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The ascension of failed Democratic presidential candidate and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean as chairman of the national party on Saturday, February 12th–widely expected by political observers–is now being likened by some to the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

Certainly it will be one more piece of bad news for pro-life Democrats.

"For too long, the National Abortion Rights Action League has been the unofficial board of directors of the Democratic National Committee," says Carol Crossed, president of Democrats for Life of America. "Our Party has a choice: to keep abortion unrestricted and unregulated or to fail at the polls. Which is it going to be?"

On Saturday, 447 representatives of various Democratic Party constituencies will be meeting in Washington, D.C., to vote on the chair. If Dean is selected, pro-life Democrats will likely continue to be shut out of the party’s ruling structure because the party chair runs the apparatus, influences rule-making, and travels the country building party infrastructure for campaigns.

Even though Dean tried to soften his position recently and called on Democrats to "change our vocabulary," his emphatic endorsement of partial birth abortion and strong support from abortion rights organizations argues against any softening of the Democratic Party’s position. Dean was the featured speaker at the NARAL Pro-Choice America January 2003 annual dinner and served for five years on the board of Planned Parenthood of New England prior to his ascension as governor in 1991. He was elected to four terms as Vermont governor before running for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.

"Mr. Dean’s passion and partisanship no doubt will deepen Democratic support in enclaves they already dominate," wrote Ted Van Dyke, in a February 10th column in the Wall Street Journal. "My home city of Seattle will remain a blue stronghold," the Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist claimed. However, he also said that many states narrowly went to either Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry or to President Bush in November and those states can tilt either way.

"If you examine the 2004 electoral map closely, you will see that several states including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and New Jersey, voted for Mr. Kerry but could trend longer term toward the GOP," said Van Dyke, who was active for forty years in Democratic politics. Van Dyke compared the state of the current Democratic Party to the film, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," which "depicted the bodies of decent, normal citizens being taken over while they slept by alien entities marching in conformist and destructive lockstep."

IgnatiusInsight.com’s post-election interviews with two pro-life Democrats, who won resounding victories in their elections in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, support the analysis that hard-line abortion support is hurting the Democrats. So does a surprising January 24 speech by expected 2008 presidential candidate, New York Sen. Hilary Clinton, calling for "common ground," on abortion, terming it "a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women."

Bob Casey was elected with a more than 1.3 million vote margin as Pennsylvania state treasurer in November, contrasting to Kerry’s narrow 144,248-vote victory over President Bush in the same state. Casey is the son of the late Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey who was famously barred from speaking at the 1992 Democratic national convention because of his pro-life stance.

"There’s no question when you compare our perspective–it’s at odds with the national party," said Casey. "This election, for a lot of Democratic Party leaders was a wake-up call. Do I think the national platform is going to change? No, not any time soon," Casey, a Catholic, said in the days following the November election.

"Even though John Kerry was able to win [in Pennsylvania], it was very close. There’s an erosion of support," Casey said. In contrast, he and fellow prolife Democrat Jack Wagner who was elected as Auditor General, won strongly, Casey noted.

"But Pennsylvania, unlike the national party, nominates Democrats that are pro-life and that are not in favor of gun control," said Casey, noting that gun control is a hot issue in the Keystone State.

"So, we’ve figured out a way to win in Pennsylvania. I think that the national party has to begin to recognize it."

Neither Casey nor newly elected West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III, also interviewed by IgnatiusInsight, would venture a direct opinion on who should be selected to run the Democratic Party apparatus for the next four years.

But Manchin, a Catholic who was also in the West Virginia state legislature, noted, "I have twelve years of voting record. I’ve been voting and I’ve been a pro-life voter all those years. It’s me and I feel very strongly about that.

"The Democratic Party, before they choose a chairman and before they choose a platform, they better get the opinions of those of us who have been able to win under very adverse conditions," Manchin says.

Related Links:

- "Dean's Plan for the DNC" (DemocracyForAmerican.com).

- "Deaniacs on Parade" by Byron York (NRO)
- "Dean splits party at its center" - Washington Times

Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight. She worked as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, and in print and broadcast media for ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University of San Francisco and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is the former director of Birthright of San Francisco. Valerie and her wonderful husband have four children.

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