When the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), Representative Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), stated last week that the party would support Democratic candidates who are anti-choice in order to try and win traditionally conservative districts, he demonstrated once again how the party continues to ignore its base. This policy is no different than what other past and current Democratic Party leaders have echoed for years, and that is the problem.
Women took to Twitter en masse to proclaim that anything less than full support of women’s rights and healthcare would be met with fierce opposition. None was louder than the newly formed American Women’s Party (AWP) who immediately stood their ground with a volley of tweet threads on why the Democrats would rue the day they turned their back on their base.
— theAWParty (@theAWParty) July 31, 2017
I spoke last weekend with Maya Contreras, co-founder with Mia Brett, to get the 411 on the AWP. “We want to re-center women in the Democratic Party, and proclaim that identity politics is not a dirty word. The unifying message needs to be that, ‘We will protect your rights.’ It’s okay that the party is complex.”
Contreras emphasized that Democrats need not worry about the AWP being a third party and taking votes away from their candidates. As their website maintains:
“The American Women’s Party understands that women are directly affected by politics and policy in ways that are not currently addressed in government. Women are disproportionately adversely affected by healthcare laws, economics, gun laws, mass incarceration, and voter suppression. The American Women's Party seeks to fight for inclusive policies that address issues specific to women. Our goal is voter enfranchisement and involvement for all, and advocate for candidates that align with our priorities. While The American Women's Party will not run its own candidates, we will educate and endorse officials on the local, state and federal level who are committed to championing the equal rights of women.”
But at the same time, their statement doesn’t mean they will accept the Democrats ignoring women’s rights in order to gain votes. The AWP was mortified when the DNC Chair Tom Perez and Bernie Sanders declared the same exact position by supporting Heath Mello for Omaha’s mayor knowing full well he did not support a woman’s right to control her own body. “Guys in the party are not listening to their (female) colleagues,” said Contreras.
The Latest Anti-Women’s Rights Trend
In what’s being referred to as the “abortion litmus test,” women’s groups around the country are demanding the Democratic Party unequivocally state that their platform will include a woman’s right to choose. So far, the party and many of its top leaders have chosen to follow and be pressured by groups such as the Democrats for Life of America, an anti-choice group that recently met with Tom Perez. This trend has many women concerned that they can no longer depend on the Democrats to protect the few rights they have now.
And they have every right to be worried.
With Republicans running the majority of state legislatures, pro-choice proponents are seeing the not so gradual destruction of not only Roe v. Wade, but of women’s healthcare in general. Wisconsin’s Representative Andres Jacque (R) just authored and introduced the latest and greatest attack against women’s rights with Assembly Bill 206. Jacque has long been chipping away at abortion rights, but now is aiming at denying Wisconsin women basic healthcare. Should 206 pass the state legislature and be signed into law by Governor Scott Wilson (R), an ultra-right-wing conservative, the entire University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority would not only be prohibited from performing abortions but would also be banned from teaching how to perform safe abortions. Since abortions are many times performed for medical reasons as opposed to choice, its instruction is required and the medical school could possibly lose its accreditation. Abortion education is required under OB-GYN residencies; no accreditation means no students, no doctors and therefore no women’s healthcare at all whether abortion related or not.
While Rep. Jacque claims that this will not affect the medical college, women and women’s rights groups are concerned that this could mean the end of women’s healthcare in Wisconsin. Without accredited OB-GYN doctors, women will find themselves without care for pregnancies, gynecological check-ups, access to birth control, cancer screenings and care just to name a few.
Democrats Will Lose More Than They Gain
Democrats haven’t been listening to their base for quite some time. What small gains were made during the Obama administration are being unraveled and it’s not just coming from the misogynist Trump administration. The party ignored their base during the DNC chair campaign by picking Tom Perez, and they continue to do so by including candidates that are against women’s reproductive rights.
This trend is also spilling over into attacks against female candidates. Currently, Twitter has seen an increase of attacks against female leaders like Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) who is a hopeful 2020 presidential candidate among many Democrats. The threats and accusations resemble those made against Hillary Clinton by Sanders’ supporters in the lead up to her run for president.
“They are not listening nor believing those of us that the law affects. It’s like they don’t even understand,” Contreras admits. She and her followers intend to put up a fight. To get their attention, AWP is focusing first on getting people registered to vote. “We all know that the only way the House and Senate are going to pass the type of legislation we’d support is to win back control of the congress…” as stated on the AWP website.
Democrats are mistaken to think they need to go to the center to win. They are wrong to think they can ignore their base and win seats in congress by courting anti-choice voters. The party’s inability to state that they stand for equal rights and equal justice for all will only continue to lose campaigns.
Democrats would do themselves a favor to remember the millions of men and women who marched on June 21, 2017. If they want to win, they should stop apologizing for their liberal beliefs and stand up for their base.