The Democrats Had Already Conceded the War on Women

Curiously, in his chronology of the talking point, “the War on Women,” Dave Weigel doesn’t mention the actual terrorist attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic a few weeks back. Nor does Marc Ambinder in his thoughtful piece on the outrage mobilized by the term. And these men commenting on the Democratic Party’s effort to mobilize its tribes by raising outrage over the GOP’s treatment of women are right, up to a point. In DC, that metaphor, “War on Women,” has been cognitively divorced from what happens when a man conducts a terrorist attack (one not treated as a terrorist attack, mind you) on a clinic designed to help women access the same life choices men get by default.

In their review of the outraged response to Hillary Rosen’s suggestion that Ann Romney had never worked a day in her life, neither Weigel nor Ambinder nor just about anyone else noted the unspoken implication of Mitt Romney’s defense of his wife that raising their five children (with help, mind you) was a full time job. Mitt effectively admitted that he wasn’t doing the child-rearing–still a common gender assumption among men of Mitt’s age, but nevertheless stunning in the way no one noticed that Mitt admitted his role as father involves outsourcing all the child-rearing to the mother. The true scandal of the Hillary Rosen poutrage, IMO, is that no one considered the flip side of Ann’s full-time job as mother: Mitt’s abdication of child-rearing as a father. Sure. When his boys were little, he was a busy man and all that–he had people to fire and jobs to outsource. But he was able to focus so closely on those things because Ann did the parenting work for the two of them.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are still going to use GOP attacks on women as a political stunt. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz tweeted or re-tweeted 7 comments about women’s issues yesterday, in addition to the seemingly mandatory condemnation of Rosen.

I was particularly amused by this DWS tweet:

Bottom line: Choice, affordable contraception, and Planned Parenthood are at stake in this election.

As it happened, a few hours after DWS sent that tweet, I went to a Debbie Stabenow event hosted by a local women’s group. As we were waiting for the Senator to speak, a top county Democrat was sitting several rows behind me trying to convince some of the women not to support Trevor Thomas. “There is absolutely no way he can win,” the guy said (the polling says he’s wrong, and I suspect he knows that). In addition to saying a gay man can’t win, he also said a pro-choice person can’t win in the district (his listeners pointed out that Stabenow herself had won the district; so have at least two other pro-choice candidates). Then he described Steven Pestka, using the line Michigan Democrats used to defend Bart Stupak as he was rolling back access to choice for women across the country.

He’s with us on everything else.

But the really appalling comment, uttered by a man at a women’s event, was this:

I need to win this year.

If the guy were reasonably intelligent, he might have said, “we need to win the gavel back for Nancy Pelosi.” But he couldn’t even muster a “we need to win” this year. Nope. It was “I need to win this year,” and that’s why women have to suck it up and vote for someone who has attacked their autonomy in the past.

Steve Pestka’s with us on everything else, this guy said at a women’s event. But he’s not just anti-choice. When he was in the State House (the experience locals point to to claim he’s a better candidate than Trevor) he scored a whopping 0% on votes to support choice. That included a vote for HB 4655, which singled out Planned Parenthood to be defunded, precisely the outrage–at the national level–that Democrats use as the cornerstone of their metaphorical attack on the GOP for its “War on Women.”

As the DNC Chair was claiming this election was about “choice, affordable contraception, and Planned Parenthood,” at least one local Dem official was telling women they have to vote for a guy who has already voted against all those things because he needs to win this year.

This metaphorical “War on Women” makes nice DC theater. But Dems conceded even the metaphor some time ago.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

17 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    Yes, if only the little women would get in line and obey listen to their male masters peers.

    At times I wonder if my own gender is genetically capable of ever really accepting gender equality. Temporary consciousness appears from time to time, but then lapses right back into “Me Tarzan, you Jane!”

  2. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: And further, I would note the MSM’s typical assignment of “equivalence” between what the Repugs have actually done (The state of Virginia’s unconscionable law insisting on physical invasion of women’s bodies comes to mind as just one of many recent examples), and what some pundit wannabee Democrat said.

    The shallowness and intellectual dishonesty of the folks at Politico, Drudge and others who insist on, and trumpet this “equivalence”, should be an embarrassment to the standards of their profession of journalism…but sadly it is not.

  3. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: And if some would state that my lament too is a cop-out providing a convenient excuse and cover for my gender’s behavior, I would have to agree with them.

    Yes, sometimes the intellect fires up sporadically into self-awareness. Not often enough, no?

  4. Ford Prefect says:

    This post sure brings back a few foul memories.

    “He’s with us on everything else,” said the party hack looking to advance his career.

    I can go back 20+ years and recall just the same thing uttered at countless meetings. Women’s events, labor events, environmental events, human rights and minority groups. You name it. Every major constituency (that isn’t an industry lobby) group in the Democratic Party gets this message shoved down their throats.

    If it were up to me, I’d attack Pestka on the basis of, “If he’s willing to sell out women, who make up a majority of Party membership, then he’ll sell out anyone and everyone along the way.” Because I guarantee you that you’ll hear the same crap at other events as well: “He’s with us on everything else.”

    I would suggest that if in this day and age, a so-called “Democrat” can’t be relied upon to push forward (and not merely defend) on reproductive rights, then that person cannot be relied to do the right thing on behalf of any of the Party’s other core constituencies. Aside from corporations, of course.

    So please send Pestka packing!

  5. 2sc says:

    I live in Greater Grand Rapids and am a member of the Kent County Democratic Executive Committee. I’ve also been involved in a smaller county Party.

    And based on what I have seen from certain supporters of the two candidates, I will be supporting Trevor Thomas.

    I have seen some *ridiculous* attacks on Trevor. People are going to attack politicians; that happens all the time. But get this:

    1. Some say that he is not from the district because – get this – he went to school at Grand Valley State, and GVSU is not in the district! It’s not, but other than community colleges, there are no public universities in the 3rd district. Was Trevor supposed to go to a higher-tuition, private, religious school like Calvin, Aquinas, or Cornerstone in order to run for Congress in the 3rd?

    2. Then I heard that he doesn’t understand our values because his parents worked at West Michigan’s GM plant, which happens to be a couple miles outside the district! So because his parents commuted (and not even very far out of the new 3rd), he does not deserve to run in the 3rd District? How pathetic is that?

    They’re questioning his commitment to the district and saying that he’s not ‘from the district.’ That sounds like birtherism to me.

    But in a way, it’s good for Trevor. They see Trevor as someone who can win the primary. Recent fundraising numbers seem to indicate that.

    Like I said, politicians get attacked all the time, but if these pathetic attacks are all they’ve got, they must not have much against him!

    At first I was leaning toward Pestka, but now I am supporting Thomas.

    (PS: “A top county Democrat” does not constitute the entire Democratic Party. Just because one person says something, doesn’t mean the entire Party believes it; here, the DNC chair (and most Democrats) believe one thing, while some local Democrat believes another. I bet you most “top county Democrats” across the country are much more inclined to agree with DWS than with this person in Kent County.)

  6. quixote says:

    Thank you for this post! The idiocy on the War on Women topic is giving me apoplexy. The party of Stupakistan, letting politics rule Plan B, giving the Red Beanie Boyz a religious exemption to trump women’s civil rights, directing the lion’s share of the stimulus money at mostly-male jobs, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc. — these are the jokers we’re supposed to believe are pro-woman? Do they think we’re stupid or something?

    And apparently we are. Because most blogs are saying, “Well, of course, we have to vote for the Democrats in November because the Republicans are cray-zeee!” Way to get leverage on the Democrats, folks. Brilliant. (Hello? Mass defection to 3rd party? Anyone? Bueller?)

    So, as I say, thank you for giving my mind a rest with some straight talk that makes sense.

  7. Ian Welsh says:

    Look, the party rots from the head down. The Plan B decision was made by Obama. Obama, personally, does not believe in a woman’s right to choose.

    At this point women are in the same boat everyone else is except bankers and Hollywood IP pimps: all you get from Dems is evil done slightly slower.

  8. P J Evans says:

    I’d like to vote for someone left of center, if there’s one on my ballot. I wish sometimes that we had a genuinely liberal/progressive party, because we need more balance in politics. Having a party that’s wingnut right and one that’s merely right of center isn’t healthy.

  9. lefty665 says:

    …and it’s not just at the top. Bob Kerrey is running for the seat Ben Nelson is leaving… here’s what his campaign manager says as a lure to voters in the DEMOCRATIC primary.

    “It’s a clear sign that Nebraskans are tired of ‘politics as usual’ and want to elect a leader who will tell the truth and cross party lines to address the serious problems we face as a nation,” Paul Johnson, Kerrey’s campaign manager, told The Hill.

    Really? Maybe he should be running as a Repub. That way he could “cross party lines” and support some Democratic principles instead of selling them out to “cross party lines” and embrace Repub noxiousness.

    People claiming to be Democrats in 2012 are proof that the infinite improbability drive exists, but it’s not helping us out of this pickle.

    The campaign of “lesser evil – we’re a half step to the left of the Teabaggers, so you have to vote for us” seems likely to prevail.

    All my diodes ache.

  10. Bill Michtom says:

    Our “leader”: “I’m pro-choice, but I think we also have the tradition in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care,” Obama said, adding: “My main focus is making sure that people have options of high quality care at the lowest possible price.”

    How’d that work out for us?

  11. emptywheel says:

    @2sc: Yeah, that carpetbagging attack is pretty ridiculous.

    And I agree about top Dems and whatnot–this was an officer, so certainly someone who assumes to speak for the party. But still just one person.

  12. joanneleon says:

    It’s just amazing that a party who has consistently back pedaled on women’s rights (mostly reproductive rights) expects women to step up and win elections for them this year.

    It’s embarrassing, really, that they have jumped on this “war on women” meme so obsessively. And it is telling. It says that they don’t have much else to run on other than the lesser of two evils meme. But it is a lesser of two evils election and it always will be at the presidential level and most national level positions.

    The Democrats are no champions for women. Certainly the party leadership is not. There are many candidates who are great on women’s issues. But there are a hell of a lot who aren’t. But women are supposed to just suck it up. It’s kind of a threat — ‘hey we’re not perfect on women’s issues but if those Republicans get elected…” I’m so sick of it.

    Your district sounds like a microcosm of the whole thing. It just gives the whole picture right there in one district.

    Again, I am just amazed that they expect women to bust their asses saving the asses of a party that has thrown us under the bus more than once. And how stupid are the women who are going to jump out there and do it? I bet it won’t take longer than a week after the election before they are throwing us under the bus again. Well, let’s see how stupid we will be. At the very least we should be demanding things out of this. Will the female leadership of the party demand something in return? No, no they won’t. They sell us out just as easily as the male Dems do.

  13. Marco says:

    Whether it’s abortion or any number of other issues (gun control, public education, deregulation, privatization, public healthcare, etc.), Democratic politicians have been conceding ground on all of them for decades.

    The real truth is that Democrats have abandoned reproducti­ve/pro-cho­ice rights, just as it’s abandoned gun control.

    The Democratic Party is out of the business of being pro-choice because it’s trying to turn the Democratic Party into the old Republican Party, grow the Democratic Party by attracting into the party anybody it can. It hasn’t actually announced it publicly, but it only goes through the motions of seeming to be champions of women’s reproducti­ve choice. When it comes to actually championin­g the issue, Democratic politician­s are AWOL, not only at the top, at the party organizati­on, but absent also are the politician­s whose talk as women’s champions don’t match the walk.

    I don’t think you can have anti-choic­e politician­s in the Democratic­ Party, receiving money and support from the Democratic­ Party’s members and the party’s machinery, when the platform of the party clearly states that Democrats “unequivoc­ally support Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortlon, regardless of ability to pay, and oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right”.

    Yet just about all profession­al Democratic politician­s want to make the Democratic ­Party hospitable to anti-choic­e people (and all ‘other siders’ of the Democratic­ Party’s different special interest groups), as noted in this article from 12/2004: http://www­.nationalc­atholicrep­­washington­/wnb121504­.htm

    The only way to do that is for the party to not take a stance on abortion, to remove any reference to ‘choice’. That’s certainly true of Howard Dean­. During his tenure as chairman of the DNC, he indicated in several interviews that the intent was to move the Democratic­ Party from referring to abortion at all in its platform. Here’s one of those interviews, from 11/1/2005:

    Video here –

    Transcript here –

    January 14, 2005 – Dems May Waver on Choice, Repro Rights http://www­.womensene­­icle.cfm/d­yn/aid/214­4/context/­archive

    And Dean isn’t alone: Just about all profession­al Democratic politician­s want to make the Democratic party hospitable to anti-choic­e people (and all ‘other siders’ of the Democratic Party’s different special interest groups), as noted in this article from 12/04 –

    Even the most pro-choice of Democrats in Congress, alleged stalwarts who’ve spent entire careers, decades in public office, have failed miserably to protect women’s rights and have let it get to this point. One example would be Barbara Boxer.

    In 2006, Democratic senators and the Democratic machine publicly supported Democratic candidate Ned Lamont who was running for senator in Connecticu­t against newly independen­t Joe Lieberm­an. Privately, working behind-the­-scenes, Democratic senators and former president Bill Clinto­n were working to help Lieberman raise money to beat Lamont, and Republican Alan Schles­inger. Before Lamont won the primary, when Lieberman was still a Democrat, Boxer stumped for Lieberman. She was asked how she could support him given that Lieberman supports hospitals receiving public monies refusing to give contracept­ives to rape victims. And instead of dropping her support of Lieberman, instread of dropping him like the bad character he is, she dodged the issue.

    During the Bush-Chene­y administra­tion, Boxer wrote two murder mysteries, because “It was always something I wanted to do if I had the time.”

    In the 2010 midterm campaign, I asked rhetorical­ly, “If Republican­s win back control of Congress, do you think Democrats will be as effective at stymieing Republican­s’ agenda as Republican­s have been the last two years at stymieing Obama’s/De­mocrats’ 2008 agenda?”

    Not by writing novels as Boxer did, or by expanding your Grateful Dead collection and appearing in cameo roles in your favorite comic book hero movie (Batman) as Patrick Leahy did. All on the public’s dime, while collecting government salaries.

    And that’s just the pro-choice plank of the party’s platform. On all women’s issues, Democrats have failed to walk the talk. Lily Ledbetter is another cruel joke, but you wouldn’t know it from the Democratic Party’s spin campaign –

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