Congressman Brad Ellsworth, the bluest of the Blue Dog Democrats, has announced his candidacy for the Indiana Senate seat that Senator Evan Bayh is exiting.
Ellsworth calls himself a "fiscally-conservative Democrat." But that’s something of a misnomer. He is a conservative Democrat who stands top the right not just of his fellow partisans but of many conservative Republicans on a wide range of social and economic issues.
Ellsworth is ardently opposed to abortion rights — so much so that he took the lead in drafting an initial anti-choice amendment to the House health-care reform. Ellsworth later backed the amendment proposed by Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak, which placed tight restrictions on funding for elective abortions.
Ellsworth stands to the right of many conservative Republicans on the issue of funding of embryonic stem-cell research.
To get a sense of just how extreme Ellsworth is when it comes to debates about both reproductive rights and science, consider this: Senator Orrin Harch, R-Utah, though he is virulently anti-choice has championed ethical embryonic stem cell research.
During the debate about embryonic stem-cell legislation, Hatch told his colleagues: "As a science, embryonic stem cell research today is where the space program was when we first dreamed of it. When I think of embryonic stem cell research, I imagine diabetics without insulin pumps. I dream of patients with Parkinson’s Disease who sprint rather than shuffle. I conceive of patients with spinal cord injury who stand up and walk again."
The senator was, of course, correct.
Hatch’s responsible view was shared by many conservative Republicans.
It was also shared by many Indiana voters. Indeed, in 2008, they voted for a Democratic candidate for president who argued that it was time again to show respect for science.
Barack Obama supported embryonic stem-cell research and won Indiana.
Evan Bayh supported embryonic stem-cell research and won Indiana.
When the Senate weighed the issue, Obama and Bayh and Hatch (along with nine other Senate Republicans) took the side of science.
When the House considered the issue, Brad Ellsworth rejected science to vote as a lock-step social conservative.
His more-conservative-than-the-conservatives positions on choice and science are not outlier stances.
Nothing in Ellsworth’s record suggests that he is one of the small group of House Democrats who are strongly anti-choice but otherwise progressive. (Former House Majority Whip David Bonior, D-Michigan, was an abortion foe but a steady backer of economic and social justice causes — maintaining what is often referred to as the Catholic "seamless garment" of "consistent life"stance outlined by the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin.)