Thursday, August 3, 2017

There Is No Room In The Democratic Party For Candidates Who Don't Respect Women's Reproductive Choices

"We do not have to make compromises on protecting women’s health to win back the House or Senate."  -- Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
What is it about (white, male) Democrats who always believe that the response to losing an election is to abandon the Party's fundamental principles, not to mention a core constituency, in order to court voters who exist in a mythical center.  According to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Luján, the party will not withhold funding from candidates who oppose abortion rights, stating “there is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates.” This echoes Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and other party leaders, including Nancy Pelosi, who would welcome anti-abortion candidates to the Democratic Party if they can help win back majorities in Congress. Earlier this year, Bernie Sanders campaigned for an anti-choice candidate for mayor in Nebraska and Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, as part of the Party's "outreach" effort met with a group that described themselves as the "pro-life voice of the Democratic Party." 

This is wrong as a matter of principle and a matter of electoral strategy.

If the Democratic Party stands for anything it must be unwavering support for social justice - or what is disparagingly referred to as "identity politics."   This necessarily includes a focus on racial justice, humane immigration policies, gender equality, LGBT rights and a women's control over their reproductive health.  (I would also add believing in climate change and in the urgent need to combat it, ensuring health care coverage, supporting public education and affordable colleges, protecting the rights of workers, and strengthening the safety net). 

These values should be non-negotiable.  Mostly they are -- although, admittedly some get paid more lip service than meaningful action. But for some reason the first to be explicitly jettisoned is always abortion rights.  And why?  In the hope that there are voters out there who would vote for Democrats but for the fact that they are pro-choice?  Good luck with that.

The misogyny coming out of the White House and the Republican Party's unrelenting efforts to defund Planned Parenthood should be huge red flags that women's rights are under attack. With ever more onerous laws restricting abortion being passed in Texas and other red states while ever more conservative judges who will uphold such laws are being confirmed, women's health choices are in great peril. This is not a theoretical debate.

Yet, in the face of such threats and at a time when the Democratic base is fired up by the existential threat and daily outrages of the Trump presidency, nothing will deflate the resistance more than the sense that the Democratic Party once again doesn't have their back -- that once again women (and people of color) can be taken for granted while Democrats try to win back those Reagan Democrats of yore -- the holy grail of white conservative blue collar workers. 

This seems like a good time to point out that recent polling shows that 7 out of 10 Americans believe in legal access to abortion -- that includes white folks in red states who might be personally opposed to abortion but are not in favor of restricting the rights of others.  The percentage of Democrats who support abortion rights is closer to 8 in 10.

If Democrats want to appeal to the working class of America -- white and non-white -- it won't be by sacrificing women's rights.  Instead they might try to hone a sharper, more progressive economic message than the luke-warm, platitude-filled, poll-tested Better Deal they rolled out recently -- one that actually includes strong support for women's reproductive health.  Such a message would recognize that abortion rights are a critical aspect of economic security, particularly for poor women and women of color.  Indeed, the ability of women to get an education or a decent job is often dependent on ensuring that they get to choose if and when to have children.  

Candidates who don't get that need to cross the aisle.  There is no room in the Democratic Party for candidates who, in opposition to the vast majority of Americans, believe it is their duty to decide what it is best for women and their families.


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