The Answer Is Democrats

Erin Trahan

Before it's too late, let's rally against the real opposition: our Republican president and any possibility of a Republican successor. I am no pundit. I am just a regular voting Democrat. And I want to see my party win.

There has been a roaring debate in my home the last few weeks: Clinton. Obama. I say Obama! But it has to be Clinton! In the comfort of my living room, it's a refreshing argument, since Democrats finally have two (or more) resolutely presidential possibilities. But then I open the pages of my paper, or my favorite left-leaning political websites, and find party leaders, pundits, and activist organizations rushing to endorse one or the other, fangs and all. It's a dangerous split and frankly, it makes me nervous. Haven't the Bush years done enough damage to make us put a democratic agenda first, regardless of the candidate?

Earlier this week, Ruth Rosen expressed her support for Obama at TPM Café. She stated her frustration over Clinton's "splitting the difference" between Bush's proposed 40-hour workweek for working mothers on TANF and the more reasonable 30-hour work week. Clinton settled on 35 hours. And this makes her unworthy to be president?

Meanwhile, Clinton endorsements are pushing all kinds of buttons among peer feminists, like Robin Morgan's fiery "Obama Girl" censure, embedded deep in the update to her 1970 essay, "Goodbye to All That."

I'm particularly weary of the reported divide among feminists. It's too tantalizing for outlets like the Wall Street Journal to resist, declaring just yesterday "Democratic Race Causes Feminist Rift." The article oversimplifies a complicated exchange of recent endorsements and fails to acknowledge the effort some feminists have made to align with one candidate but offer to back the other if nominated. Clinton supporter Gloria Steinem, for instance, wrote, "I'm not opposing Mr. Obama; if he's the nominee, I'll volunteer." And Katha Pollitt's Obama endorsement included the statement, "If [Clinton] is the nominee I will work my heart out for her." Still others, like Gloria Feldt and Kate Michelman have forwarded endorsements without opposing the other front-runner.

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I value all of these opinions. But I still haven't found what I'm looking for. It's not that the finer points don't merit discussion or that past voting records and campaign missteps shouldn't be brought to light and re-hashed. I am thrilled progressives have enough confidence in the Democrats to focus on such nuances. I'll even admit: I have an unwavering opinion about which of these two candidates I would like to be the next president. But I gave up the privilege of single-issue hairsplitting and individual candidate favoritism long ago. Who will be better for women? Who will be better for the poor? Who will take issues of race seriously? Who will develop more respectable global relationships? The answer is Democrats.

In the last two presidential terms, Republicans have done everything wrong. They've been caught in lies and the betrayal of hard-working Americans again and again. More than 4,000 coalition troops have died in Iraq; at least 151,000 Iraqis have died since the 2003 invasion. Katrina? Guantanamo? Refusing to sign the Kyoto Treaty? The wrongs are blatant and on record. Bush just posted his lowest approval rating to date. Sadly, the record hasn't been wrong enough to cement Democratic (and Independent) support for an unbeatable presidential ticket.

You know what I'm about to propose. It's time to insist on Obama and Clinton. Or Clinton and Obama. The ticket I want is the one that will win it all. Period. Democrats: nominate that team, but more importantly, get them in office. I don't think the soul of America can survive another Republican administration. Do you?

We are lucky to have new energy and new enthusiasm for this campaign, from voters of all stripes. More voters are voting in primaries; younger voters are registering and turning out in record numbers. But these optimistic trends are waylaid when the left plays by the old rules of campaigning. Pitting Clinton and Obama against each other is tired and predictable. If the left wants New Politics, stop taking up individual fights that fail to render individual wins.

There will be time, once a Democrat is elected, to pitch dearly held causes, such as lobbying for fair terms for TANF recipients. There may even be time to continue to dismantle the limitations of our two-party system, eliminating the binary and predictable thinking it causes.

But meanwhile, pre-nomination, how is the left served by dividing feminists? Dividing peace advocates? Dividing environmentalists? These are the people and the issues I care about most. Do we truly think that Obama or Clinton will have such a different impact in the long run that it is worth risking a Republican victory AGAIN?

Before it's too late, let's rally against the real opposition: our Republican president and any possibility of a Republican successor. I am no pundit. I am just a regular voting Democrat. And I want to see my party win.

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Leader to Remove Himself From Medical Board Case in Ohio

Michelle D. Anderson

In a letter to the State of Ohio Medical Board, representatives from nine groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Anti-choice leader Mike Gonidakis said Monday that he would remove himself from deciding a complaint against a local abortion provider after several groups asked that he resign as president of the State of Ohio Medical Board.

The Associated Press first reported news of Gonidakis’ decision, which came after several pro-choice groups said he should step down from the medical board because he had a conflict of interest in the pending complaint.

The complaint, filed by Dayton Right to Life on August 3, alleged that three abortion providers working at Women’s Med Center in Dayton violated state law and forced an abortion on a patient that was incapable of withdrawing her consent due to a drug overdose.

Ohio Right to Life issued a news release the same day Dayton Right to Life filed its complaint, featuring a quotation from its executive director saying that local pro-choice advocates forfeit “whatever tinge of credibility” it had if it refused to condemn what allegedly happened at Women’s Med Center.

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Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, had then forwarded a copy of the news release to ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis with a note saying, “Sandy…. Will you finally repudiate the industry for which you so proudly support? So much for ‘women’s health’. So sad.”

On Friday, ProgressOhio, along with eight other groupsDoctors for Health Care Solutions, Common Cause Ohio, the Ohio National Organization for Women, Innovation Ohio, the Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus, the National Council of Jewish Women, Democratic Voices of Ohio, and Ohio Voice—responded to Gonidakis’ public and private commentary by writing a letter to the medical board asking that he resign.

In the letter, representatives from those groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Contacted for comment, the medical board did not respond by press time.

The Ohio Medical Board protects the public by licensing and regulating physicians and other health-care professionals in part by reviewing complaints such as the one filed by Dayton Right to Life.

The decision-making body includes three non-physician consumer members and nine physicians who serve five-year terms when fully staffed. Currently, 11 citizens serve on the board.

Gonidakis, appointed in 2012 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is a consumer member of the board and lacks medical training.

Theis told Rewire in a telephone interview that the letter’s undersigned did not include groups like NARAL Pro-Choice and Planned Parenthood in its effort to highlight the conflict with Gonidakis.

“We wanted it to be about ethics” and not about abortion politics, Theis explained to Rewire.

Theis said Gonidakis had publicly condemned three licensed doctors from Women’s Med Center without engaging the providers or hearing the facts about the alleged incident.

“He put his point out there on Main Street having only heard the view of Dayton Right to Life,” Theis said. “In court, a judge who does something like that would have been thrown off the bench.”

Arthur Lavin, co-chairman of Doctors for Health Care Solutions, told the Associated Press the medical board should be free from politics.

Theis said ProgressOhio also exercised its right to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission to have Gonidakis removed because Theis had first-hand knowledge of his ethical wrongdoing.

The 29-page complaint, obtained by Rewire, details Gonidakis’ association with anti-choice groups and includes a copy of the email he sent to Theis.

Common Cause Ohio was the only group that co-signed the letter that is decidedly not pro-choice. A policy analyst from the nonpartisan organization told the Columbus Dispatch that Common Cause was not for or against abortion, but had signed the letter because a clear conflict of interest exists on the state’s medical board.

News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquiries from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.

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