Problems with the Democrats
Prof. Ron Sider
David Brooks’ November 5 New York Times column discusses a fundamental problem with Democrats. Democrats dominate much of the society’s generators of culture: elite universities, elite media (except for Fox News!), the entertainment industry and the big tech companies. Fortunately, progressive Democrats support pursuing social and racial justice. But sometimes they do it in a way that does not tolerate other cultural ideas.
One can see that in issues like abortion, freedom for conservatives with traditional views of marriage, and the role of parents in their children’s education.
In the final debate in the Virginia race for governor, the Democratic candidate said: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.“ That was a crucial factor in his defeat.
The 2020 Democratic platform on abortion made no room for the large number of Americans who want some restrictions on abortion. Every Democratic Attorney General in the country said last year that they would not support any Democratic candidate who wanted some restrictions on abortion.
With the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage, a huge debate has opened up on whether institutions (e.g., Christian colleges, hospitals etc.) that retain the traditional view of marriage in their hiring practices should lose some or all government support. The Equality Act passed unanimously by the new Democratic majority in the house in 2018 rightly guaranteed civil rights for LGBTQ people but did so in a way that fundamentally undermined the right of religious institutions to hire only those with a traditional view of marriage.
David Brooks argues that the Democratic elites that dominate culture too often wrongly try to silence those who disagree with them. Sometimes it involves canceling speaking engagements (as Massachusetts Institute of Technology did recently for a distinguished scholar who has a conservative view on some issues.) Conservatives should not be shut out of elite universities. It is a fundamental mistake to refuse to recognize that vast numbers of American citizens have more conservative views on abortion and gay marriage than do the liberal Democratic elites.
According to numerous Gallup polls, only about 30% of Americans think abortion should be legal in every circumstance. 20% say it should never be legal. And about 50% say it should be legal but with some restrictions. The Democratic party’s position on abortion essentially ignores the 70% of the American people who want some restrictions on abortion.
The Democrats‘ Equality Act similarly ignores large numbers of citizens. A different bill on LGBTQ civil rights has been introduced in Washington called the Fairness for All Act. It rightly guarantees both LGBTQ civil rights and the religious freedom of institutions with a conservative view of marriage.
You would think Democrats would recognize the vast cultural and ideological diversity of the country and say that our pluralistic society must welcome everyone and not impose one cultural viewpoint on all. You would think parents should have a great deal to say about their children’s education. (Of course, that should mean rejecting those views that use parental rights as a cover to oppose any teaching about the nation’s racist history. But it should also mean rejecting any understanding of critical race theory that makes white students feel guilty just for being white.) Also, you would think Democrats could make space in their party for the 50% of Americans who want abortion to be legal but with some restrictions.
Please do not misunderstand me. I think that many, many of President Biden’s policies are wise and just: working seriously to combat climate change; greatly expanding the child tax credit; affordable daycare; paid parental leave for having a baby or dealing with an illness; and much more.
But at the heart of the American vision is the idea of religious and cultural pluralism. We should make space in our democratic society for all political and religious views. If the Democrats cannot embrace policies and legislation that do that, they deserve to be defeated.
Dr. Ron Sider is a theologian and founder of Evangelicals for Social Action in the US. He is a friend and member of the International Board of Reference of ISACC.