Bernie Sanders’s Abortion Comments and the Unnecessary Intolerance of the Culture War

In a town hall last week, MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle asked Bernie Sanders, “Is there such a thing a thing as a pro-life Democrat in your vision of the party.” Bernie’s response was blunt—“I think being pro-choice is an absolutely essential part of being a Democrat.” 

That was a terrible answer. Not only did this response send a negative message to millions of pro-life Democrats, it also actively repulses pro-life voters who dislike Donald Trump, and—even worse—it was a symbol of the way that the American culture war has grown unnecessarily and gratuitously intolerant. 

Why do I say unnecessary and gratuitous? Let’s consider a different answer from Bernie—one I’m pretty sure he could give without altering a single one of his policy positions. Here’s Earth Two Bernie with an alternate-universe answer:

Yes, absolutely, Stephanie. In my vision of the party, pro-life Americans would want to be Democrats. No, not because we’re going to reverse Roe. We’re not going to do that. Protecting a woman’s right to choose is a core plank in the Democratic Party platform, and I’m going to protect that constitutional principle. 

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