Why would a party that wants to attract the largest possible number of votes this November make such extravagant pronouncements on abortion, knowing that one-third of its own members and nearly one-half of independents disagree?
And that’s just abortion. Democrats have already decided to make support for gay marriage a plank in the party’s platform. The party’s 15-member platform drafting committee unanimously voted to do so last month after hearing testimony from advocates of gay marriage. They did not invite any opponents of gay marriage to testify, suggesting that when it comes to writing a platform, the Democratic process is not entirely democratic.
According to the most recent Gallup poll on the matter, 65 percent of Democrats believe gay marriage should be legal, while 34 percent believe it shouldn’t. A full 40 percent of independents believe gay marriage should not be legal. And the Democrats are holding their convention in a swing state, North Carolina, where voters recently approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
The rational design behind all this is that Barack Obama can’t be re-elected without winning big among women. The newest Gallup polling shows equal gender gaps: Mitt Romney leads the president 50 percent to 42 percent among men, while the president leads Romney 50 to 42 percent among women. It’s a gap that has been consistent for months now, and Obama hopes to eke out a victory by making a few more women nervous about voting Republican in the last weeks of the campaign. “The Obama campaign believes that college-educated women, and the margin the president could win among them, will decide the election,” says a well-informed Democratic strategist not connected to the campaign.
But not all of this is a rational calculation. If you stand on the floor of a Democratic convention when a speaker is discussing abortion, you can feel the depth of the emotion that many Democrats feel on the issue. Conservatives like to say abortion is a liberal sacrament. Maybe that’s going too far, but it is very, very important. And when something means so much to a group of people, they can easily convince themselves that it means that much to others, too.