Bernie Sanders at Liberty University in September 2015
At the National March for Life, Donald Trump said
All of us here understand an eternal truth: Every child is a precious and sacred gift from God. Together, we must protect, cherish, and defend the dignity and the sanctity of every human life…when we see the image of the baby in the womb, we glimpse the majesty of God’s creation…When we watch a child grow, we see the splendor that radiates from each human soul. One life changes the world.
I have written several posts at this blog about Trump’s speech at the March for Life. He has speech writers who know how to put the right words in his mouth at events like this. I still believe that his appearance at the March for Life was harmful to the pro-life cause.
Do any of the Democratic candidates on the stage last night in Manchester, New Hampshire believe what Trump said in the above excerpt? And if they did agree with what Trump said about the dignity of human life, would they be willing to say something like this, regardless of their position on Roe v. Wade or a women’s right to choose, before a nationally televised audience? Would they be willing to say that abortion is a moral problem?
Here is a taste of religion writer Terry Mattingly’s recent column:
While commentators stressed that Trump attended the march to please his conservative evangelical base, this massive event in Washington, D.C., draws a complex crowd that is hard to label. It includes, for example, Catholics and evangelicals from groups that have been critical of Trump’s personal life and ethics, as well as his stands on immigration, the death penalty and related issues.
Videos of this year’s march showed many signs praising the president, but also signs critical of his bruising brand of politics.
A Facebook post by a Catholic priest — Father Jeffrey Dauses of the Diocese of Baltimore — captured this tension. Telling pro-lifers to “wake up,” Dauses attacked what he called Trump’s “callous disregard for the poor, for immigrants and refugees, for women … This man is not pro-life. He is pro-himself.”
Meanwhile, Buttigieg — an openly gay Episcopalian — did something even more daring when he appeared at a Fox News town hall in Iowa. One of the toughest questions he faced came from the leader of a network of Democrats opposed to abortion.
“Do you want the support of pro-life Democrats?” asked Kristen Day, president of Democrats for Life. “Would you support more moderate platform language in the Democratic Party to ensure that the party of diversity and inclusion really does include everybody?”
Some previous platforms, she noted, affirmed that all Democrats were welcome — even if their beliefs clashed with the party’s pro-abortion-rights orthodoxy. Now, Day added, the “platform contains language that basically says that we don’t belong, we have no part in the party because it says abortion should be legal up to nine months.”
Buttigieg refused to compromise, even though he has repeatedly stressed his credentials as a moderate Democrat striving to woo #NeverTrump Republicans and religious believers who abandoned his party in 2016.
Read the entire piece here.
As I have argued, moderate Democratic candidates like Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar have a great chance of stealing evangelical votes from Trump in 2020, but they will need to change the way they talk about abortion. Elizabeth Warren is a Methodist, a church that still upholds a pro-life position. But I don’t see her moving in this direction.
I once tried to get Bernie Sanders to budge on abortion. Here is what I wrote about him back in September 2015:
I watched Bernie Sanders’s speech in Columbia, South Carolina on a recent night. I thought it was great. The economic populist in me was cheering. When Sanders talks about income inequality he is hitting a nerve. Sanders may not win the nomination, but he will be around long enough to make life miserable for Hillary Clinton and the other Democratic candidates running for president of the United States.
Sanders, the progressive Vermont senator, will be speaking at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia on September 14. Liberty, the school founded by the Reverend Jerry Falwell, has long been a defender of conservative values. In the past it has not only championed Christian morality, but it has promoted free markets and limited government. Sanders may be the most progressive person who has ever spoken — if not set foot — on the Lynchburg campus.
I am glad that Sanders is coming to Liberty. The university deserves accolades for inviting him to speak. Our democracy only works when we stop the shouting matches and start listening to the views of those with whom we differ before we condemn them.
I don’t know what motivated Liberty University to invite Sanders. The cynical side of me says that the Liberty leadership wants him to speak so that they can point out the wrongness of his progressive views. I am sure Sanders’s visit will be discussed at length in Liberty classrooms, giving professors plenty of opportunities to debunk his ideas.
The hopeful side of me says that Liberty is trying to move beyond its reputation as a bastion of the Christian Right and is looking to find at least some common ground with those on the Left.
At the end of his speech in Columbia, Sanders did an interview with CSPAN. Scott Scully asked Sanders about his upcoming visit to Lynchburg. Sanders said that he hoped to find some common ground with Liberty on matters related to wealth inequality, childhood poverty and health care.
I hope the students, faculty and administrators at Liberty listen carefully to Sanders. Inequality, poverty and health care are moral issues. They are things that all Christians should be concerned about. Perhaps Sanders might inspire some of the Liberty faithful to extend their religious outreach to areas that have not historically been part of the Christian Right’s moral agenda.
But let me suggest another possible topic of conversation that might take place on September 14th. It is a conversation that is unlikely to happen, but it should. I would love to see a Liberty student ask Sanders something about abortion.
Sanders often talks about “protecting the most vulnerable Americans.” It is one of the lynchpins of his campaign. For Sanders, this means protecting senior citizens and children in poverty by strengthening government programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social safety nets. People might differ with Sanders’s approach to protecting these “most vulnerable Americans,” but few would argue that senior citizens and children are not vulnerable and do not need protecting.
In his speech in Columbia, Sanders said with much passion and force:
“It is not acceptable that billionaires grow richer while kids in this country go hungry. If we are a moral people, we stand with the most vulnerable people, the most defenseless people, in our society. To turn our backs on the children while billionaires get richer is not what this country is supposed to be about.”
Preach it Bernie!
But how can a progressive Democrat concerned about defending the most vulnerable members of society fail to say anything about abortion? Whatever one thinks about the recently released Planned Parenthood videos, one thing seems clear: aborted fetuses are alive, they are vulnerable and they need protection.
If Democrats like Sanders are concerned about the dignity of human life — all human life — they will protect these helpless babies and work to reduce the number of abortions in America.
Such a position seems perfectly consistent with the progressive morality Sanders is preaching.
It would also make for a great conversation at Liberty University.
And, perhaps most importantly for Sanders, it might make Christians like me — people who are serious about economic inequality and excited about the Sanders candidacy — to translate that enthusiasm into a vote.