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    Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    Alito Confirmation Postmortem

    Rebecca Traister asks 'What the hell happened?':

    What happened between the spring day almost two years ago when hundreds of thousands of men and women converged on Washington, bearing signs like "Keep Your Laws off My Body," and today, when the Senate confirmed a Supreme Court judge who 20 years ago wrote that in his legal opinion, the Constitution does not protect women's right to abortion? What happened between Jan. 9, when Smeal declared the left "in better shape to stop Alito," and yesterday, when visions of future filibusters and assertions that we're not going to lose our rights quietly were somehow supposed to qualify as good news? Why weren't we storming the Capitol? Why weren't there enormous marches? Why didn't someone buy some national television time or actually burn a bra or something -- anything -- to snap people out of their "Skating With the Stars" lassitude and make them face the fact that the wolf that has so long been cried about was finally on the Supreme Court steps?

    The very structure and content of Traister's questions here answer themselves.

    There is little connection between the March for Women's Lives, incredible as it felt to be there, and the political battles fought on the floors and corridors of Capitol Hill. Though we were all applauding the attendance of Senators and Representatives, former Cabinet members, and others whose voices have been heard from those seats of power, the mass, grassroots March did not and could not undermine the anti-choice agenda. Not because we don't have the numbers, not even because we don't have the money, but because we don't know how to strategize for power. Because carrying signs that say, "Keep Your Laws Off My Body" and "storming the Capitol" and "enormous marches" (to say nothing of "burning bras,") have no impact whatsoever on who ends up on the Supreme Court. And I think we're at a point now where, by and large, we realize that. (Yes, there are still people who think that having an Impeach Bush rally is actually going to help get Bush impeached, but I certainly don't think that most Democrats are that dumb.) But we all feel so helpless- what do we do? This soup that votes Democrat doesn't have a clue what to do. And all we can fucking think of is a gigantic march?

    The March for Women's Lives was a totally moving experience. I have never seen anything like it. But think of all the money and organizing that went into it- I remember reading articles about people from every corner of the country who saved up to go, even whole families or NOW chapters and such. I'm glad I went, I organized a huge bus to go down and the whole thing, but I would be willing to forego the high of that experience to have sent Alito back to the Federal Circuit Court. I wish that every dollar we spent and every cent worth of personpower had gone into television spots made by coalitions of civil rights, civil liberties, and women's rights groups. I gave my idea here. NAACP, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, Feminist Majority, and others should have reached out to minority and women's alumni groups from the Ivy League and discussed with them Alito's membership in (or pretended membership in) Concerned Alumni for Princeton. The amount of cash floating around in those settings would boggle the mind. Using that money, we could make amazing spots harping on every damning quote we could scrounge up from Alito's record. And there are plenty.

    "There was a desire for the public message not to be just the abortion message," said [Catholics for a Free Choice president Frances] Kissling, noting that it could indeed have been counterproductive to focus on Alito's abortion views, since an elected antichoice president was unlikely to ever cough up a candidate who didn't have a troubling stance on reproductive rights.

    It would be ludicrous to hope that President Bush would tap anyone but an antichoice judge. But the marginalization of the abortion debate also speaks to the success of some on the left like Howard Dean, who said in April, "If I could strike the words 'choice' and 'abortion' out of the lexicon of our party, I would." Women's rights advocates have effectively been cast as the nagging fishwives, holding up party progress with their insistence on making reproductive rights the single issue on which to base support.

    The unspoken agreement to tamp down the focus on abortion could be felt in the Alito hearings. Mainstream Democrats like "Dean and [Joseph] Biden have made it clear they don't know quite what to do about abortion," said Kissling. "They have said we need a new way of becoming open to pro-life Democrats. How could they come out squarely and heavily opposed to Alito because of his position on abortion? It would only cast them as 'the abortion party,' which is what they're trying to avoid."

    I am so confused by this reluctance on the part of Democrats to be associated with the protection of reproductive choice. Of anything associated with Democrats, it's probably the most popular. Right now, anti-war in Iraq sentiments probably just barely trump abortion where public support is concerned, but that can only take us so far, as we can all hope that it will end. Dems kept leaning on the "executive power" issue (because it's so hot right now), but the American people don't generally disapprove of unbalanced powers, especially these days, so ... why not push reproductive rights, of which a majority of Americans are in favor?

    But this is the bigger question: why do we let complete and utter asshats like Biden and Dean take the lead in the Democratic Party? We should be a point with this issue where we don't have major representatives going around publicly undermining the importance of the rights of women.

    The filibuster was exciting because we saw Democrats taking a stand, but the problem was not just that we'd elected too many Republicans but that the Democrats we elected suck too. It was really cute and nice of Biden to throw a NO on cloture to the hard workers of his party, but how much does it mean when he's out there doing everything in his power to bring them down, short of the vote itself? Dean could go out talking about how "different" he is from the "centrist Democratic establishment" - that is how he came on the national scene - but it doesn't seem too different to me to act like we need to keep our mouths shut about the long-held pillars of our Party's platform. I kinda remember a lot of criticism of Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council and others for that sort of thing and I kinda remember it coming from the same people who rail against about warrentless surveillance but don't find it a problem that a woman has to inform her spouse of her decision to abort, people who think science and innovation are more endangered by the teaching of intelligent design than by the FDA, people whose goal is to drag Walmart down, so women can stock up on wire hangers at our local mom-n-pops.

    Yeah guys, thanks a fucking lot. You're really "crashing the party," "crashing the gate," and "getting this party started." I can feel the change.


    Blogger Shimmy said...

    I can't wait till Alito gets his hands on Josef K.

    It'll be excellent.

    8:37 AM  
    Blogger EL said...


    I had no idea I had any political cat readers. Welcome!

    5:31 PM  

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