Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Maintaining The Big Tent

On their recent unity tour, Democratic National Committee chairperson Tom Perez and Senator Bernie Sanders stopped off as planned to campaign for Heath Mello, the Democratic nominee for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska.

State senator Mello has been mildly pro-life, though otherwise quite progressive and has won the Vermont senator's enthusiastic support. However, Sanders has been notably unenthusiastic about the candidacy for U.S. Representative from Georgia of the center-left Jon Ossoff, ardent advocate of reproductive rights and gay rights but not less focused on economic issues.

This has helped set off a minor firestorm (minor firestorm?), which Salon editors highlighted with two pieces, one by Clinton supporter, feminist writer Anna March, the other by Sanders supporter Conor Lynch, a regular contributor to the site. One point each made is particularly salient and, as Werner Wolf may be paraphrased, for that we "go to the videotape."

March argues

...we need to expect the Democratic Party to stand firm on its pro-choice platform and not lend national support to down-ballot candidates who are not pro-choice. We must refuse to debate choice again within the party. One hundred percent pro-choice is the only pro-choice position. One hundred percent pro-choice is the only pro-choice position. That is, abortions should be safe, legal, accessible, funded and available on demand — for all. Obviously, this position includes supporting the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funding for abortion. Sanders historically has had a good track record on abortion rights, yet there is no mention of repealing the Hyde Amendment on Sanders’ Our Revolution site.

A short trip to the website finds separate entries for twenty-one (21) issues. For "Fighting for Women's Rights," we read "The decision about abortion must remain a decision for the woman and her doctor to make, not the government."

Although possibly lacking on any website associated with any Republican on the national scene, it does in fact omit support for repealing the Hyde Amendment. Nevertheless, among its bullet points are these two:

Expand and protect the reproductive rights of women. Expand funding for Planned Parenthood, the Title X family planning program, and other initiatives that protect women’s health, access to contraception, and the availability of a safe and legal abortion.

Only nominate supreme court justices who support Roe v. Wade and the reproductive rights of women. Support Supreme Court justices who understand that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and recognize the rights of women to have access to family planning services.

With a perspective markedly different from that of March, Lynch maintains

The Clinton camp has basically sought to use Sanders’ passion about economic inequality and political corruption against him, as if someone who is this intense about economic issues must be a “class reductionist” who cares little about social and cultural issues. (It is only mainstream liberals, of course, who treat economic and cultural matters as if they could somehow be separated.) “If we broke up the big banks tomorrow . . . would that end racism? Would that end sexism?” Clinton absurdly asked at one point.

At the time,  Confessore and Alcindor (not this Alcindor) of The New York Times reported

“If we broke up the big banks tomorrow,” Mrs. Clinton asked the audience of black, white and Hispanic union members, “would that end racism? Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the L.G.B.T. community?,” she said, using an abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. “Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?”

And for context, they add "At each question, the crowd called back with a resounding no."

Admittedly, preventing another economic meltdown would not end sex or gender discrimination or restrictive immigration policies. However, Sanders has taken progressive stances on all three of those issues.   For her part, Clinton has expressed some regret- as much as could be expected- over policies associated with her husband, including the somewhat punitive DOMA, welfare reform, and 1994 crime act.

Nonetheless, she has continued to oppose reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era financial deregulation initiative, which had it remained in place would have helped prevent the Great Recession.

The national Democratic Party does not condone discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual discrimination and vehemently opposes immigration restrictions. That is abudantly clear, and a rough litmus test has come about on the latter two.  The Party's commitment to ending the influence of corporate donors, including those on Wall Street, is far less certain, a reality that has Senator Sanders properly exorcised.

"Don’t abandon us, Democratic Party," pleads March.  "Don’t abandon we, the voters who by 3 million votes said, 'I’m with her.' Let’s see you kiss Sanders goodbye and embrace the rest of us."

Uh, no.  Bernie Sanders appears silent on the Hyde Amendment, a recurring provision no Republican- no Republican- opposes. And he is, shamefully, one of those dreaded "cisgendered, heterosexual men" who so annoy March.   But if he had been nominated and elected, not only would immigrant/refugee policy be more humane, reproductive rights not curtailed, and gay rights not be endangered.  The Supreme Court would be short one radical right-wing Justice who seems to believe that the declaration of belief in Jesus justifies discrimination, supporting, as phrased here, "official designations of privileged religous beliefs."

There were many factors involved in the failure to defeat Donald Trump.  Notwithstanding the claim of March and the similarly minded, Bernie Sanders was not one of them, and supporters of progressive causes must not read out of the Party candidates whose priorites they find faulty.

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