Commentary Politics

Not a ‘Hard Choice’: Why Clinton Needs to Get Out the Vote for Midterm Elections on Her Book Tour

Zerlina Maxwell

Now is the right time for Clinton, who began a national book tour on Tuesday to promote her new memoir, to test narratives and messaging that can resonate with young people—namely young women—in order to get out the vote this November.

If we don’t want a repeat of the Obama years, when some important gains were made for women but a lot of ground was lost, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton needs to get out on the trail and mobilize young women now.

Clinton needs to use her incredible popularity and credibility among U.S. voters to ensure that if and when she runs for president, a victory brings with it a Democratic majority. She needs to be on the stump, and on message, encouraging young women to vote their interests, increasing the minimum wage, closing the gender wage gap, and ensuring reproductive health-care access is expanding, not disappearing as a result of Republican anti-choice policies sweeping the states.

Now is the right time for Clinton, who began a national book tour on Tuesday to promote her new memoir Hard Choices, to test narratives and messaging that can resonate with young people—namely young women—in order to get out the vote this November, not two years from now. Clinton can and should use her impressive media spotlight and spur young people to action and refocus the media’s attention away from the latest right-wing smear about Benghazi or ageist speculation about her having “brain damage.” She’s already won over millennials on social media with the clever “Texts From Hillary” campaign, but she needs to be even more open and direct about how she is going to fight against regressive Republican policies that are taking women back to the 1950s.

If she plays it safe, going through the usual drills—tour stops full of pithy anecdotes, vague policy assertions, and platitudes that make us feel warm and fuzzy—Clinton will have missed an incredible opportunity to propel herself and women into the next generation of power in one fell swoop.

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The gender gap that beltway pundits describe after every election is made up of women of color and single women. Clinton can speak to the obstacles that marginalized women face, with rising costs of child care, lack of access to affordable health care, and a larger wage gap than their white counterparts.

As Imani Gandy pointed out in March, “Let’s also not forget that if it wasn’t for Black women, we would be facepalming our way through a Mitt Romney presidency right now.”

Clinton has an opportunity to right many wrongs and win back trust after the 2008 primary controversies, and frame issues of economic power for women—bread-and-butter issues—around the stories of women of color.

“I know I have a decision to make,” she recently told People magazine. “But part of what I’ve been thinking about, is everything I’m interested in and everything I enjoy doing—and with the extra added joy of ‘I’m about to become a grandmother,’ I want to live in the moment. At the same time I am concerned about what I see happening in the country and in the world.”

While Clinton is busy playing the “I’m not running for president” game, progressives are losing time, wondering about the future, uncertain if she will be progressive enough, and resisting the natural inclination to draft the solidly progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as a presidential candidate.

In previous cycles, potential candidates mounted their campaigns in the winter after the midterm elections; President Obama announced his candidacy in February 2007. But this cycle is different.

Clinton has been a household name for a generation. Millennials who grew up hearing about the “mommy wars,” and who later came of age and voted for President Obama, now may be ready to give Clinton a shot. But the incentive for them to get out the vote in 2014, should be that she won’t just be in the executive branch, unable to pass anything as a result of congressional gridlock.

And as the first woman in the oval office, Clinton would likely face similar problems as the many other women who have fought the odds and tradition to reach the top of an organization at a time of turmoil and unrest. UK professors Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam were the first to label this phenomena the “glass cliff”—it means that women who occupy positions of power are more likely to do so when the risk of failure is high, “either because they are appointed to lead organizations (or organizational units) that are in crisis or because they are not given the resources and support needed for success.”

So there is a real danger present that even if she runs, and even if she wins, Clinton won’t be able to be effective, and the public will wrongly conclude that having a woman in the Oval Office is a mistake.

All this speculation is itself exhausting, and the Democratic base, which is still suspicious of the Clintons because of their treatment of President Obama during the South Carolina primary, needs some convincing. Why not start now?

Speculation about how Clinton matches up against potential challengers is fun for the pundits, but her effective use of the media’s interest in her to achieve victories at the ballot box for Democrats is sure to generate some loyalty among the base. A democratic base that is reasonably skeptical of the hawkish pro-Iraq War Clinton that reigned supreme in the 2008 cycle.

Right now though, Clinton has a huge head start over presidential hopefuls on both sides of the aisle. No Democrats can compete with her, and 55 percent of respondents in a recent ABC News poll want her to be the next president. With that wind at her back, Clinton can focus her attention on a Democratic base turnout because the status quo of congressional gridlock and partisan bickering is unsustainable and no real change can be made until we change the makeup of Congress.

It seems like forever ago that Democrats in the House, led by the first woman Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), routinely passed legislation that served to make the lives of millions of Americans better. Americans are eager for Congress to get back to functioning, frustrated with the last four years of Obama derangement syndrome. Clinton can act now by taking action in support of the party and stumping for Democrats on an economic message that empowers women and families to make sure Congress is ready for her too.

And if Clinton isn’t ready to take on this challenge, another candidate with an ear to the day to day concerns of everyday people and a populist message could shake things up and make the next few years a bit more unpredictable.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

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Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Politics

NARAL President Tells Her Abortion Story at the Democratic National Convention

Ally Boguhn

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the story of her abortion on the stage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Wednesday evening in Philadelphia.

“Texas women are tough. We approach challenges with clear eyes and full hearts. To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path,” Hogue told the crowd on the third night of the party’s convention. “I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time.”

“I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion — and to get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community,” she continued. “Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.”

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Hogue noted that her experience is similar to those of women nationwide.

“About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45, and the majority are mothers just trying to take care of the families they already have,” she said. “You see, it’s not as simple as bad girls get abortions and good girls have families. We are the same women at different times in our lives — each making decisions that are the best for us.”

As reported by Yahoo News, “Asked if she was the first to have spoken at a Democratic National Convention about having had an abortion for reasons other than a medical crisis, Hogue replied, ‘As far as I know.'”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Tuesday night was the first speaker at the DNC in Philadelphia to say the word “abortion” on stage, according to Vox’s Emily Crockett. 

Richards’ use of the word abortion was deliberate, and saying the word helps address the stigma that surrounds it, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Vice President of Communication Mary Alice Carter said in an interview with ThinkProgress. 

“When we talk about reproductive health, we talk about the full range of reproductive health, and that includes access to abortion. So we’re very deliberate in saying we stand up for a woman’s right to access an abortion,” Carter said.

“There is so much stigma around abortion and so many people that sit in shame and don’t talk about their abortion, and so it’s very important to have the head of Planned Parenthood say ‘abortion,’ it’s very important for any woman who’s had an abortion to say ‘abortion,’ and it’s important for us to start sharing those stories and start bringing it out of the shadows and recognizing that it’s a normal experience,” she added.

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates. In April, Clinton called out moderators for failing to ask “about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care” over the course of eight debates—though she did not use the term abortion in her condemnation.