01/15/05 — An anti-abortion Hoosier seeks the chairmanship

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An anti-abortion Hoosier seeks the chairmanship

The Democratic Party’s position on abortion alienates it from many Americans with whom it otherwise might have much in common. Among them are Roman Catholics, including Hispanics, many religious blacks and evangelical Christians.

These groups, particularly the latter, might well have cost Democratic Sen. John Kerry the White House in November. Many commentators attributed President Bush’s re-election to the Republicans’ capture of “values voters,” especially in the key state of Ohio.

At least one high-ranking Democrat seems to agree. Former Rep. Tim Roemer of Indiana has announced that he will run for chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee. Roemer, a Catholic, is the only candidate for the job so far who does not believe in abortion.

Two Democratic stalwarts and abortion supporters have criticized Roemer. Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion Rights Action League, said electing him would be a sign that the Democrats were giving in on their core principles. There was a similar reaction from Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America — and probably from many other Democrats.

The party is in a bit of a dilemma. If it opens its doors wide enough to attract those moral-minded voters in the South and Midwest, some of its core interest groups will be terribly offended. No one seems to be in a mood to compromise.

Of the others who have expressed interest in the Democratic chairmanship, the best-known is Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor whose promising run for the presidential nomination was sidetracked by a crazy speech that he made after losing a primary. If he wins, he probably will not entertain any suggestion to turn the party toward the right.

The announced candidates for the leadership job are Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, former Ohio Democratic Chairman David Leland, former Texas Congressman Martin Frost, and party activists Donnie Fowler and Simon Rosenberg.

About 400 party leaders will elect the chairman next month. They would be wise to take advantage of this opportunity to make the party more inclusive.

Published in Editorials on January 15, 2005 10:52 PM