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Friday, 14 May 2010 05:01

The Democratic Party Comes Clean With its Misogyny in its Latest Betrayal of Women and the Progressive Movement

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by Meg White 

You'd think I'd have already learned my lesson during the healthcare debate. You know, the lesson that the Democratic Party will throw women's rights overboard at every opportunity?

Meet Connie Saltonstall, the woman who broke the camel's back for me. Or perhaps you remember her? She was responsible for getting the reprehensible Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) out of our hair by challenging his reelection from the left, until she was taken out by an increasingly misogynist Democratic Party. 

She recently dropped out of the primary race, and did not mince words in explaining why:

...the Michigan Democratic Party has preemptively anointed Gary McDowell as their Democratic candidate. They are replacing Bart Stupak with another Upper Peninsula, Anti-Choice, Anti-Women’s healthcare rights candidate. 

...I cannot support a party that endorses candidates who vote to restrict women’s legal rights and access to healthcare. It is time for Democrats to stop compromising on this issue.

The Michigan Democratic Party ignored the amazing response to Saltonstall's candidacy -- her proven and rapid ability to raise huge amounts of money and gain major endorsements -- and began grooming this McDowell character for Stupak's seat.

NARAL Pro-Choice America points out that McDowell showed his incredible hostility toward women when he "voted to ban a safe abortion method, without exceptions — even in the cases of rape, incest, or to protect the woman’s health." And Rh Reality Check asks this important question of the party:

McDowell, according to the Michigan Messenger, has been endorsed by the anti-choice organization, Right to Life, an extreme, conservative group. Which begs the question -- just where does the Michigan Democratic Party draw the line? They now support candidates who are not only extremely anti-choice but clearly extremely opposed to women's rights and autonomy.  

Back when I posed a question about Stupak's retirement and the Saltonstall challenge, BuzzFlash readers from all over the country were excited about the prospect of a real progressive running under the Democratic Party banner. After all, Stupak was basically hated on all sides, from conservatives who saw nothing but his ultimate compromise on healthcare to liberals who took in his continual assault on the women's health and the reform bill in general with growing disdain. 

Re-reading the comments on that piece now that Saltonstall has been forced out, it's easy to be depressed about the prospects of the progressive movement. One comment from BuzzFlash friend Ray Beckerman stings particularly badly:

It's great news, sends an important lesson to the other Blue Dogs. The progressives are beginning to fight back; we are going to take back the Democratic party.

In view of Stupak's leadership of antichoice anti-hcr Blue Dogs, it was especially important to make him pay a steep political price.

Ray Beckerman 

Now that "price" remains unpaid and the Blue Dogs' "lessons" unlearned. Furthermore, the promise of real change fades so much as to be indistinguishable from the rest of the bull being peddled by Democrats today.

I had a personal philosophy that buoyed me through the idea that the Democrats are going to lose a fair number of seats in this coming election. I figured that many of the most vulnerable Democrats were Blue Dogs, in trouble for the same reasons I highlighted above in my discussion of Stupak's viability as a candidate. So what if we lose the purple or red districts? Most of those positions are held by Democrats-in-name-only anyway. 

But the ouster of Saltonstall just illustrates that the Democratic Party is intent on abandoning almost all of the values I hold dear, in a doomed attempt to hold on to their congressional power. Even if they did hold onto the basic majorities that they now have, it's not like they'd do anything progressive with that power. 

I used to think women's rights were a secondary issue for Democrats. Now it appears that they aren't an issue for the party at all. I'm not the only one who's dismayed at this turn of events. At Salon's smart column on women's issues, Broadsheet, Anna Clark notes that this action bodes poorly for 2010 and the future of the party (emphasis mine):

...what is frightening is that Democratic leadership isn't even trying. We should be able to see in Stupak's legacy that the stakes are costly for putting up Democratic candidates who don’t support abortion as part of a spectrum of reproductive rights. Instead, party leadership has handed over the game to conservatives, presuming pro-choicers will vote Democrat anyway and that nobody who is not a Democrat thinks the right to privacy is a good idea. Such tactics smack of desperation: It seems that the Democratic Party wants to win just so it doesn’t lose, rather than because there is something worth fighting for.

I admit, I'm at something of a loss over what to conclude about this turn of events. As Saltonstall points out, this is part of "an aggressive movement across the country" and is far from an isolated action of political expediency.

So I guess I'll leave you with the final words from Saltonstall's withdrawal announcement and hope that this isn't the last we hear from her or the hundreds of progressives out there being quashed by the Democratic Party at every turn:

We were first in the race, raised more money than any other Democratic candidate to date, collected over 1500 petition signatures, put together a professional campaign team and a path to victory. Without the interference of the democratic leadership, we might just have won the election!