May 16, 2017

The DNC Is Still Dealing With Heath Mello Fallout

Nebraska Democrat Heath Mello might have lost his mayoral campaign, but the Democratic National Committee is still cleaning up from the mess Mello’s pro-life past caused during the Democratic “unity” tour.

This prolonged headache for the DNC started back in April when the Democratic Party was engulfed in controversy after DNC Chairman Tom Perez and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) were scheduled to appear with Mello on a stop of their tour. One month later, Perez is meeting with a pro-life Democratic group today to help contain the Democratic storm:

“Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez plans to meet with pro-life group Democrats for Life of America, amid an ongoing controversy within the party over whether and to what extent Democrats should pursue voters who oppose abortion. Democrats for Life advocates for pro-life Democrats and describes itself as ‘the pro-life voice of the Democratic Party.’”

In April, after prominent liberal groups like NARAL and Daily Kos lashed out at the DNC for supporting Mello given his pro-life votes, Perez was forced to say that the DNC would only support pro-choice Democrats:

“Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez became the first head of the party to demand ideological purity on abortion rights, promising Friday to support only Democratic candidates who back a woman’s right to choose.”

Yet even though Perez announced an unprecedented abortion litmus test for Democrats, pro-choice groups are still very mad that Perez would even meet with pro-life Democrats today. One abortion activist called the meeting with Democrats for Life of America “incredibly discouraging.”

Even with today’s meeting with pro-life Democrats, the DNC’s new position on abortion could have major electoral ramifications for Democrats in 2018 and beyond. Twenty eight percent of Democrats identify as pro-life, and if they believe the Democratic Party is no longer welcoming that could be a major problem for red-state Democrats. Already Perez’s abortion litmus test was “denounced” by many “red-state and pro-life Democrats” in April.

Perez’s inability to move past this intraparty conflict shows he’s in over his head. Given that his last experience with electoral politics was a failed attempt to qualify as a candidate for Maryland state Attorney General, Perez’s high profile failures at the DNC were more than predictable.