Prolife Democrat laments ‘homogenization’ within parties

Washington D.C., Sep 28, 2018 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), one of the few prolife members of the Deomcratic Party with a seat in Congress, has spoken about his commitment to life issues and his concern at the increasing divide between the two major parties.

The congressman spoke at an event entitled Being a Faithful Catholic as a Public Servant on Sept. 27. The event was hosted at the Catholic University of America and sponsored by the university’s Institute for Human Ecology.

Lipinski, along with CUA Professor Joseph Capizzi, discussed what life is like in Washington for one of the last remaining Blue Dog Democrats, and how his party has shifted to the point of effectively trying to force people like him out. He has represented Illinois’ 3rd district for the last 14 years, a time in which he says divisiveness and polarization has gotten worse.

Although voting as a committed Democrat, with a 91 percent rating from the AFL-CIO and a 100 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters— Lipinski also calls himself a strong and proud pro-life legislator, something which can leave him isolated from his party colleagues.

“The parties have really gotten more homogeneous,” he said. “It used to be that you had conservative Democrats, largely southerners but not all, and you had some more liberal Republicans. The parties have really sorted out.”

His constituents, he explained, are largely the “old-fashioned Democrats”–a phrase that he himself identifies himself with.

Over his nearly decade and a half in Congress, “things have changed. There’s less bipartisanship, but things have really gotten so much worse.”

The two major parties are generally found on opposite sides of the abortion debate. The Democratic Party’s platform has support for the public funding of abortion as one of its planks, while the Republican Party’s platform states that all Americans have an “unalienable right to life.”

In addition to being a relative rarity in his party, his pro-life views have made him something of a target.

This past March, Lipinski barely survived a primary challenge in his Illinois constituency. His challenger, Marie Newman, made abortion the central issue of that campaign, and received considerable support and money from numerous pro-abortion groups.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee initially declined to endorse Lipinski, but finally endorsed the sitting congressman about two weeks before the primary election.

Lipinski said that while he is hopeful about the future of the pro-life movement, he was not comfortable with how the movement had “embraced” President Donald Trump. He explained that he pulled out of speaking at the annual March for Life when he learned that Trump would also be addressing the event.

“It very much concerns me,” said Lipinski about Trump. “I understand he’s done some very good things when it comes to protecting life, but I’m scared that getting too close is going to hurt the movement in the long run.”

Those who attended the talk were impressed with what Lipinski had to say, even if they were not necessarily on board with all of his policy positions. Many of the attendees at the Catholic University told CNA that they appreciated the stance he was taking for life.

“It’s wonderful to hear a pro-life politician who remains firm in his stance and is willing to speak out publicly in defense of life,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth, SV, told CNA.

Nick Swanson, a freshman at Catholic University who described himself as a Republican, said that he thought it was interesting how blunt Lipinski was about his time in Congress.

“It wasn’t as if he was playing to a political audience, he just wanted to be honest about the struggles he faced in making his decisions. It’s almost like he, when he approaches these decisions he takes them seriously. It’s not as if he just follows the party line,” said Swanson.

John Dashe, another freshman, told CNA that he thought it was refreshing to find ideological diversity within a party.

“Being from (Massachusetts), we have a lot of Democrats, but none of them are pro-life,” said Dashe.

“Coming from a perspective where I thought they all had a sort-of uniform view, it’s interesting to see that he was different in that way.”

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