BENEFITS WITHOUT COSTS. As a follow-up to Tom's point, I think it's critical, when discussing potential outreach to religious voters, to consider the potential negative consequences of such strategies. One thing the journalist Peter Boyer has been guilty of is asserting benefits that would come from running more anti-choice candidates that completely ignore the costs of such potential shifts. It is true, for example, that the sudden politicization of the abortion issue in the 1960s has caused a significant number of Catholic voters to align with the Republicans rather than the Democrats. But supporting abortion criminalization has hurt Republican candidates as well. What keeps presidential elections close in a political context that generally favors Republican is that Democrats have the large, expensive to campaign in, and traditionally Republican states of California and New York in their pockets before spending a dime (and if these states were even competitive, the Democrats would be at a massive disadvantage.) As evidenced by the fact that Republicans can still win statewide office in these states when abortion is off the table, the domination of the Republican Party by the anti-choice lobby is a major reason for the fact that these states are currently uncontested at the presidential level. When you combine that with the fact that the staunchest anti-choice states are states that the current Democratic coalition is highly unlikely to win anyway, it's clear that the abortion issue is a significant net positive for national Democrats, although individual candidates of course have to be allowed some leeway.

Which is all to say that meaningful policy choices in a two-party system inevitably involve tradeoffs, and without knowing what exactly is on the table when we talk about outreach to religious voters, it's impossible to perform this kind of analysis.

--Scott Lemieux

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