I want to quickly highlight this chunk from James Wagoner's great post on the Stupak Amendment at RH Reality Check:
I believe pro-choice leaders may have made a fatal mistake in not challenging the Democrats’ 2004 decision to recruit and run anti-choice candidates. They believed Democratic leadership when they were told that the pro-choice agenda would not be undermined by these newly elected anti-choice Democrats because Democratic leaders in the House and Senate would “have their backs” on policy issues.
Well, so much for political assurances. Pro-choice leaders must now recognize that they have fallen victim to a classic “bait and switch” with Democrats telling pro-choice advocates they couldn’t save them from Stupak because they just didn’t have the votes. Gee, wonder why? Couldn’t have anything to do with all those anti-choice Democrats elected since 2004 could it?
This is a good time to mention political scientist Paul Frymer's 1999 book Uneasy Alliances. Frymer is mostly concerned with the role of race in political coalition building, but his central idea -- that minority groups risk electoral "capture" by closely aligning themselves with a single political party -- is a really useful way of thinking about interest groups in general. Since the Democratic Party is the only major political party committed -- however nominally -- to reproductive rights, pro-choicers have had no other choice but to ally themselves with the party. Democrats can afford to sacrifice pro-choice priorities precisely because pro-choicers have no other choice but to work with the party.
The opposite is true for anti-abortion activists and politicians. Not only are anti-abortion voters an important part of the Republican Party coalition, they are an integral part of the Democratic Party's large majority. As a result, anti-abortion politicians and activists have a huge amount of leverage over Democrats, because they can credibly threaten to withdraw their support for Democratic initiatives. It's actually kind of ironic -- Democrats won in 2006 by expanding the party to include minority viewpoints on reproductive rights, but by expanding the size of the Democratic tent and giving anti-abortion activists the option of leaving the Republican Party, they inadvertently gave them a whole lot more leverage and power than they previously had.
In a lot of ways, the pro-choice movement is in the same predicament as health-care reformers and environmental activists. The optimal approach in each case is really only possible when there are opportunities for cross-partisan coalitions. Pro-choicers need fellow travelers in the Republican Party if they want to make any real headway for reproductive rights. Otherwise, they'll be stuck fighting rear-guard actions against legislation like the Stupak Amendment for the foreseeable future.
You need to be logged in to comment.
(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)