I was a registered Democrat for the first 37 years of my voting life. It wasn’t a very good fit, because of the increasingly leftward drift of the party. My parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were Democrats for at least part of their adult lives, and the generations before that would likely have been Democrats if they’d been U.S. citizens. When I turned 18 in 1979, I marched myself down to the township building with my birth certificate in hand, and all the enthusiasm of a woman meeting her blind date. In other words, it was someone else’s idea.
The only thing that kept me in the fold for almost four decades was hope, and the refusal to believe I’d wasted such a huge chunk of my adult life. I simply could not face the possibility that I had been tricked into joining a club that had no room for me, and mocked me behind my back. I am Pro-Life, but for a few decades was able to convince myself that the Democrats would abandon their embrace of abortion rights as a sacramental part of their platform and policy. I wasn’t naïve enough to believe that it would actively support restrictions on abortion, but there was hope that at the very least, it would give people like me a voice.
Bob Casey, Sr. was a reason for hope. This man was a true Democrat, a blue collar liberal with roots in Scranton and the anthracite coal regions. He was pro union, openly Catholic — a throwback to Al Smith and the ethnic working class voters like my Irish and Italian ancestors. And he was fiercely Pro-Life, so much so that his name is inextricably linked to one of the most significant attempts to cut back on the legal and cultural havoc caused by Roe v. Wade, the seminal case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
I remember very clearly when he was prevented from speaking at the Democratic National Convention in 1993. That was a clear slap in the face to the most high profile elected Catholic in the party at that time. Despite the protestations to the contrary, there was only one reason Governor Casey was silenced: he angered the Pro-Choice wing of the Democratic party.
Bob Casey, Sr. was a reason for hope. This man was a true Democrat, a blue collar liberal with roots in Scranton and the anthracite coal regions.
For that reason, the Casey name has always been deeply important to me. When the governor’s son was elected to the Senate, I hoped that he would carry on his father’s legacy. And at least at the outset, Bob Casey, Jr. made some attempts to define himself as “Pro-Life.” He has supported the Hyde Amendment banning federal funding of abortions in virtually all cases, has voted to prevent abortions after the 20thweek of pregnancy, and most recently he sided with Republican Senate colleagues by supporting a bill that would have required medical aid to babies who survived botched abortions.
But where the father was a warrior, the son is a peacekeeping bureaucrat who wants to compromise. Senior split the waters like Moses, seeking to lead his supporters to a promised land where children in utero were considered, simply, children. Junior stares from the other shore and sighs that he wishes he could help. In an interview on abortion rights with the Morning Call, he sounded less like his father and more like Nancy Pelosi when he stated that “the policies that have reduced abortion the most have been wider access to health care, wider access to contraception, programs that support families.” In other words, change hearts and minds, not the law.
Some might think that he’s doing the right thing in this heated climate. I’ve spoken to several Pro-Life colleagues who’ve told me that the way to stop abortion isn’t with challenges and fury, but with accommodation and empathy. They believe that Senator Casey is correct to lay back, and lay low
Such logic (and the people who espouse it) is the reason that I am no longer a Democrat. When I look to political figures, I want them to be outspoken in their principles. It doesn’t matter what those principles are, but I want to know where they stand, what principles inspired them to seek public office. Transparency, clarity, and a lack of ambiguity are essential.
Bob Casey, Jr. has continued to obfuscate. He has been virtually silent during the COVID-19 Pandemic when it comes to issues that impact Pennsylvanians, particularly where this involves issues of life, health, and faith.
Casey has said nothing about Governor Tom Wolf’s decision to keep abortion clinics open as providing “life sustaining services,” while closing down three quarters of the economy. You would think that Senator Casey, the Pro-Life Democrat, would have the courage to address this dystopian view of “life sustaining” held by the Democratic chief executive of the state he serves.
Casey Jr. has said nothing about Governor Tom Wolf’s decision to keep abortion clinics open as providing ‘life sustaining services,’ while closing down three quarters of the economy.
Then there is his silence on the scandal involving Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, who stealthily moved her own elderly mother to a hotel while creating rules that placed other elderly mothers and fathers in Pennsylvania nursing homes and care facilities at great risk of contracting Covid. I personally know of two people whose parents died because they contracted the virus while in a nursing home, due in part to Levine’s mandate. Where has Casey’s voice been on this debacle?
Then there was the silence from Senator Casey on Governor Wolf’s decision to divert millions of federal dollars intended to help children in Catholic and other non-public schools to public institutions to advance what can only be described as an ideological crusade against private education.
I reached out to the Senator’s office last week, hoping for a reply. I waited several days before writing this column, believing that I’d at least get a “Dear Constituent” boilerplate response. To be fair, Casey had assisted me in the past with some difficult issues involving one of my immigration clients, so I know that he has the capacity to be responsive to constituents.
But on this: nothing. I sent an email, then a follow up, and even left a message at his office. Casey’s silence is deafening. That doesn’t surprise me, because it is entirely consistent with the senator’s modus operandi for survival as a “moderate” and “Pro-Life” Democrat in a party that has no time, sympathy or tolerance for those who speak in the bold, unambiguous terms used by his father.
To paraphrase another Catholic Democrat who would, I suspect, confront these questions head on: Bob Casey, Jr. is the quintessential profile in timidity.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and lifelong Philadelphian. @flowerlady61