Friday, April 21, 2017

Good news/bad news: Heath Mello/Bernie Sanders edition

The good news is that the corporate/DLC Dems seem to think that no Democrats should run who aren't definitively pro-choice on abortion.

After years - excuse me, decades - of the DLCers talking about the "big tent" and taking the edge of the culture wars, and blah, blah, it's a pleasant change.

One of the things that impressed me about Hillary Clinton adjusting to a more militant Democratic base in 2016 was that she defending abortion rights straight-up as a women's rights issue. This was a fairly recent development for her. Jessica Valenti wrote in Hillary Clinton must reject the stigma that abortion should be legal but 'rare' Guardian 07/09/2014:

"Safe legal and rare" first became a pro-choice rallying cry during the Clinton administration, and has been invoked by media-makers and politicians like – even President Obama has called the mantra "the right formulation" on abortion. It's a "safe" pro-choice answer: to support abortion, but wish it wasn't necessary.

And it's a framing that Hillary Clinton – perhaps the next president of the United States – supports.

But "safe, legal and rare" is not a framework that supports women's health needs: it stigmatizes and endangers it.

In a 2010 research article, Dr Tracy Weitz, Director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) program at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote that "rare suggests that abortion is happening more than it should, and that there are some conditions for which abortions should and should not occur".

"It separates 'good' abortions from 'bad' abortions", she added. [my emphasis in bold]
This is one of many examples of Democrats taking a liberal position (supporting abortion rights) while framing it in conservative terms (abortion is bad but we should put up with it). That's one instance of the project that linguist George Lakoff has been scolding the Democrats over for the last decade or so.

Even in 2016, Hillary wanted to hedge on the issue, old-line DLC style (Myriam Renaud, Hillary Clinton’s Moral Conflicts on Abortion The Atlantic 08/06/2016):

For the most part, Clinton’s stance matches the official stance of the United Methodist Church, or UMC—the tradition in which she was raised and remains a faithful member. Clinton, who calls herself an “old-fashioned Methodist,” told a Newsweek interviewer in 1994 that abortion is morally wrong. One of her biographers, Paul Kengor, notes that she has turned to the UMC’s Book of Resolutions when she has wanted help reaching a decision or when grappling with a moral question. The Book accepts abortion but only in a qualified way. It professes “the sanctity of unborn human life” while allowing that certain circumstances—“conflicts of life with life”—may warrant terminating a pregnancy. This may explain Clinton’s recent comments on NBC’s “Meet the Press” during which, to the dismay of many pro-choicers, she described the fetus as an “unborn person.” She has also declared her support of some “late-pregnancy” restrictions that would go into effect perhaps as soon as the “unborn person” is viable, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life or mental or physical health of the mother is at risk.
And, oh yeah, there was this: Danielle Paquette, Why Tim Kaine can oppose abortion and still run with Hillary Clinton Washington Post 07/26/2017.

The bad news is that now Bernie Sanders' support for a Democratic mayoral candidate in Oklahoma City has the corporate Dems shocked, shocked! I tell you, shocked! that any Democrat would support a candidate for any office who wasn't clear and all-out in favor of abortion rights. Roseann Moring reports for the Omaha World-Herald (Bernie Sanders stumps for Heath Mello in Omaha, stirs national debate about definition of a progressive 04/21/2017):

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders told a cheering crowd in Omaha on Thursday that he thinks mayoral candidate Heath Mello is part of the Democratic Party of the future.

But some Democrats don’t agree, and Sanders’ appearance at a rally for Mello at Baxter Arena sparked a national debate about whether the party needs to focus on progressive policies and reject Democratic politicians like Mello who are opposed to abortion. ...

During his 45-minute speech, Sanders touched on positions that would be familiar to those who followed his presidential campaign: expanded access to health care, paid family leave, free college tuition and a pathway to citizenship for those who entered the country illegally. And, of course, he devoted much time to economic inequality. ...

Earlier Thursday, however, abortion-rights advocates argued that Sanders and the Democratic Party shouldn’t support those who favor restricting abortion. They pointed to Mello’s co-sponsorship of a 2009 bill in the Nebraska Legislature that gives a woman seeking an abortion the option to see an ultrasound, if one is done.

“The actions today by the DNC to embrace and support a candidate for office who will strip women — one of the most critical constituencies for the party — of our basic rights and freedom is not only disappointing, it is politically stupid,” said NARAL Pro-Choice President Ilyse Hogue in a statement.

Her criticism was part of the national backlash after a Thursday article in the Wall Street Journal that pointed out Mello’s opposition to abortion.

In 2009, the version of Legislative Bill 675 that became law, on a 40-5 vote, was viewed as a compromise measure. As first introduced, the bill would have required a woman to look at the ultrasound image.

Mello’s campaign said he signed on to the bill to support the compromise version.
Bernie's critics in the Democratic Party see this as a particular outrage. Imani Gandy writes in Bernie, There Will Be No Revolution Without Reproductive Rights 04/21/2017, "Bernie Sanders and many of his supporters seem perfectly content to categorize reproductive rights and abortion access as a social issue — a distraction from economic justice and reforming Wall Street, which they deem the so-called real issues."

I must have missed the change in the standard Democratic vocabulary in which "social" issues were considered to not be "real" ones. The "distraction" bit echoes the 2016 Democratic primary fight, in which Clinton once seized on Bernie's criticism of Donald Trump saying that women who get an abortion should be punished to criticize Sanders for being insufficiently pro-choice. Or something. (Dan Merica, Hillary Clinton uses Trump's abortion comments to hit Sanders CNN 03/31/2017)

Bernie's campaigning for Mello has prompted jabs like this:

And rejoinders like this:

Now, I love hair-splitting ideological debates as much as the next Democrat. But if everybody in the Democratic Party can agree that the only acceptable position for a Democratic candidate is a straighforward defense of women's right to abortion, I'm all for it.

Tom Perez' DLC will no doubt start withholding party support for any candidates who stick with a Mugmump position.

Although, given the DLC's performance the last few years, having them threaten not to support you probably isn't a very scary threat!

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