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Social convention

"Social convention" Continued...

Issue: "Reassessing the genome," Oct. 6, 2012

For Democrats who consider themselves pro-life, that language is confounding. Kristen Day, executive director of the pro-life group Democrats for Life, said her organization asked the platform committee to include language at least acknowledging that the party includes pro-life members. The committee refused.

Day says that alienates as many as one-third of Democrats who identity as pro-life, according to a Gallup poll: “That’s 21 million Democrats who are disenfranchised from the party because their views are not included.”

Though it’s difficult to discern whether the pro-abortion emphasis could cost the party significant votes this fall, Day says she’s hearing from Democrats who say they won’t vote for the president because of the party’s strong abortion push this year.

For pro-life Democrats like Fernando Cabrera, the party’s support of both abortion and gay “marriage” is a source of deep tension. The Liberty University graduate and New York City pastor is a member of the New York City Council. He was also a delegate to the Democratic convention in Charlotte.

The Sunday before the convention started, Cabrera delivered an impassioned sermon at the conservative First Baptist Church in downtown Charlotte. He decried Obama’s support for “gay marriage,” and the Democratic Party’s plan to add same-sex “marriage” to its platform for the first time. He warned: “Darkness has come upon our land.”

He urged the Charlotte congregation to “vote their values,” adding that a vote is a serious commitment: “When you put someone into office, you are making a covenant with that elected official.”

After the service, Cabrera said he stays in the party because of its commitment to help the poor, and because he wants to “lend voice to the other members of the party who are concerned about the direction it’s going.” (North Carolina passed a pro-marriage amendment in May with 61 percent of the vote. Obama endorsed gay “marriage” the day after the amendment passed.)

I asked Cabrera: If voters or delegates are making a covenant with their elected officials, what are the implications of making a covenant with Obama when it comes to social issues?

“Well, this is a point of frustration and a point of contention that many people who are in my position are feeling right now,” he said. “And to be honest with you, it’s a struggle that I’m trying to resolve.”

During the convention, most of the party didn’t seem to struggle with the issue. A bevy of speakers—including Obama—openly endorsed gay “marriage,” and 19-year-old Iowa delegate Zach Wahls received a standing ovation when he began his convention speech by declaring: “I was raised by my two moms.”

The party’s official calendar didn’t include events featuring pro-marriage Democrats, and only a handful of people showed up at a press conference of black pastors opposed to same-sex “marriage” (see sidebar.)

In the end, with little public objection, the Democratic Party passed a platform that opposes any federal or state amendments to protect traditional marriage, and calls for the “full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.”

The only dissenting voice during the convention’s nightly meetings came at the very end when Cardinal Timothy Dolan offered the closing prayer after Obama’s speech: “Empower us with Your grace so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making or to remake those institutions You have given us for the nurturing of life and community.”

If Democrats were willing to push abortion and the re-making of marriage aggressively, it’s unclear if the strategy will pay off in November. Some worry that it will cost the party votes.

But others wonder if the strategy serves as a distraction from the economic malaise that grips the country. Sandwiched in between calls for abortion rights and gay “marriage,” some speakers also warned that Romney would give tax breaks to the rich and raise taxes on the middle class. (Romney says he won’t pursue that path, but he hasn’t explained fully how his tax plan would work.)

Democrats didn’t fully explain their economic plan either. Former President Bill Clinton’s popular speech was heavy on numbers, but light on how Democrats would forge a path forward. Obama’s speech was even lighter: He spoke of initiatives already underway, and asked voters to rally around a set of goals for the next four years, but he said little about how he’d accomplish those goals. In the end, he came back to a theme of his 2008 campaign: “My fellow citizens, you were the change.”

That leaves both candidates a daunting task as presidential debates begin Oct. 3: Clearly articulate a specific plan that will resonate with voters worried about a sputtering economy and a spiraling national debt.

This article has been edited to clarify that the children accompanying pro-life activists in the beginning of the story did not speak through a megaphone. Only one activist declared: “Unless you repent, you will be cast into hell.”

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