Rachel Maddow runs down the list for us of C-Street family members who also voted for Bart Stupak’s anti-abortion amendment yesterday. Nothing like having what amounts to a secretive religious cult making health care policy for women in the United States. As Rachel noted that list includes:
Rep. Bart Stupak D-MI
Rep. Joe Pitts R-PA
Rep. Ike Skelton D-MO
Rep. Mike McIntyre D-NC
Rep. John Tanner D-TN
Rep. Lincoln Davis D-TN
Rep. Dan Boren D-OK
Rep. Heath Shuler D-NC
Jeff Sharlet joined Rachel to discuss The C-Street Family's ever growing influence within the Democratic Party.
Maddow: What are Congressman Stupak and Congressman Pitts’ connections to C-Street and The Family? Is one of them more deeply involved than the other?
Sharlet: Yeah, well Congressman Pitts has been involved with The Family since 1976 and in the 1980’s he was instrumental in bringing anti-abortion politics into this kind of elite fundamentalism that until that point had been focused on economics and foreign affairs. Bart Stupak meanwhile has been living at C-Street since at least 2002 when he told the Los Angeles Times “we kind of don’t talk about what happens here”.
Maddow: Are there signs that The Family had anything to do with the Stupak-Pitts amendment? I mean this is quite a legislative coup that they’ve pulled off.
Sharlet: Well, you have to consider that Congressman Pitts is what The Family calls a core member. This is a little like being on the board of directors. You can go on line and find video of him talking about the objectives of the group is to create a god led government. He has worked over the years to prevent not only abortion but AIDS education overseas and so this has been a life-long project for him going back years and years and years. Stupak is a little bit newer to this issue and I think what you really have to question here is Pitts who’s been active in this for a long time and was bringing up these amendments I think in Stupak and his brother in The Family as it was called, found a Democrat to carry the issue for him.
Maddow: So you think this legislative work reflects more the skills, connections, background of Congressman Pitts than it does Bart Stupak?
Sharlet: Yeah well with respect to Congressman Stupak nobody ever called him the brightest bulb on the porch. Everybody likes him, he’s a good guy; Pitts is a guy who’s been doing this for a long time. When he was a state legislator he was head of a national state legislative group that was really doing anti-abortion work on the state level before anyone was really paying attention to it. He is a long term strategist and I think we really have to look at that broader connection and how he played this issue.
Maddow: Let me ask you about some of the other conventional wisdom here because the sort of conventional explanation for this is that this anti-abortion amendment to health reform resulted mostly from the Catholic Bishops pressuring Catholic politicians to support it but I know that you think it’s bigger than that. Can you explain why?
Sharlet: Well I think it’s unfair to Catholics, I think it’s unfair to Evangelicals. First of all most of the press is focused on Catholics despite the fact that a number of the Congressmen involved in this are not Catholic including Congressman Pitts and including Congressman Shuler who you mentioned and frankly the majority of American Catholics are pro-choice and that’s not true of the majority of American Evangelicals. I think it’s a very comfortable story to tell ourselves that this is just traditional Catholic conservatism rather than facing the fact there is a growing and new Evangelical, conservative Evangelical influence within the Democratic Party.
Maddow: We have talked a little about this in the past, but obviously because we’ve been talking about a form of conservatism and how this religious movement dovetails in many ways with a lot of conservative agenda items do you feel like we’ve overlooked or generally speaking it’s been overlooked how conservative Democrats are part of this too?
Sharlet: Yeah, absolutely. Conservative Democrats have made this happen. I mean look here we are with a fully Democratic government and Joe Pitts and his colleagues like Chris Smith and so on have just achieved a goal they could not achieve during eight years of Bush and they’ve done it with Democratic help and they’ve done it with—I think what’s crucial is you have to look at the traditional Catholic pro-life votes, respect those—but look at the new influence of Evangelicals Democrats like Heath Shuler, traditionally Evangelical Democrats, like Joe Pitts, and you see a growing movement within the Democratic Party that we just haven’t faced up to yet.