Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The intraparty battles among Democrats, Omaha edition

These two pieces present useful perspectives on the intra-party Democratic feud over the candidacy of Heath Mello for Mayor of Omaha, Nebraska.

UltraViolet, Women are Watching, Bernie. Don’t Let Us Down Huffpost 04/25/2017

D.D. Guttenplan, Why Was Heath Mello Thrown Under the Bus? The Nation 04/24/2017

Despite the implication of the headline on the first, the Ultraviolet editorial is actually arguing for both of the two major Democratic Party factions today to take the right to abortion as a basic principle, a litmus test in punditspeak.

Guttenplan also notes the evidence suggesting that the corporate Dems played the progressive wing on this one:

Instead, on April 19, The Wall Street Journal ran a story noting that Mello, a practicing Catholic, is pro-life. The story also falsely claimed that Mello had co-sponsored a bill “requiring women to look at an ultrasound image of their fetus before receiving an abortion.” A similar error was made by The Washington Post, which claimed that Mello had “previously backed a bill requiring ultrasounds for women considering abortions,” and then again the following day by David Nir, political director of Daily Kos, who announced the site was withdrawing its endorsement of Mello — a move applauded by Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, who’d launched a 12-part Twitter storm linking to the WSJ article and accusing Sanders and Perez of kicking off their tour with the message “shame women; we’ll support u anyway.”

Here’s the truth about Mello’s record: Back in 2009, he co-sponsored a bill requiring a physician performing an abortion to tell a woman that an ultrasound is available (as most already did). It neither mandated that the ultrasound be performed nor, if performed, that it actually be viewed by the woman — although it did require abortion providers to position the screen in such a way that the ultrasound was easily viewable. Daily Kos member Nova Land — a Tennessean who had never heard of Mello before the controversy—posted a comprehensive, well-sourced correction to this effect the same day. That didn’t lead Nir to reconsider. Nor did it stop Perez from issuing a statement announcing that he “fundamentally disagree[s] with Heath Mello’s personal beliefs about women’s reproductive health,” which was worded in a way that appeared to cast doubt on the sincerity of Mello’s pledge that he “would never do anything to restrict access to reproductive health care.”
The Nova Land post of 04/19/2017 with an update the following day is at Daily Kos here, Heath Mello, abortion, ultrasound -- and Bernie Sanders. It's clear that Mello's policy position on abortion has evolved over time toward a more pro-choice position.

To be clear, it was the DLC position of the "New Democrats" that Democratic needed to blunt their stands on "social issues" like abortion rights. That gave us Democrats discretely bragging about the anti-abortion postures of politicians like Tim Kaine and using formulas like Hillary Clinton's longtime stance that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare." The safe, poll-tested position for Democratic candidates was, "I'm personally opposed to abortion but I support women's right to choose."

As I said in the earlier post linked at the beginning of this one, if the Democratic Party is now at a place where Mugwumping on abortion rights is no longer acceptable, I'm glad to see it.

At the same time, my initial reaction to Guttenplan's article was:

Because it was the Wall Street Journal that initially put the mayoral race in Omaha front-and-center in the intra-party contest between the corporate Dems and the prolabor progressives.

Here is a recent report from The Real News on that struggle. First, a short teaser, Temporary Truce in a Democratic Party Civil War 04/24/2017:

And the full 16-minute discussion, Temporary Truce in a Democratic Party Civil War: The Sanders & Perez Unity Tour 04/23/2017:

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