In the hours before network TV broadcast the Democratic National Convention to millions of Americans, the convention was shaping up to be a rip-roaring abortion jamboree.
Nancy Keenan, president of the National Abortion Rights Action League, told the crowd that she’s “proud to say that the Democratic Party believes that women have the right to choose a safe, legal abortion with dignity and privacy.” Milwaukee congresswoman Gwen Moore falsely claimed Republicans “tried to change the definition of rape.” Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick said, “We believe that freedom means keeping government out of our most private affairs, including out of a woman's decision whether to keep an unwanted pregnancy.” (Note to Patrick: A woman doesn’t “keep” a pregnancy.)
A "Republican" stay-at-home mom named Maria Ciano falsely said that "Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want the government to have a say in my family planning. They want employers to decide what kind of birth control coverage I have—or if I can have it at all." Connecticut congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, former executive director of EMILY’s List, also addressed the convention.
But the millions of viewers who tuned in to watch the DNC during primetime didn’t hear full-throated defenses of abortion-on-demand or government-mandated free contraception. Rather, they saw a young and affable Mexican-American mayor of San Antonio named Julian Castro talking about his memories of his grandmother. “I can still remember her, every morning as [my brother] Joaquin and I walked out the door to school, making the sign of the cross behind us, saying, ‘Que dios los bendiga.’ ‘May God bless you.’" Later Michelle Obama spoke about what a good man her husband is and what good judgment and values he has.
So it seemed that Democrats tried to narrowcast the “war on women” message to their base while cable TV was intermittently picking up the convention, and then they switched to a softer, more moderate message while 20 million or more Americans were watching.
Sure, there was a throwaway line in Castro’s speech about “respecting women's rights,” but his policy remarks focused mainly on the budget and on how Romney is out of touch. “Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn't get it,” Castro said. “A few months ago he visited a university in Ohio and gave the students there a little entrepreneurial advice. ‘Start a business,’ he said. But how? ‘Borrow money if you have to from your parents, he told them. Gee, why didn't I think of that? Some people are lucky enough to borrow money from their parents, but that shouldn't determine whether you can pursue your dreams.”
And Michelle Obama mentioned that her husband believes women are “more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care,” but her most memorable policy remarks were about Obamacare. “When it comes to the health of our families, Barack refused to listen to all those folks who told him to leave health reform for another day, another president,” said Michelle Obama. “He didn't care whether it was the easy thing to do politically – that's not how he was raised – he cared that it was the right thing to do.”
Come to think of it, for a First Lady’s speech, Michelle Obama’s was pretty ideological. But compared to the abortion celebration from earlier in the night, the First Lady seemed almost moderate.