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With Friends Like These…

By Leah Fishbein & RJ Schinner  Posted by RJ Schinner (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 3 pages)   No comments
Message RJ Schinner
While the right to abortion hangs in the balance, the Democratic Party leadership has decided on a strategy of "finding common ground." This strategy could also be called outright capitulation to the theocratic onslaught on the rights and lives of women. As we decide how to respond to this choice by the Democrats, let us think long and hard about what kind of future we want for this country, and for the world. As we wonder over compromises on issues of war, torture, police state measures, theocracy and every other outrage the Bush regime is cementing into place, let us not resign ourselves to quietly accepting what we would have found intolerable a few years ago. Let us learn, stand strong, and confront this fight head on. If we give up ground, they will only continue to take more.
Santorum and Theocracy

A recent New York Times article[1] 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.[2] He supports a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and has been called doctrinaire and sanctimonious.[3]

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.[4] (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 heavy""they 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'."[5]

Overall, he has attempted to lead the Senate in imposing a theocracy on US society. While Santorum's 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.

Santorum-lite Not Our Savior

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 Bush's war on Iraq. He also agrees with Santorum on stem-cell research, which he is against. [6] While Casey isn't quite as reactionary as the GOP's 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.

Casey has made such statements as, "I am and I have always been pro-life," as well as "I support the current federal policy on embryonic stem cell research and would oppose the Castle bill to expand federal support of embryonic stem cell research." While running for State Treasurer of Pennsylvania in 2004, he stated that if Roe V. Wade were overturned, he would only desire to provide exceptions for the life of the mother, and not for cases of rape or incest. [7] So we have in our hands a candidate against, among other things, science and choice.

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 we're 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 today's world. In addition, the women's 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 regime's 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 isn't 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 Casey's 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."[8]

Groups like Democrats for Life (whose president Carol Crossed says that "The right to choose is most certainly this party's right to lose") state goals such as helping to elect anti-abortion Democrats and supporting anti-abortion legislation.[9] These anti-choice Democrats are very present in politics""and this is not a one-shot problem. Other anti-abortion Democrats running for Congress include Bill Gluba for Representative of Iowa, Bart Stupak for Representative of Michigan and James Oberstar for Minnesota, as well as Ben Nelson for Senator of Nebraska, among others. And none other than Tim Kaine, the newly elected anti-choice governor of Virginia, was selected to give the Democrat's rebuttal (if you can call it that) to Bush's state of the union address.

Somehow, all the betrayal of the people's 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

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RJ Schinner is an organizer with The World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime
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