Purity tests, please.


Two days ago, Democratic Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill to ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected. Unlike some of the most draconian bills, it does contain exemptions in the case of rape and incest, and luckily this bill will only take effect if the courts uphold Mississippi’s neighboring bill. But despite these scraps of mercy in Louisiana’s bill, its signing by a Democratic governor makes it maybe the most brutal yet.

Many, of course, are quick to jump to the defense of politicians like Edwards or, say, Joe Manchin, pointing out that the alternatives are far worse and that it’s better to have imperfect friends in those offices. This is certainly true in the short term. However, these seats should be treated as luxuries in the Democratic coalition. Instead, each election cycle sees us treating them as our most important seats. In 2018, a few of the Senators given the most help from Democrats in their reelection bids were the Gorsuch-approvers Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. To make matters worse, on the legislative side these necessary-evil candidates end up with outsized power in what agenda is possible for the party to pursue.

But back to anti-abortion Democrats: while electing these candidates can prevent some amount of pain in the short term, in the long term propping up these candidates is to surrender what few values the party has left.

While times it can seem politically expedient to brand the party as “whatever is better than the Republicans that is electable,” more and more this is a move of surrender, especially as the country drifts further rightward and conservative Democrat governors just become Republicans outright, even in the age of Trump. Many nonvoting Americans need to see the message that one party is for the people and the other isn’t. Backing politicians like John Bel Edwards obscures that.

The tent is too big. Purity tests would be nice, even just one or two.

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