MORRISTOWN – A.J. Oliver chatted with me a few months ago in Starbucks and said being a “pro-life Democrat is tough.”
Oliver has since discovered it’s too tough to endure.
He is now a Republican.
Oliver’s switch from Democrat to Republican is in itself not a big deal. He is, after all, just one person.
But it shows the polarization of today’s politics.
Clearly, the days of pro-life Democrats and pro-choice Republicans seem to be gone.
Six, seven months ago, Oliver was a Democratic candidate for county commissioner in Morris County and chair of the Morristown Democratic Committee. He is also a man of faith, serving the Episcopal Diocese of Newark as a priest.
As last year’s campaign ensued, a video surfaced of Oliver speaking in favor of the pro-life, or if you prefer, anti-abortion rights, position.
That got immediate attention.
New Jersey 11th for Change, a left-leaning, grassroots group, retracted its endorsement of Oliver.
The county’s Democratic Committee asked him to resign as chair of the Morristown club. There were also questions about how Oliver came to be a Democratic candidate for commissioner in the first place.
None of this had much impact on the election. All three Democratic candidates got about 71,000 votes, losing by about 28,000 votes to three Republicans.
Afterwards, Oliver said he had no plans to resign as chair of the Morristown Democrats. And he speculated that about 20 to 30 percent of Democrats are pro-life, but have to keep quiet about it.
Such orthodoxy is not unique to Democrats. There are probably a number of pro-choice Republicans who have to tread carefully as well.
Over the few months since the election, however, Oliver’s position, quite obviously, became untenable.
And in a one-sentence email the other day, he said simply, “Yes, I am now a member of the Republican Party.”
Interestingly, when we spoke a few months ago, Oliver said that other than abortion, his views align with the Democratic Party. He mentioned support for expanding health care, combating food insecurity and in general supporting working families.
How Oliver’s views will mesh with overall Republican philosophy remains to be seen.