Santorum and Theocracy
A recent New York Times article sheds some light on the Democrats common ground strategy on abortion, which is concentrated in the Pennsylvania Senate race. Rick Santorum, the Republican incumbent, is quite possibly one of the most reactionary elected officials in the country. He has sought to ban abortion and wrote the bill that sought to include teaching intelligent design in the No Child Left Behind Act. He supports a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and has been called doctrinaire and sanctimonious.
Santorum often makes comments in the vein of a speech he gave to the Heritage Foundation in D.C. called The Necessity of Truth, In this speech, he calls out to the country, asking how so many Americans can have such great faith in God and still feel so constrained from expressing their views in the public sphere, in terms of legislation and policy. (By the way, the answer, Senator Santorum, is the establishment clause). In a quote from a recent article, the list against Santorum is long and heavythey note that he has likened Democrats to Nazis, claims Terri Schiavo was executed, said the mainstream media lies about him, equated homosexuality with bestiality, and claimed the Catholic priest pedophile scandal in Boston was really no surprise since Boston is a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism.
Overall, he has attempted to lead the Senate in imposing a theocracy on US society. While Santorums agenda may find support from the White House and far-right Christian fundamentalist movements, it is in stark contrast to what most people consider an acceptable way of governing society.
Because of his radically fundamentalist views, and fascistic attempts to take control of the bodies and minds of people living in the US, taking on Santorum should be a piece of cake. The 2006 race is a seemingly perfect opportunity to drag his reactionary program into the light of day. He stands for everything most people are against. However, the Democratic Party leadership has opted for a different strategy: run Santorum-lite. Enter Bob Casey, Jr.
Casey is adamantly against abortion. He strongly supported Alito and Roberts nominations to the Supreme Court, and has been an avid cheerleader of Bushs war on Iraq. He also agrees with Santorum on stem-cell research, which he is against.  While Casey isnt quite as reactionary as the GOPs ultra-conservative poster-boy (unlike Santorum, he at least at this point is not openly opposed to contraception), the notion that this is what choice means in November is not only disgusting, but clearly leads to a quiet acceptance of abortion being banned outright.
In Order to Defeat Them, You Must Become Them
While the notion of a Democratic candidate running with similar positions to Santorum makes one cringe, the fact that top Democrats are vigorously defending and promoting his candidacy is immoral and outrageous. Casey was handpicked by Chuck Schumer (Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee), who has made it his goal to give up principle in the name of political expediency. Even Barbara Boxer, one of the more outspoken pro-choice Democratic Senators, called the decision to run Casey a pragmatic choice, and added, by the way, to dislodge Santorum is a pro-choice victory. We wonder if we heard her correctly. Electing an anti-choice candidate is now defined as a pro-choice victory? In addition to being irrational, this idea sets into motion a deadly proposal, one that postulates that that in order to defeat the theocrats, we must become them.
The title of a recent campaign fundraiser captures this logic well: Pragmatic Progressive Women for Casey. This approach (one in which we give up what were supposed to be fighting for in order to win an election) is a failure in principle as well as in results. When what is at stake is whether or not women have control over their own bodies, such methods are unacceptable. Simply put, are we for or against a return to back alley abortions? The pro-choice movement fought long and hard to win the right to abortions, birth control and family planning. These are things that we take for granted in todays world. In addition, the womens rights movement fought innumerable battles to advance the position of women in society. While much remains to be done to achieve a society of equality between women and men, we can all agree that the Bush regimes moves to ban abortion (and birth control) and enforce traditional values (i.e. patriarchy) need to be stopped.
Are we willing to lose our grasp on what the right to abortion means for women in exchange for a merely tentative majority of Democrats in Congress, a majority which isnt actually fighting to hold on to those advances? What will that majority really mean when we have pro-war, anti-choice Senators like Casey representing us? What if these concessions do not translate into a majority? We will have traded the right to choose, without the option of taking it back.
The most despicable aspect of this turn of events is the way that Caseys candidacy seems to be something of a model for the Democratic Party. Each of the nine women Democratic Senators went so far as to sign a letter of support for Casey. Howard Dean has said, "I have long believed that we ought to make a home for pro-life Democrats."
Somehow, all the betrayal of the peoples will is justified by the need to take back Congress in 2006. But the question remains: what good will this majority do if the new members have lite versions of the positions of those they are replacing?
The Bigger Picture