Last we heard from the top leadership of my local Democratic Party in this blog, it was telling women at a women’s political event that they had to support 61-year old (though not particularly angry) Steve Pestka because “he’s with us on everything else” but choice.
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.
Today, the head of the local party, Jim Rinck, is spinning yesterday’s results by promising demographics will eventually make Grand Rapids more Democratic.
Kent County Democratic Party chairman Jim Rinck said several factors contributed to the final tally – and he sees a trend toward a growing number of Democratic voters in the GOP stronghold.
“Like it or not, reality comes even to Kent County,” he said. “We are running out of angry old white men in this country. And they’re the constituents of the Kent County Republican Party.”
Sadly, Rinck was not asked why, then, the party pushed an older white man as their congressional candidate. That candidate lost to the rather young Justin Amash by almost 9 points.
That’s particularly unfortunate given the explanation one woman offered in the article for why she even decided to vote this year: Republican attacks on women and gays.
Brianna Holben, 20, cast her vote for Barack Obama Tuesday. Despite being her first-time voting, Holben said she didn’t have a real urge to participate until women’s reproductive rights and the funding of organizations like Planned Parenthood became part of the campaign.
Holben, a student at Grand Rapids Community College, also said picked Obama because Democrats, in general, are more supportive of gay marriage than Republicans.
“I have a lot of friends in the gay community,” she said. “If we live in a free country, I don’t believe a person’s religious beliefs should affect someone’s ability to pick who they marry.”
Holben might well agree with what Rinck says–the Republicans are the party of old white men. But not with what Rinck did–push an older white man rather than openly gay, women’s rights champion, Trevor Thomas, they opposed.
That is, Rinck seems to understand, abstractly, what Democrats need to do to win. But he did the exact opposite this year.
As MLive reports, the state Chair of MI’s Democratic Party, Mark Brewer, has asked the Democratic primary candidates in my congressional district to take the democracy out of the primary.
He doesn’t call it that, mind you. His DoubleSpeak for asking Steve Pestka and Trevor Thomas not to talk about each other’s record is “Clean and Fair Campaign Agreement.”
I write today to ask you both to put [commitments to focus on Justin Amash] in writing by signing and abiding by the enclosed “Clean and Fair Democratic Primary Campaign Agreement.”
One of the clauses in the proposed agreement is:
To avoid attacks on each other’s records and positions by any means, including the media, campaign literature, advertisements, phone calls, mailings, e-mail and speaking engagements. [my emphasis]
Apparently, the guy running MI’s Democratic Party thinks it’s “fair” to voters to gag all discussion of candidates’ past records. And Steve Pestka, who said he will sign this gag order, agrees!
A couple of notes about this proposed gag order.
This is yet another attempt (at least the fifth I have heard or witnessed over the course of this primary) by leaders in the Democratic Party–the same one running against the GOP’s war on women–to silence all discussion of Democrats’ own attacks on women’s autonomy. As far as I’m aware, the only part of Pestka’s record that Thomas has addressed (thus far) was his anti-choice votes while serving in the MI House (indeed, MLive suggests that’s what this is about, as well). Pestka’s campaign, meanwhile, just wanders around saying Thomas has no record (ignoring, of course, Thomas’ role in getting DADT repealed; apparently that doesn’t count).
So this is not about gagging discussion on a policy that Justin Amash would use to bash the Democrat, cause he’s rabidly anti-choice too. Rather, it is about preventing voters from learning what Steve Pestka did the last time voters entrusted him to represent their interests. Mark Brewer’s idea of a “fair” primary is to prevent women from being reminded that Pestka’s record includes a history of legislating against women’s autonomy.
Apparently, we girls aren’t allowed to hold him accountable for voting against our interests.
Furthermore, Brewer built this gag order to be asymmetrical. He didn’t ask Pestka and Thomas to avoid talking about their own records–meaning Pestka would be gagged from mentioning he served in the House and Thomas would be gagged from talking about his role in a key civil rights victory. Rather, this gag order would allow Pestka to continue sending out lit pointing to his time in the State House as one thing that qualifies him to serve in Congress, without allowing Thomas to point out some of the terrible votes he made while there.
If you’re going to gag discussion about past records, Chairman Brewer, you’ve got to gag discussion on both sides!
There’s one more really disgusting aspect to this gag order. Brewer attempts to gag not just the campaign itself, but both his reference to “the media” in the passage above and in the scope of those the candidates would have to gag if they agreed to this–”campaign teams, including staff, surrogates, advisors, consultants, vendors and volunteers”–people far beyond Thomas himself. I’m not formally part of Thomas’ campaign at all (I have donated to his campaign, though), but I am “the media.” I also happen to be a 3rd CD voter who finds the paternalistic way the Democrats have pushed Pestka–”shut up girls! don’t talk about his anti-choice record!”–to be profoundly anti-woman. Is Chairman Brewer really proposing that Thomas be fined every time I speak, as a 3rd CD voter and registered Democrat, for the importance of a candidate who fully supports women’s rights?
That’s what the Democratic Party has come to?
Who knows. Maybe there’s a bright side to this. Pestka’s campaign loves to attack Thomas–who grew up, went to college, and worked in the area, then returned home after succeeding in DC–as a “carpetbagger.” Since this gag order also imposes a fine for personal attacks, I assume Pestka’s campaign will start doling out $1000 to a charity of Thomas’ choice every time they continue to make such stupid attacks.
Maybe Thomas should name Planned Parenthood as the charity Pestka will have to donate to?
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. http://j.mp/I6A8c0
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.
Last week, for its 2-year anniversary, Democrats rightly celebrated that ObamaCare has made preventative health care–things like mammograms–accessible for free to 45 million women.
And this week, as the ObamaCare hearing represents the biggest event at SCOTUS since Bush v. Gore, Democrats continue to celebrate ObamaCare (which is a good thing, politically; Obama should have done this a year ago).
But no one is talking about the biggest error the Democrats made aside from selling out the public option: letting Bart Stupak, an anti-choice MI Democrat, roll back access to abortion for women in every Congressional District in America. Not only have Democrats forgotten that their own tolerance for anti-women stances hurt Obama’s signature issue (and hurt their chances in 2010), but they’re back at it–recruiting anti-choice self-funders like Steve Pestka rather than backing pro-choice candidates like Trevor Thomas.
It’s as if the Democrats have put a price tag on women’s health, one they’re not willing to invest to pay.
There are a lot of reasons why Trevor Thomas is the better choice to take on Justin Amash in MI’s 3rd CD: his working class background, his push to address MI’s high unemployment rate for Veterans, his call to do something about the looming student loan bubble.
But this week, of all weeks, it’s important to make clear that it is not acceptable to do what the Democrats have done, decide that fighting for women’s issues is simply too much work and too much money.
I was disappointed with Steve Pestka’s announcement to run for the 3rd CD. While he promised jobs, he also repeated the “West Michigan Values” phrase a top Kent County Dem used when telling me and others to shut up. And he suggested he was running against extremists.
“I will fight for jobs and for West Michigan values, instead of for extreme political views from either side that lead us nowhere.”
Really, “extreme political views”? Is Pestka suggesting that Trevor Thomas, who worked for and was endorsed by MI’s moderate former Governor, Jennifer Granholm, is extreme?
Does Pestka think that working in bipartisan fashion to help men and women who have served their country win equal rights is “extreme”? Does he think fighting to help Eric Alva, who lost a leg in the opening hours of the Iraq War, be treated equally by the government is extreme? Here’s what Alva says in an endorsement of Trevor today:
My name is Eric Alva and I was the first American wounded in the war in Iraq. On March 21, 2003, just three hours into the invasion, I triggered a landmine.
I was thrown through the air, landing 15 feet away. As my fellow Marines were cutting away my uniform, I wondered why they weren’t removing my right boot. I would learn later that my leg was already gone. I served my country for 13 years as a Marine receiving the Purple Heart for my service.
I met Trevor Thomas while working with a coalition of bipartisan forces to repeal the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. Trevor was a key voice and strategist in repealing D.A.D.T. He helped me tell my story on World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer.
Trevor worked tireless on behalf of thousands of members of the military to create a more just and equal world.
The suggestion that someone who has fought for a “more just and equal world” is extreme and the invocation of “West Michigan values” precisely when people try to raise Steve Pestka’s past efforts to roll back women’s autonomy concerns me.
Make a case why you’re the better Democrat to represent the working men and women of Grand Rapids. Explain how you’ll help create jobs.
But I always thought Democrats fought for the American values of equality and justice. Folks keep telling me I haven’t lived in Grand Rapids long enough to know about West Michigan values. But if those values say fighting for equality for women and our service members is extreme, then I prefer good old-fashioned American values.
Trevor Thomas got some very nice props last night in his effort to win the Democratic nomination to beat Justin Amash in MI’s 3rd Congressional District: the endorsement of Jennifer Granholm and her former Lieutenant Governor, John Cherry. From the release:
“From day one Trevor has been a fighter for fairness and opportunity,” said former Governor Jennifer M. Granholm. “From the newsroom to the halls of Congress, Trevor has the experience and passion to get results on the issues critical to Michigan families. This is a campaign of inclusion that will stand up and represent all the voices of West Michigan and I am proud to support and be a part of it.”
“Trevor parent’s worked a combined 60 years on the lines of General Motors so he could have the chance to go to college, and now he is fighting for us all in his bid for Congress,” said former Lt. Gov. John D. Cherry Jr. “Trevor has worked to pass major federal legislation in support of our troops and he put party aside to get the job done. This is the fresh and progressive leadership we need today.”
Governor Granholm seems to get what this race is about.
Steve Pestka, Thomas’ primary opponent, will announce today. Given the DOJ events later in the day, I’m not able to rearrange my schedule to attend that announcement. But it looks like things are heating up (finally) in the 3rd.