America Wins in New Hampshire

Scott Swenson

Two winners in the first two contests, one from each party, have used abortion to rally their base. But progressives who stand on principle, and don't cower in fear, can win the sexual and reproductive health debate by framing abortion properly.

The best indication that the change American politics is experiencing is real is that after the first two contests, record breaking turnouts have produced different results. Hillary Clinton's and John McCain's victories in New Hampshire ensured that this election will live up to all the hype, and won't be over any time soon.

That the New Hampshire polls and pundits totally missed Clinton's victory is even better as it gives the nation reasons to pay more attention to what is proving to be exactly what America needs after the Bush years: a reason to cheer. Perhaps the failure of the polls will also force pundits to talk more about issues, not just the horse race (a guy can dream, can't he?).

A woman, a black man, an old soldier and an evangelical; not the start of a bad joke, but winners in the first two contests. Winners who will be looking for Veep's one day down the road.

Chris Matthews launched the campaign of Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) for Democratic Veep last night by asking him who could best play the traditional role of the number two spot on the ticket, attack dog. Rendell started by saying, "Yes, you need someone who can say to the American people, we cannot turn back the clock on women and force them into back alleys for unsafe abortions," adding a few other examples of the case that may have to be made against the GOP depending on their nominee.

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As long as the veep stakes have been mentioned, Matthews also asked about making Clinton and Obama the ticket. An idea suggested on Rewire before the 2006 election (and oh yes, please note the reference to John McCain, three out of four isn't bad should it hold up!).

It should also be noted that last minute ads and mailers on abortion, one to appeal to social conservatives in Iowa, the other to women in New Hampshire, both resulted in victories for Huckabee and Clinton.

Progressive bloggers and strategists keep saying we don't want to get mired in a debate (abortion) that favors the far right, but in every major twist and turn of this election so far, it has played a supporting role. The premise, that the debate favors the far right, is false. Progressives who stand on principle, don't cower in fear, can win the sexual and reproductive health debate by framing it properly.

As the campaign narrows and the choice is between supporting the rights of all Americans to make their own personal health decisions, and turning the clock backwards to a time when government controlled people's lives by invading their bedrooms and standing between patients and doctors, the role of many social issues will only increase.

The answer is not to run from the issues, but to use this historic election to promote a progressive vision that respects different points of view, and promotes privacy, safety, health. We need not fall into the trap of discussing one medical procedure, when from comprehensive sexuality education to sexual and gender identity, from contraception to a women's right to choose, and everyone's right to die with dignity, Americans have reached an overwhelming consensus, and it's a broad based progressive notion centered on privacy and personal decision making.

Engage the complexity of the debate and broaden people's perspective beyond the narrow confines with which social conservatives view everything. If this isn't the election to claim the Culture Peace, and victory over narrow mindedness, I can't imagine how we can construct one that will be better.

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Reproductive rights are a public health issue. That's a fact.

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