MSNBC reports this morning that “at the top of the list” of concerns about “important incumbents” who might retire sits Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak.
The Democrat best known this year as the Democrat who delivered the winning margin of votes for the president’s health-care reform bill is said to be simply exhausted. The criticism he received — first from the left, and then from the right — has worn him and his family out.
From my vantage point and those of millions of Democratic women voters, Mr. Stupak is not best known for delivering the “winning” margin of votes for health reform, but rather for holding up the process of health reform for months, and, likely among other things, leading the way for adoption of language in the Senate bill that, while not his own damaging amendment, ultimately erodes the most basic rights of women to access health care and undermines their most fundamental choices about whether, when and with whom to have a child.
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And honestly? As I have said before: I can’t feel sorry for Bart Stupak’s exhaustion nor that of his family. His behavior and language, and the desire by Stupak and others to impose their own religious beliefs on the rest of us is the very root cause of the problem. It was his choice to make that stand, and to cater to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It was his choice to make every effort to hold the health care of milions hostage to ideology. And it is his positions and those of the rabid elements of the anti-choice movement that exhaust, threaten the lives, health, and wellbeing of medical doctors, nurses, clinic personnel and women everywhere. Every day. I don’t feel sorry for him.
And if [Stupak] had to make the decision now, he’d probably NOT run. As of this writing, a bunch of senior Democrats (many of the same ones who twisted his arm on the health care vote) are trying to talk him into running. The filing deadline in Michigan is still a month away, but veterans of that state’s politics are skeptical anyone other than Stupak can hold that district in this political climate.
The Democratic party, which I have long supported in my personal capacity, for which I have long worked as a volunteer–and to which I long looked as the party of “choice”–clearly no longer is. It is that simple.
I am not naive nor stupid. I know that there are issues about specific districts, specific incumbents, specific voter populations and their preferences. And that to keep it’s “majority” the party believes it must cater to the most ideological, most anti-choice elements to achieve some notion of “common ground,” or whatever.
I simply reject that as a long-term viable strategy, either for the Democrats or for women, like myself, who are at the brink of hanging it up. If one Congressman from Michigan fronting for the Catholic Church can effectively take away my rights and those of my daughter–and those of millions of other women through regressive domestic and international policies that cater to the ideology of the Catholic Church, or any other religious body, I want no part of it.
This is sheer lack of imagination on the part of the Democrats. Or it is “whatever works in the moment, we have no-long-term-vision” strategy. Or it is “we’ll-tell-women-what-they-want-to-hear-and-do-what-we-want-to-do” taking for granted those of us who gave money, worked the phones, banged the doors, put up the posters….Or it is all of the above.
This is a hole that the Democratic Party dug for itself. And I see no signs of it rethinking that original strategy.
I guess it’s easy just to make the tradeoffs on women’s lives, and particularly the lives of poor women, when you are still a largely male, and still a largely white–and unquestionably largely middle and upper-middle-class party–that simply doesn’t have to deal with unintended pregnancy, the fear of bearing a child you can not care for, the reality of not having the funding necessary to get preventive care, never mind a safe abortion. I guess it is easy to create ridiculous obstacles in health care reform, creating two-check policies that exist for no other legal procedure, for no other medical procedure and for one half the population.
I guess it is easy when the most important thing is not the health and well-being and rights of American women, of low-income people or those devastated by health insurance premiums and illness for which they can not afford to pay….but when above all is else the most important thing is your own power, and your own seat in Congress.