Thursday, May 04, 2017
How Big Should the Democratic Party Tent Be?
Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi have both suggested that it's not absolutely imperative for Democratic politicians to support reproductive choice, that others should come in from the rain, that the tent of the Democrats is big enough to allow different opinions, including forced-birth ones.
Sanders noted that he is willing to fight for the pro-choice agenda but thinks that when it comes to politicians, "... you can't just exclude people who disagree with us on one issue," and Pelosi said, while speaking about her own roots, “Most of those people—my family, extended family—are not pro-choice. You think I’m kicking them out of the Democratic Party?”
What a messy paragraph I created there! That is because the topic is a messy one.
For instance, do you see how the question Sanders answers is about Democratic politicians, but Pelosi talks about the ordinary members of the party? Those are two different issues.
Or does the paragraph make you wonder if disagreeing with the Democratic Party's platform on one issue would still be perfectly fine if that issue was rejecting any kind of legally mandated minimum wage?*
And note how unclear the meaning of a forced-birth Democratic politician remains: Would that person vote with the fundamentalists on most women's reproductive rights or would that person just express personal forced-birth views while voting for reproductive choice?
Then there are at least two important underpinnings to that whole debate:
First, if the Democratic Party decides to decrease its focus on reproductive choice, in order to attract various groups of possibly mythical unicorn voters**, it will have to come to grips with the essential truth that reproductive rights and full economic participation are linked for women in ways that they are not linked for men, that economic policies might not benefit women to the same extent as they might benefit men if women are not allowed to have control over their own fertility.***
Second, a policy change that might attract new voters to the party might also make other members of the party decide to leave it behind. I'm not sure if anyone inside the Democratic Party has made any calculations on this fascinating (to me) topic! It just could be that there would be a Women's March out of the party if anti-women views are welcomed.
* Katha Pollitt asks that very question on her careful analysis of the big tent question. She concludes by asking if pro-choice women, the base of the party as it currently stands, are expected to stand outside the tent, in the rain.
** They are unicorn voters, because the fundamentalists don't just want a ban on abortions and in some cases even on birth control, but also Biblical laws and almost absolute power to their religions, and the Democratic Party will always offer less than the rabid extremists who now rule the Republican Party. The racists and sexists won't be satisfied with such stale crumbs, either, because they get press passes to the White House from this Republican administration.
*** To plan one's education and work career requires the ability to control one's fertility. If women cannot have that control, those in fertile age groups will be the last ones hired or promoted and will be less likely to be given on-the-job training. That is because under such conditions women, on average, are statistically less likely to stay employed as long as otherwise equally qualified men, and women, on average, are also more likely to take repeated maternity leaves which are costly to the firms, especially given the traditional norms concerning who it is that is viewed responsible for children.
Children are expensive. Being forced to have many more children than a couple ideally would like will drive poor families into even greater poverty. That is both because of the expenses of feeding, housing and educating the children, but also because large families cannot as easily afford daycare. The solution is often for the woman to drop out of the labor force to care for the children. Ultimately this will affect her retirement income and her lifetime earnings.