Even Progressives Who Can’t Stand Democrats Should Cast a Vote in November for Reproductive Rights

Looks like this is going to be another election where some on the far left threaten to stay home on election dayif Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee—because they see no difference between the two parties. I don’t expect that very many people will actually do this (even in 2000, Ralph Nader received less than 3% of the popular vote). Of course, even a small number of votes can swing the election (as we saw in 2000). I understand the impulse on the far left to reject a Democratic Party that has rejected or failed to enact many of their preferred policies. But staying home on Election Day or casting a symbolic vote for a third party only makes sense if you don’t care about women’s reproductive rights.

Roe v. Wade is a 5-4 case right now. If Reagan-appointed Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy retires—or one of the four justices appointed by Democratic presidents leaves the Court—a Republican president will appoint a justice who will flip the balance and overturn Roe v. Wade. Maybe none of those five justices leave in the next four years. Maybe they do. Either way, overturning Roe v. Wade is just one way a Republican president can attack reproductive rights.

A Republican president will certainly reinstate the Global Gag Rule that prohibits U.S. foreign aid from supporting organizations that provide abortion services or advocate for legal abortion in their country, even though the U.S. funding supports other services provided by those organizations, such as family planning. The Global Gag Rule is kind of like an extreme version of defunding Planned Parenthood (which a Republican President would also do). Every Republican president since Reagan has imposed the Global Gag Rule, and every Democratic president since Clinton has rescinded it.

I don’t mean to imply that women’s reproductive rights are the only difference between Democrats and Republicans. I choose this example because the differences are stark and undeniable. The Republican Congress also just passed legislation to repeal large parts of the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood, which was vetoed by President Obama. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill would have taken health insurance from 22 million Americans. This was passed in Congress via reconciliation, which only requires a simple majority in the Senate. A Republican president would sign this into law.

My point is that even if you believe there is no meaningful distinction between Democrats and Republicans on things like the Middle East, financial regulation, or money in politics—and I think there are significant differences here too—there is certainly a very real difference on women’s reproductive rights. If anyone advocates staying home on Election Day or casting a symbolic vote, they need to explain why the reproductive rights of women don’t matter.

Update (1/15/16): I changed the title of this post to something less accusatory towards progressives who are inclined to stay home in November or vote for a third party if Clinton is the nominee. People can disagree in good faith and still care deeply about women (my initial title said otherwise), but I would encourage progressives inclined to reject a Democratic candidate to think hard about where that strategy leaves women’s reproductive rights in the next four years and beyond.

I also want to be clear that this is not about which candidate to vote for in the primary. This is looking ahead to a possible general election scenario.


4 thoughts on “Even Progressives Who Can’t Stand Democrats Should Cast a Vote in November for Reproductive Rights

  1. FunknJunk

    I’m actually quite tired of hearing this accusation that some not-insignificant number of Sanders supporters (that’s who we’re talking about), will stay home and not vote if he doesn’t win the nomination. First of all, it’s technically untrue, as the people who advocate not voting for Hillary are actually advocating a write-in for Sanders. 6 and one-half dozen? I don’t know. Second, has anyone actually crunched the numbers on how many HRC supporters didn’t vote in 2008? Because I saw an awful lot of that attitude as well, and I see it today. “It’s her turn” folks who won’t vote for Sanders. So. There’s that….

    1. Harry Stein Post author

      I couldn’t stand that attitude from HRC supporters who said they wouldn’t vote for Obama in 2008. My sense is most of them ultimately changed their mind. If HRC is the nominee this time, hopefully you’ll be right that Sanders supporters will support her for reasons like the one I talk about here.

  2. Bruce Wolman

    Kind of jumping the gun here. The current issue is not whether Sanders supporters should make the strategic decision to vote for Hillary in a general election, but which candidate should receive the Democratic nomination. Can Party control be taken away from the Party’s Big Contributors and the party apparatchiks that run the machine in their own self-interest, or can the grass roots return the Democrats to democrats?

    As someone who cares about women and more specifically the make-up of the Supreme Court, I have to admit that it makes my skin crawl when HRH supporters tell us that we have to vote for the Democratic Party and its nominees, because well the Supreme Court. Where were these people when we warned that letting the Roberts and Alito nominations go through would throw the Supreme Court into the corner of the Right for decades? We warned that their nominations had to be rejected at all costs. Needless to say, Democratic “centrists” and acquiescent liberals let the votes be held, and Roberts and Alito turned out to be much more extreme than Establishment Democrats myopically predicted.

    You can be quite certain that the Republicans will not allow another moderate appointment to the Supreme Court without using every means they can conceive of to stop that happening. If the Court ends up 4-4 for years or even smaller, that will be okay with them.

    Even with a Democratic majority, Obama ended up not appointing any committed liberals as we had known in the Court’s high point, the Warren Court. Instead he chose a slightly center-left Hispanic woman (whom I generally respect), and a Jewish Democratic apparatchik that would reliably support the Administration at all times (when she could, as she has had to recuse herself from so many cases due to her role as Solicitor General in the Obama Administration). Kagan’s self-proclaimed judicial hero was not one of the Warren Court intellects, but Aharon Barak, the former President of the Israeli Supreme Court, which says more than enough about Democratic politics in this day and era. Most of the Democratic appointments on the current Court are moderates at best, and quite often join the majority in pro-business decisions.

    Republicans and their business supporters were very unhappy with the decisions of the Warren Court. In response, they methodically developed a detailed plan and strategy through civil and legal societies and generous corporate funding to capture the US and state courts at every level. Patiently over thirty years, they have done just that. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party refused to do anything similar, and in fact gave cover to those Conservative efforts by refusing to oppose their law-and-order memes, the criminalization of minority communities, the war on drugs, the horrendous new sentencing laws, the end of antitrust enforcement and the attacks on business regulation. If anything, Democratic prosecutors tried to prove they could be as ruthless and aggressive as their Republican counterparts. I will just mention one example, the shameful prosecutorial hounding of progressive Aaron Swartz that lead to his suicide. There are hundreds of other similar vindictive and nasty prosecutions.

    So please give the Supreme Court meme a rest for the time being. It only serves as a rationalization for HRH supporters who want to vote for her anyhow. It annoys Sanders supporters. We will decide on our own whether we are better served voting for yet another Democratic Establishment candidate, a Clinton no less, or sitting it out for another shot in 2020, or making a protest vote for Jill Stein, whom represents our views far more closely than HRH.

    If the Hillary camp want the support of Sanders supporters, then maybe they should start negotiating with progressives by making real binding commitments to that wing of the Party. We would be fools to give any credence to the issuing of empty campaign promises and position papers, which everyone should know is only marketing and BS. The candidates believe the campaign is a necessary and cynical game, and they feel no compulsion to honor any of their positions and promises once winning the office. Obama, Mr. Hope and Change, should have taught us that.

    Will the Democratic establishment support Bernie if he wins the nomination despite its efforts to hand the nomination to Clinton, or will it sit on its hands hoping Bernie goes down to defeat rather than they having to give up their control of the Party? Ask John that question when you see him. We Sanders supporters want to know now.

    1. Harry Stein Post author

      If Sanders wins the nomination, I certainly hope that Clinton supporters will vote for him in the general election, recognizing that the problems with the Republican nominee run far deeper than any issues they have with Sanders. And I completely agree that the primary campaign is an important opportunity to decide the direction of the Democratic party, and that it is also the time for progressives to push the candidates to make meaningful policy commitments.

      On the Supreme Court, I think it is worth noting that Hillary Clinton was one of the people who thought confirming Roberts and Alito was a mistake. Senator Clinton voted against both Roberts and Alito, going so far as to join 24 Democrats trying to filibuster the Alito nomination. And the issue of reproductive rights goes beyond the Supreme Court, including things like the Global Gag Rule, defunding Planned Parenthood, and defunding Title X family planning altogether.


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