’m not denying that if you hold a vote in most Democratic organizations, the pro-choice side has the majority. But I don’t see any personal hostility towards the pro-life minority. Certainly not like of what I have been told by gays or union members who had been active in the Republican Party.

        • Thales permalink
          May 13, 2012 1:08 pm

          Well, I’m concerned about false perceptions of the Party and I would appreciate guidance as to where these impressions come from.

          This impression goes back to the infamous Governor Casey snub at the 1992 Democratic convention. Then, most obviously, is the official Democratic party platform “strongly and unequivocally” supporting the right to abortion and opposing “any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” The very fact that this petition is needed gives the impression that the pro-life voice is marginalized in the Democratic Party. As for Obama/Biden/Pelosi/Sebelius, I suppose one could argue that they haven’t shown outright hostility, but they do show very little to no openness to the pro-life voice in the party — consider that they don’t merely have pro-choice views; they are the ones creating and pushing pro-choice policies. Finally, if you haven’t seen any personal hostility to pro-lifers from persons in the Democratic organizations, I’m frankly surprised. I’ve seen such hostility and I don’t frequent those organizations very often.

  11. johnmcg permalink
    May 11, 2012 10:58 am

    I think challenge of the “narrow gate” vs. the “big tent” is manifested in the petition’s concession of being open to disagreement on capital punishment.

    When the GOP was the BIg Tent party, Catholic Democrats often correctly pointed out that all this pro-life voting for GOP candidates had not brought about many protections for the unborn. Why? Because the GOP was also trying to please taxophobes, neoconservatives, and other people in the big tent, and acting too boldly for the unborn might spook them away.

    Now, the Democrats want to be the Big Tent Party. In order to do that, they’re willing to keep quiet about things like the Death penalty.

    This is not to say that one party is more “evil” than the other. Just that the purpose of both Parties is to attract as many voters to their candidates as possible, and that being the case, it’s probably best not to put our hopes in them to bring about change.

    Same Sex Marriage isn’t coming because of the leadership of the Democratic Party; it is being brought about by activists who are pulling the Democratic (and, ultimately, Republican) Party along with it.

    I think we need to work for the things we believe in, rather than investing our time and effort in the political parties, and arguing over who’s worse, or whose differences from Catholic teaching are more egregious, or who the bishops are harder on.

  12. johnmcg permalink
    May 11, 2012 3:15 pm

    Yup — seems like a good time to soft-pedal opposition to the death penalty:

  13. Warren permalink
    May 16, 2012 10:31 am

    I have voted Democratic for the last 20 years, but being pro-life, I’ve had to rationalize away their stance on abortion by telling myself to not blame the government if someone has an abortion. Blame the person having the abortion and understand that there is a lot more work to do for the religious community to communicate alternatives to abortion. However, I revisited my position on this and may be changing my vote, unfortunately. Abortion is murder, and it’s not enough for the government to play the neutral card. Think about it: If the government was pro-choice to adults murdering other people around us, that would be horrible. The government has a role in the protection of everyone, especially the innocent unborn. This issue trumps the others and gets my vote. I just wish the Democratic party was pro-life. With all of it’s other terrific platforms, a pro-life stance would make it perfect.

    • Warren permalink
      May 16, 2012 10:37 am

      Well, not really perfect, just better. There are other issues I don’t agree with as well.

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