“Real Incremental Progress Is Happening In Blue States”: State Legislatures,The Primary Vehicles For Real Progressive Action
It’s often easy to become discouraged at the state of national politics. Given Republican control of the House, there’s very little chance of either Clinton’s or Sanders’ policy priorities going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean that progress isn’t happening in blue states around the country.
Consider again the example of California, where rules finally went into effect allowing women to get birth control without a prescription:
Women in California of any age can now obtain birth control without a doctor’s prescription from any pharmacy in the state. Under the new rules finally in effect, any woman merely has to fill out a questionnaire at the pharmacy to get access to a variety of contraceptive measures, according to KABC. Though the new rules were technically passed by the state legislature in 2013, the law was tied up in regulatory discussions until Friday. Under the law, any woman can get self-administered hormonal birth control.
California is not the first to put this into place; Washington and Oregon already have similar laws.
This also, of course, comes on the heels of $15 minimum wages being passed in California and New York as well. California alone has a wide bevy of new progressive laws ranging from automatic voter registration to air quality standards, wage theft, sexual consent and much else. Blue states continue to be the successful laboratories of democracy where Republicans in Congress are failing to act, even as the red state economic model is being proven a failure in places like Kansas and Louisiana.
Until the 2020 census makes it easier to change control of Congress, it will remain the case that state legislatures are the primary vehicles for real progressive action. One can only hope that those seeking a political revolution will remain engaged regardless of the result of the Democratic primary, and get involved in making their states as progressive as possible until the demographic tide makes a national change in direction inevitable.
By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 10, 2016
A few years ago, shortly before Election Day 2014, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) realized he was struggling with women voters and he worried about whether the gender gap would derail his campaign. Walker responded with a TV ad in which, in the context of the abortion debate, the governor defended leaving these decisions “to a woman and her doctor.”
Substantively, the rhetoric was ridiculous – it reflected the exact opposite of Walker’s policy agenda – but the Republican candidate saw value in trying to use his rivals’ phrasing to make his own far-right policies sound more mainstream.
BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski reported the other day on a similar tactic adopted by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
“Again, terrible tragedy what happened in Oregon, but you’re right, every single year unborn in this country are killed legally, through laws that allow that to happen,” Rubio said when radio host Glenn Beck asked him to respond to Hillary Clinton’s comments on the Oregon shooting, which Beck used to pivot to the issue of abortion.
“Look, I recognize this is tough issue and I actually do believe that a woman has a right to choose with her body,” he added. “The problem is that when there’s a pregnancy, there’s another life involved and that life has a right to live. And so, as policymakers we have to choose between two competing rights, and I’ve chosen as a matter of principle to choose life in that debate.”
First, it’s a lingering mystery why we still see competitive candidates for the nation’s highest office associating themselves with Glenn Beck, chatting about who they see as radical, without appreciating the irony.
Second, it’s jarring for Rubio, who’s been a consistent far-right voice on issues such as abortion and contraception access, boast that he “actually” does “believe that a woman has a right to choose with her body” – though he’s comfortable pursuing an agenda to curtail and restrict that right.
The Florida senator added that Hillary Clinton “has extreme positions” when it comes to reproductive rights.
Rubio has argued more than once in recent months that if a woman is impregnated by a rapist, the government has the authority to force her to take the pregnancy to term, regardless of her wishes.
How eager is he, exactly, for a debate about whose positions are “extreme”?
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 12, 2015
On Sunday’s “Meet the Press” Chuck Todd, a journalist I respect, asked an interesting, but odd, question of Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood: “Should you be in the politics business?”
This is a circular argument: Planned Parenthood has been in the politics business since it opened its doors. Female sexuality, and the control thereof, has always been inherently political. The term “sexual revolution” is not an abstract concept – the introduction of the pill 50 years ago was what marked the full entry of American women into the workforce. The pill is credited with a third of the increase in wages for American women.
There is nothing more physically and economically determinative to a woman than deciding if or when to have children, a decision to which Planned Parenthood has made an enormous contribution for millions of us.
This is why social conservatives continue to attack not just abortion, but contraception – if you’re against abortion and contraception, it’s not just about abortion. And it’s why Planned Parenthood has become a talisman to the right, a symbol of what they fear most – women controlling their own reproductive destiny. Two-thirds of the 1 million abortions in this country are done by private practitioners other than Planned Parenthood, but there are no mass protests and bloody fetus pictures outside their offices.
Why? Because Ruth Bader Ginsburg is right – the right’s War on Women is fundamentally a war on poor women. Two-thirds of women who have an abortion already have a child, and the overwhelming reason cited for the procedure is that they can’t afford another one. There’s a reason the original Roe plaintiff, Norma McCorvey, was working class. Rich women could get abortions before Roe, and they will if the Supreme Court overturns it next spring – which is possible, since the court has taken up the Texas abortion restrictions.
Historically, fights over female autonomy are hardly unique to either our country or even our millennia. Sex and power for women have always been intertwined and an object of fascination, fear and political manipulation for men.
Anne Boleyn was executed by Henry VIII for accusations of infidelity – and not producing a son, as were many royal wives, never mind that the man determines the sex of the child. Her daughter Elizabeth I, arguably Britain’s greatest monarch, was the Virgin Queen, precisely because once she married and surrendered her sexuality to a man it diminished her imperium.
So what it comes down to, again, is that this is about power. House Republicans are creating a Planned Parenthood investigative “committee” to weaken political opponents and catalyze their base, the same way they set up the Benghazi “committee” to weaken Hillary Clinton and fire up conservatives.
And in the states, right-wing Republicans are attacking Planned Parenthood with every political means at their disposal, including electing retrograde state legislatures that in turn enact horrific, humiliating laws designed to slut-shame women out of having abortions and restrict access to contraception.
What angers conservatives about Planned Parenthood isn’t just what they do – contraception, reproductive health care and, yes, abortions. It’s how the organization does it – without judgment or shame – and the result it produces: women in control of their own bodies, both physically and politically.
By: Laura K. Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, October 6, 2015
Q: Quick, who was Margaret Sanger?
A: A champion for modern womanhood, one we don’t hear about in history textbooks. Yes, she was an avant-garde figure who lived in Greenwich Village. Yes, she opened the first birth control clinic in a Brooklyn storefront. Yes, she was banned in Boston.
Thank you, Margaret Sanger. How little has changed since you founded Planned Parenthood — the major women’s health care provider Republican lawmakers threaten to “defund.” That kind of sore talk was nothing new to you.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaking Thursday at the Washington Ideas Forum hosted by The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute, defended Planned Parenthood from critics in Congress. She noted, “Not one federal dollar goes to pay for abortions.” She added, “All I can say is we’ve been in that world before. … I’m talking about a world where women committed suicide rather than go forward with a pregnancy.”
Speaking of the threat to cut off access to cancer screenings, Warren said, “They’re going to have a real fight on their hands. Let them do it.”
A century ago, Sanger sat before a House committee, fielding the “sometimes hostile questions of congressmen,” as biographer Jean H. Baker described the scene.
Used to fire, Sanger deftly handled her congressional squad. So did Hillary Clinton on the civilian deaths at Benghazi. (She has to face the same committee on her email server.) But it’s not pretty to see a woman get harassed by a gaggle of ganders.
Apparently, that’s still the treatment you get if you are president of the organization Sanger founded. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards gamely answered questions from a House panel this week. Yet chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, treated his witness so rudely that he left people gobsmacked.
Sanger, a nurse galvanized by immigrant women’s plight, started a movement that traveled the world. She invented the term, “birth control,” and publicized contraception as a way for women, to control their destiny. She saw too many women die in childbirth on the job.
Also advancing American women’s status at the same time, in the same spirit, was suffrage leader Alice Paul in Washington. Both were early 20th-century women, only six years apart. The leaders were also jailed for their actions — roughly 100 years ago. Birth control was seen as “pernicious” and to this day is frowned upon by Rome and the pope.
Sanger and Paul departed from the old ways of being “good girls” as they defied authority. Paul was not one to obey President Woodrow Wilson, the main target of her Votes for Women movement. In their eyes, they were not there in the public square to compromise, but to realize their bold vision of women’s emancipation. They were not friends, but allies on different fronts of a shared struggle.
As Sanger put it, she followed her own compass:
“I never asked advice. I just kept going, night and day, visualizing every act, every step, believing, knowing that I was working in accord with … a moral evolution.”
They were each improvising, since they were pioneers leading into the unknown. Neither felt their work was ever finished.
There’s much to learn right now from Sanger’s fiery civil disobedience in these times when women feel under siege in Congress. In my favorite Sanger story, she is gagged onstage in Boston, to protest the mayor’s ban on her speaking on birth control in the 1920s. In a dramatic scene, the Harvard historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. read her speech while she was gagged. This took place in 1929.
Sanger led a full life of passion, to borrow Baker’s phrase. Men found her captivating. Her family life was streaked with the loss of a young daughter, Peggy. An intense presence, she went door to door on her crusade. She soon launched a magazine, The Birth Control Review, and organized international conferences.
Sanger’s early turning point was on the Lower East Side, where she saw Sadie Sachs, 28, beg a doctor to tell her how to prevent another pregnancy, saying it would kill her. “Tell Jake to sleep on the roof,” he said. The next time Sanger went to the Sachs apartment, Sadie was gone from a botched abortion.
“It was the dawn of a new day,” Sanger wrote. She was so right.
By: Jamie Steihm, The National Memo, October 2, 2015
“Pope Francis Will Not Help Your Political Cause”: Even The Pope Can’t Change The Fundamental Calculus Of Congress
“Pope Francis gets political in remarks at White House,” read the headline at The Hill.
“Pope Francis brings political agenda to Washington,” said Politico.
“Pope Francis wades into U.S. politics,” read The Washington Post.
Seeing all that, you might think that the pontiff had said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, and also, call your representatives and tell them to vote yes on H.R. 2451…”
Meanwhile, countless interest groups are sending out press releases saying the pope agrees with them on their issue of concern (the dumbest I’ve seen has to be the 30-page report from a Democratic group charging that the Koch brothers are “on the wrong side of the Holy Father”). But I have some bad news if you were hoping the pope would aid your particular partisan cause, whatever it is: The pope’s visit is not going to matter much.
I suppose you can’t blame the political press for interpreting the pope’s trip through the lens of politics, since it’s their job to view everything through the lens of politics. And it’s true that the pope is visiting the White House and giving an address before a joint session of Congress while he’s here. But is he really going to change the nature of any of the serious partisan arguments we have?
It’s not too likely, because no matter how popular Francis might be, nobody here is just going to do what he says on any issue just because he’s the pope. It’s strange now to look back at the 1960 campaign and see that people were genuinely concerned that John F. Kennedy would be taking orders from the Vatican instead of doing whatever he thought was best. We’d never accuse a Catholic presidential candidate of that today, less because it would sound intolerant than because it would sound ridiculous. When ordinary Catholics don’t take orders from the pope, why would a Catholic president?
Catholics have a lot of practice at picking the Church edicts they want to obey and those they don’t — and that applies to both liberals and conservatives. The conservatives take all that stuff about helping the poor with a grain of salt, while the liberals have decided to agree to disagree with the Church on matters like same-sex marriage. And most everybody disagrees with the Church on birth control; in this Pew poll, three-quarters of Catholics said the Church should permit contraception, and the overwhelming majority of Catholic women of childbearing age use it.
Of course, this isn’t just about obedience, it’s also about the pope’s ability to add his voice and moral authority to political questions. You could argue that when the pope talks about climate change, he makes concern about it seem like a mainstream position and not the province of lefties and liberals. Which is true as far as it goes, but in the U.S. today, that isn’t that far. In the intensely polarized environment in which we live, even a highly popular religious figure can’t change the fundamental calculus of Congress.
One of our two great parties has committed itself to fight any moves that might address climate change, a commitment that is unlikely to change any time soon. That’s true despite the fact that most of their own constituents believe we ought to do something about it. The dynamics of party politics mean that the Republicans who actually get elected are going to be the ones who are most doctrinaire, on this as on most issues. That means that as long as they control Congress, there will be enough of them to stop any climate legislation, which in turn means that action will only come through the kind of regulatory changes that the Obama administration has instituted. The only thing that will produce meaningful climate legislation is huge Democratic majorities in Congress of the kind they had briefly at the start of Barack Obama’s first term. Might there be a Republican member of Congress somewhere who wishes she could publicly advocate reductions in greenhouse gases, and will finally have the courage to do so now that she can claim Pope Francis as an ally? I suppose it’s possible, but I wouldn’t bet on it — let alone there being some significant number of Republicans who would join her.
The same is true of other issues: the more something matters to us politically, the less the pope is able to change anyone’s mind here in the United States, whether he’s talking about abortion or refugees or tax policy.
Even if some conservative media outlets are now going after Francis like he was Hillary Clinton because of what he’s said about climate and capitalism, they needn’t worry so much. While everyone is parsing the pope’s words to see if he supports their position on something or other — he said he’s an immigrant, so he must be criticizing Donald Trump! He said we need religious liberty, so he must be backing Kim Davis in Kentucky! — what will come out of this visit is a lot of selfies, a lot of media puff pieces, and probably a jump in the pope’s popularity. But politically, everything will stay just the same.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, September 24, 2015