Dan Lipinski, myth-buster

“Moderation” is on life-support in the Democratic Party, irrespective of the fact that Mr. Biden seems likely to best Mr. Sanders for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination.

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., speaks during the annual March for Life rally in Washington Jan. 18, 2019. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

For the past several years, my friend Representative Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and I have pondered the state of the Republic and Dan’s parlous political situation over omelets at Silver Diner or serious carbs at Pancake House. Dan’s district, Illinois-3, has been solidly Democratic for aeons and will likely remain so until the Parousia. But as the last reliable pro-life Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, he was squarely in the crosshairs of Big Abortion, which bent every effort to defeat him in the 2018 primary.

He narrowly won that brutal contest, running against a hyper-pro-abort challenger, Marie Newman. Serious problems remained, though. The district was changing demographically, but even more importantly, the Democratic Party was lurching to the left. The most radical pro-abortion positions were becoming non-negotiable qualifiers for Democratic nominations. And despite the occasional bleats from Nancy Pelosi and others about Democratic big tents, the serious money in the party was certainly going to be behind another primary challenge to Lipinski.

So over our breakfasts we talked about Dan’s present circumstances and a variety of possible futures, including life-after-Congress. Those conversations were not lugubrious, because, unlike too many other political figures, Dan Lipinski is not a man whose identity is completely wrapped up in his office. Taking a theme from one of the founding fathers of sociology, Max Weber, Dan had always seen politics as a vocation: he was in the House to serve his constituents and the country, and to defend the truth in doing so. And, as the holder of a doctorate in political science, he was one of those politicos, sadly rare these days, who brought distinction to public office rather than gaining distinction from it.

Between his district’s shifting demography and the Gadarene rush to the left of his party, Dan knew that time was running out on his congressional career; but, battler that he is, he wanted to go out with a win. So he fought the 2020 primary campaign (the real election in IL-3) after telling his family that this would be the last hurrah. This time, he didn’t make it, losing by a couple of thousand votes on March 17 in a re-run with Marie Newman.

Dan Lipinski, a veteran congressman seeking his ninth term, had zero support from the Democratic leadership in the House. One of his Illinois Democratic colleagues derided him as a dinosaur-like figure from the party’s past. Wannabe presidents including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand endorsed Ms. Newman. But the biggest money for the Newman campaign came from the merchants of death: millions of dollars poured into the district from NARAL and Emily’s List, demonstrating once again that (along with the plaintiffs’ bar, the public employee unions, and the gay insurgency) Big Abortion is one of the four fattest cash cows for the Democratic Party.

In losing to Marie Newman, who will certainly win in November and whose performance in Congress may make Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seem like the reincarnation of Margaret Thatcher, Dan Lipinski, the man who hated losing, did a singular public service: he clarified that there is no room in today’s Democratic Party for pro-life politicians, and that those who break with the party’s extremist orthodoxy on the abortion issue will be shunned and then electorally excommunicated. Nancy Pelosi and Amy Klobuchar can prattle on about there being room for pro-lifers in the party. The reality of the situation is embodied by Joe Biden, who has switched gears again and now embraces the notion of a constitutional right to abortion no less extreme than that of the infamous Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia (“We’ll make the baby [who survives the abortion] comfortable while deciding what to do”).

And can anyone doubt that a President Biden would do all in his power to torpedo the Hyde Amendment and get the Congress to federally fund abortions? If you do doubt that, please think again. And then think about the burden of conscience that federally-funded abortion would put on President Biden’s fellow-Catholics – and indeed on all those who can read a basic biology textbook (which teaches us that the product of human conception is a human being, period) and who can grasp the first principle of justice which tells us that innocent human life deserves the protection of the law in a just society. No amount of Biden bluster about shoving his rosary beads down the throats of those who dare to call him to account for his moral cravenness can change the reality of what he has been doing in his step-by-step cave-in to Big Abortion and its stranglehold on his party.

Once upon a time, I was allied with Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson’s followers in what the media sometimes referred to as the “Jackson wing” of the Democratic Party. We Scoop people knew better, and among ourselves used to describe our small sub-tribe as the “Jackson feather” of the Democratic Party. For despite the fights we fought, we suspected that the self-styled moderates in the party had no real capacity to resist the long march through the party’s institutions of the hard left. What perhaps some of my fellow Scoop Democrats didn’t realize in the late 1970s and early 1980s was that the culture-war issues were going to be the driver of the party’s capture by the leftest of the left, and that the new Jacobins would be those lifestyle libertines of the sexual revolution for whom abortion-on-demand is the functional equivalent of a sacrament.

This is what the congressional fate of Dan Lipinski, myth-buster, has made sadly but unmistakably clear: “moderation” is on life-support in the Democratic Party, irrespective of the fact that Mr. Biden seems likely to best Mr. Sanders for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination. There are no “moderate Democrats” on the life issues at the national or congressional level. At the moment, the ratchet is working in one direction and will continue to do so, such that today’s “moderation” would have been deemed off-the-wall crazy-radical a generation ago (as the Northam and Biden examples illustrate). The same will probably be true on economic and health care issues going forward.

In the immediate future, there may be a few “moderate” Democrats left in the realm of foreign policy: meaning Democrats who understand that autarky is impossible in today’s world (see, “Covid-19, 2020 pandemic of”) and that America’s national interest and national security require supporting the forces of humane order in world politics and resisting the forces of tyranny and disorder. But the general direction of the one-time natural party of U.S. Catholics is unmistakable, and the terminus of the road on which the Democratic Party is embarked is not “moderation.”

Pressures are already at work in the Republican Party to follow the Democratic lead, at least on the life issues and the other battlegrounds where the ideology of personal autonomy as the constitutional meaning of freedom are contested. The Republican cave-in on the redefinition of “marriage” was, if not comprehensive, then at least considerable. And who is the Republican politician with national ambitions prepared to challenge “gender ideology” and the “trans” movement? They may exist, but they are keeping their heads well below the parapets these days.

It seems likely that a lot of us are going to have unexpected time on our hands for the next weeks and months. Turning quarantine and lockdown into an extended Lenten and Eastertide retreat is certainly a good way to live that time. So is pondering what might be done, through existing party institutions or the creation of a new party, to ensure that every conscientious and orthodox Catholic, in or out of public life, remains capable of functioning as a citizen of this Republic.

In that task of rebuilding the moral and cultural foundations of American democracy, Dan Lipinski’s example of courage is a noble one to follow.


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About George Weigel 297 Articles
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. He is the author of over twenty books, including Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (1999), The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (2010), and The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform. His most recent book is The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission (2020), published by Ignatius Press.

15 Comments

  1. “In the immediate future, there may be a few “moderate” Democrats left in the realm of foreign policy: meaning Democrats who understand that autarky is impossible in today’s world (see, “Covid-19, 2020 pandemic of”) and that America’s national interest and national security require supporting the forces of humane order in world politics and resisting the forces of tyranny and disorder.”

    To be moderate is to be a neocon globalist. Got it. What else would one expect from Weigel, who hasn’t changed his tune in the last 30 years. This is why Weigel and his brand of “moderation” is irrelevant.

    • Sol, I agree with you that “To be moderate is to be a neocon globalist”, and I would have much to add to that de facto negative qualifier of “moderate”, as the “moderates” can sometimes be compromise wrecking balls anywhere and inside the Church at any time period and more so today. Today’s battle has shifted to such drastic extremes that being “moderate” is just too close to compromise with evil. I agree with that. Attempts at dialogue and reconciliation, while sadly, “diplomatically” diluting the Truth, like our very dear John Paul II’s kissing the Koran have backfired very badly even if a few Muslims did appreciate it and are lately making some more positive public statements. Only statements, no real action, and then hiding under the umbrella of “religion of peace” while their radicals continue the killing. A clear sign of the times.

      What I don’t understand is why you present Weigel as basically an apostle of toxic moderation for “…the last 30 years”, especially after I read much of what he writes. His paragraph right after the one you quoted has quite the opposite of proposing or imposing “moderation”, where he indeed criticizes it, even if he, being the kind of intellectual he is, he clearly does not do it more aggressively: “Pressures are already at work in the Republican Party to follow the Democratic lead, at least on the life issues and the other battlegrounds where the ideology of personal autonomy as the constitutional meaning of freedom are contested. The Republican cave-in on the redefinition of “marriage” was, if not comprehensive, then at least considerable. And who is the Republican politician with national ambitions prepared to challenge “gender ideology” and the “trans” movement? They may exist, but they are keeping their heads well below the parapets these days”. Given this, would you care to clarify, please?

      • Weigel is fine on “pro-life” issues but he is a supporter of the programs of the neoconservatives and capitalist oligarchs (one can call capitalism, “classical liberalism,” but not all capitalists are classical liberals). The neoconservatives and the oligarchs advocate much that is contrary to human life at every stage.

  2. I now live in Chicago suburbs. Newman campaign was well funded, running frequent TV ads that touted he pro abortion positions. Did not see any Lipinski ads. The campaigns was not about foreign policy. It pitted a Planned Parenthood candidate against a Pro Life Catholic. Planned Parenthood won.

  3. If “being moderate” in one’s reporting is judged as the aim of every report, then this explains why Mr. Weigel can write that “moderation is on life support” in the Democrat Party.

    If being candid in reporting were the aim, then “life support” was happening 30 years ago.

    But now, let’s be candid instead: with the defeat of Mr. Lipinski, MODERATION IS EXTINCT IN THE DEMOCRAT PARTY.. As a political force, moderation in the Democrat Party ended decades ago, around the time Senator Jackson left office.

  4. Nice to know that I was never a member of “the one-time nstural party of Catholics,” largely because (coming from a mostly apolitical family in which one parent was R, one was D) I could see, by the time I entered high school (1958), which way that party was headed.

  5. Well, better late than never I guess, in recognizing the pro death party. Moderation is on life support in the democrat party? It is not on life support. That plug was pulled long ago. As usual Mr. Weigel goes to any length to keep from mentioning the pro life position of the republican party, and that President Trump is our most pro life president ever. Creation of a new viable party? This is not 1854. It will not happen.

  6. The last so called moderate democrat vanished from citizens view in 2007-08.Pelosi & Reid saw to that purge on Obama/Biden,Jarrett/Hillary’s orders.Lipinski saw what happened to Alinsky disciple {D} Burt Stupek of Michigan
    Lipinski saw his days were numbered,and it’s a miracle he lasted as long as he did in his seat.To be a Catholic socialist/democrat today? Is to step onto that down elevator.Holding onto the side rails with both hands.As the temperature gets hotter and hotter.Catholics forget the meaning of the word Eternity.

    • The democratic party has been the party of death since 1992, when Hill/Bill refused Bill Casey, pro-life democrat governor of PA, a speech at the dem convention. Hill/Bill won PA by 6%. Has there been any pro-life presence at a Dem convention since 1992? I think not.

  7. I have always had the highest regard for Mr. Weigel. I own several of his books and have long admired his thinking and the force of his arguments.

    But this piece? It strikes me as utterly, completely, shockingly delusional.

    What could you possibly be thinking, George?

    “‘Moderation’ is on life-support in the Democratic Party…”

    Whaaa? Really?

    Forget about abortion, which has been the seminal, fundamental and driving objective of the Democratic Party for coming up on 50 years now. You might, in fact, describe it as an obsession.

    But think about it:

    Not a single one of the recent 720 candidates for the Democratic nomination came out in opposition of the inane Green “Ew!” Deal.

    Or open borders. (Have you rethought that one in light of this pandemic, people? No? Hmh.)

    Or the move in a number of Democrat-run state governments to legalize infanticide.

    Or identity politics.

    Or gay marriage.

    Or “gender transitioning” minor children.

    Or etc., etc., etc.

    I can only conclude that Mr. Weigel’s statement above does a grave disservice to the state of medical care in our nation. It’s as if he considers the individuals laid out in your local mortuary to be “on life support.”

    I could point out much more in this piece that is deeply insulting to the intelligence of the reader. But, in a spirit of charity, I will limit myself to just one sentence:

    “Dan Lipinski’s example of courage is a noble one to follow.”

    Really?Are you serious, George?

    (Sigh.)

    I would hardly call cooperation with what can only be described as a satanic death cult courageous. Or noble.

    In fact, I cannot recall Mr. Lipinski denouncing a single one of these and so many other death-dealing policies advocated by the Democratic Party.

    The age-old question has never been more apt than it is today:

    Can a person be both Catholic and a Democrat?

    To which I would reply, “Um. You’ve got to be kidding. Where have you *been* for the past 40 years?”

    • Thanks, I had two streams of thought reading his essay, both raised my blood pressure. I too used to admire Weigel and read all his books, except his last, and probably never will again, unless he grows a pair. You expressed my thoughts precisely on one issue. The other is Weigel’s complete refusal to acknowledge the much greater crisis, for the whole of humanity, of the exponential growth of heterodoxy in the Church during this pontificate. He knows what’s going on and has spoken with proper offense with vague reference to “Vatican” policies that allow moral relativism, paganism, Syncretism, and the neutering of the Church’s pro-life witness to occur, but he does this while maintaining a stubborn refusal to identify the source that allows it all to occur: Pope Francis. His blindness to the cowardice of his politician friend is bad enough. Weigel’s refusal to man up and side with the prophetic Viganos and Stricklands and Schneiders against a tyrannical and corrupt papacy makes him an accessory to its sins by omission and commission. Did I miss his essay of abhorence over children buried alive in Francis’ Utopian Amazon? Did I miss his denouncing Francis for lionizing so many pro-aborts at the Vatican? Did I miss his denouncing Francis for his blatant moral sophistry in AI that allows sinners to “discern” that it is impossible for them to stop sinning in their “complex concrete circumstances” in “today’s world” and then practice a perverse “mercy” that allows them to go on sinning and thereby be merciless towards the victims of their sins? My memory might be faulty. Correct me George.

  8. I would just like to add that when the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the only truly pro-life Democratic leader I’ve ever known of, made his famous pronouncement, that abortion would be the death of the Democratic Party, he was grossly overestimating America’s Catholics.

    Instead, abortion is more likely to be the death of the American Catholic Church. For fully half of us have not only acclimated ourselves to the murder of about a million innocent children each year, but we’ve cooperated in those unimaginable crimes by casting our votes for supporters of the satanic death cult that is the Democratic Party.

    If in a single national election we had voted the teachings of the Church, no candidate would dare embrace this monstrous practice, and the world would be spared humanity’s most deadly pestilence in history.

    As it is, I accuse Mr. Weigel, the rest of you, and myself, for either not doing enough to stop it, or positively promoting it by voting for Democrats.

    It pains me to say it, but abortion is the eighth sacrament of the American Catholic Church.

      • Martin!

        A little research has revealed that you are indeed correct. I was wrong. Moynihan was indeed pro-abortion.

        Thank you for correcting my misapprehension.

        It seems I am running out of Democrats to say good things about.

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