Kristen Day of Democrats for Life sees pro-life Dems's numbers dwindle in Congress.
WASHINGTON – Wherever she goes, Kristen Day is haunted by political ghosts.
Day is the executive director of Democrats for Life of America, which works to elect pro-life Democrats at the state and federal level. Day has held the job for more than a decade, and she is upfront about her organization’s waning support. She has not met with party leaders in nearly a decade. Her organization will be down to four or five supporters in Congress next January. And pro-life establishment leaders exclude her from meetings.
“It’s very lonely,” the 45-year-old Day said last Friday, walking from her office at 601 Pennsylvania Avenue to a Starbucks on D Street and Indiana Avenue NW. Ever hopeful and determined, Day adds that pro-life Democrats have inundated her office with calls after the party took a beating on Election Day. But as she sat down on a stool and drank an espresso on a chilly morning, she acknowledged that more pro-life Democrats have left the fold than entered it.
“Thousands and thousands of people have told me they used to be a pro-life Democrat, and they always say ‘I didn’t leave the party, the party left me,’” she said.
As the voters left, their congressional representatives followed. When Day recounts the Democrats her group used to endorse, she drops her smile, stares straight ahead at the questioner, and purses her lips.
“Jim Langevin,” she said, referring to the wheelchair-bound representative from Rhode Island who gave fresh hope to the pro-life movement when he won a seat in 1998.
How about Rep. Steven Lynch of Massachusetts?
Day shook her head.
How about one high-profile Democratic member of Congress?
“He has been a total disappointment,” she said.
The longer Day discusses the subject, the more her disappointment deepens. Losing Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper was a huge blow. The Pennsylvania Democrat gave pro-lifers an “in” with pro-choice Democratic women. “She was poor and got pregnant as a teenager, and she chose life for her child. She knows what it’s like,” Day said. Her successor, a white male Republican, does not have an “in.”
Three days earlier, over the phone, Day expressed not disappointment but exasperation that Democratic Party leaders had failed to recruit and support pro-life congressional candidates. The party’s poor showing in the midterm elections — Senate Democrats lost eight seats and may lose another seat next month in Louisiana, while House Democrats lost a dozen seats at least — was proof in her mind of leadership’s obtuseness toward pro-lifers. “When are they going to wake up? When are they going to wake up?” she said before adding a zinger about the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. “Debbie Wasserman Schultz has no clue about what it’s like to be a pro-life Democrat.”
Spokespersons for Langevin, Lynch, and Wasserman Schultz did not comment on Day’s statements. Day’s relationship with the pro-life establishment is little better. She signed on to a lawsuit that former Rep. Steve Driehaus of Ohio filed against the Susan B. Anthony List which claimed that the pro-life organization had spread misinformation about his campaign. (A federal judge tossed the lawsuit.)
Day used to participate in a monthly strategy session with top aides to the National Right to Life Committee, Susan B. Anthony List, Priests for Life, and Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, a Republican. Now she doesn’t.
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said Day has been a long-time friend and it has supported the work of Democrats for Life for decades. He said pro-life establishment leaders have excluded Day only from meetings in which “electoral strategies are being worked out that would favor Republican candidates. To me, this is simply an understandable political instinct, not a negative reflection on either Kristen or Democrats for Life."