« Politics of Terrorism, Comparative Edition | Main | Perspective, People »

August 29, 2005

States Matter

The last year has not been a good one for choice:

This year's state legislative season draws to a close having produced a near-record number of laws imposing new restrictions on a woman's access to abortion or contraception.

Since January, governors have signed several dozen antiabortion measures ranging from parental consent requirements to an outright ban looming in South Dakota. Not since 1999, when a wave of laws banning late-term abortions swept the legislatures, have states imposed so many and so varied a menu of regulations on reproductive health care.

Three states have passed bills requiring that women seeking an abortion be warned that the fetus will feel pain, despite inconclusive scientific data on the question. West Virginia and Florida approved legislation recognizing a pre-viable fetus, or embryo, as an independent victim of homicide. And in Missouri, Gov. Matt Blunt (R) has summoned lawmakers into special session Sept. 6 to consider three antiabortion proposals.

A special session for antiabortion proposals. Wow. Articles like this make me thankful for Sirota's PLAN and Nathan Newman's Agenda for Justice, our two newest organizations dedicated to pushing progressivism at the local and state level. Liberals, recently, have lost so much ground on the national level that most all the movement's energy has been channeled into macro-resurgence and ideological counterattack. We need to get the House, the Senate, the Presidency -- something! And while that effort has largely failed, it's still sucked attention from the state level, where the Christian Right's decades of conscientious effort have really flowered in a multifaceted, springtime display of antichoice legislation and backlash politics. May a thousand theocrats bloom!

Democrats need to reestablish themselves at the State level to succeed nationally. As the Christian Right used local successes to slowly, methodically build up to national dominance, we can and should do the same. Less politically, state policy making is as important, and maybe more so, than national legislation. If we're losing legislative battles at the local level, it's hurting people. And if we could get some big wins, they'd help people, in addition to serving as an example for national change. One place to start is California, where SB840, a bill that'd institute single-payer health care in the state, has passed the Senate, attracted the support of the state Democratic party and could, if we got a progressive, visionary governor, become law. And if it worked, it could serve as example for the nation and show the way to a Democratic resurgence. This should be as much or more of a priority for progressives than most of the doomed fights we're picking nationally.

August 29, 2005 in Electoral Politics | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
https://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c572d53ef00d8345471c153ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference States Matter:

Comments

"Democrats need to reestablish themselves at the State level to succeed nationally."

Which means Dems must win on the local level. And issues like abortion on demand, affirmative action and gay marriage don't go over well on the local level.

It comes down to moral values. You can't talk people into going against their core beliefs.

As far as "reframing the argument" to make moral values mean helping the poor, etc., Democrats have already failed the poor miserably. In 1965 black births in America were about 30% illegitimate, today black births are about 70% illegitimate. The 'great society' created by the Democrats has destroyed the black family.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Aug 29, 2005 4:02:40 PM

How could this happen? I thought the whole nation was pro-choice. Didn't Ezra flaunt polls showing this?

So what happened??

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 29, 2005 4:10:41 PM

Toke just sneezed out a series of totally irrelevant arguments (that has what to do with SB840 or the need to reestablish on the local level?) and Fred Jones came in with a weird snipe that pretends to miss the distinction between being fundamentally pro-choice and supporting certain restrictions and then acts as if it doesn't realize state laws don't work off direct democracy. How I love my conservative commentators...

Posted by: Ezra | Aug 29, 2005 4:20:16 PM

What is irrelevant? My point is that the liberal agenda does not resinate with regular people, on a national level or local level. Here in the south, many Democrats running for local and state offices will not put the word 'Democrat' on their campaign signs and literature. The candidates are afraid that they will be associated with the Howard Deans, Ted Kennedys, Michael Moores and the liberal agenda of the national Democratic party.

As a matter of fact, the word 'conservative' is more common on Democratic candidate's campaign signs than the word 'Democrat'.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Aug 29, 2005 6:01:27 PM

That's not your point. Your point is that heterosexual marriage, certain sorts of abortion restrictions, and restrictions on affirmative action are popular. That's not the liberal agenda. Those're three cultural conflicts you cherry-picked because they proved your point. Come back when you want to argue honestly.

Posted by: Ezra | Aug 29, 2005 7:10:09 PM

Regular Americans agree with the right, for the most part, on an aggresive war on terror, gun owner rights, school vouchers, how to handle poverty, tax cuts, the ACLU, the UN, the Patriot Act....

Cherry picking?

Posted by: Captain Toke | Aug 29, 2005 7:34:16 PM

Besides which, while the term "abortion on demand" is not popular with regular people, what the term boils down to -- which is that the issue of abortion is better left to women and doctors rather than the state -- is actually fairly popular, and not just with liberals (unless you think most conservatives believe that the sweet, sweet hand of government should be in everything). Not particularly popular, but not particularly unpopular either. The term "liberal," and the terms used to describe liberal policies, are actually much more unpopular than the policies themselves.

As for the abortion issue, I've wondered whether this could be tied into the class-conscious politics that Tom Frank and the like are always urging liberals to promote. The obvious point about restrictions on abortion is that, whatever you feel about the issue, the restrictions will fall more heavily on poorer people. Of course, if you're ideologically committed to preventing abortion wherever possible, that will be at worst a necessary evil. But given that plenty of "regular people" have as many qualms about unequal treatment as they do about abortion, if not more, it might help to hammer on the class-inequality aspect of it, to make people feel uncomfortable about poor people being pushed around.

The inequality issue, BTW, is one reason why liberals can't and shouldn't let go of pro-choice-ism -- because once you do, you basically accept quite a lot of inequality. That's fine for a conservative because conservatism is inherently tolerant of inequality, or at least accepts that inequalities will always be there. A conservative can say: "Only women can get pregnant? Tough. Life isn't fair or equal and that doesn't create a right to kill the unborn (tm) to even the playing field." A liberal can't say that because liberals are committed to looking for ways to reduce inequality and even the playing field. Abortion restrictions are a long way off from being capable of being applied remotely equally, even if you remove the sexual-inequality component.

Posted by: M.A. | Aug 29, 2005 7:36:04 PM

It will be even more difficult than it was before Roe to build a pro-choice party and constituency. The cost of being actively pro-choice I think increase as politics get more local. Abortion restrictions are unfortunately effective mostly for the poor and powerless, and they are not only underepresented, but politically expensive to represent. Your gated-community family will get their abortion, but won't admit it, and would prefer the subject not come up.

It took a SCOTUS decision to make abortion available to the middle-class and below, and there are reasons.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 29, 2005 9:18:57 PM

It took a SCOTUS decision to make abortion available to the middle-class and below, and there are reasons.

I think both sides can agree that the ROE decision was legally on shaky ground. It was, by any measurement a poorly reasoned and written decision and may be revisited with all of the new state legislation concerning abortion.
If the pro-abortion crowd were smart, they would have legislated this issue...oh, that's right, they couldn't get enough support for it or they would have. As it is, they must constantly look over their shoulder, wringing their hands over each Supreme Court nomination, wondering if they can hang on to this.
Personally, I could live with it either way. What I *DON'T* like is the left using the SC to legislate from the bench. If they can garner enough support from the voters and get this done in a democratic fashion, then I'll accept it. But screw 'em for jamming this down the public's throat without so much as a vote. I certainly will not feel sorry for them if it is overturned.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 29, 2005 9:48:25 PM

If the pro-abortion crowd were smart, they would have legislated this issue...oh, that's right, they couldn't get enough support for it or they would have.

By the same token, if there were really a solid pro-life majority in the country, there would have been a constitutional amendment at some point -- which is all it would take to overturn Roe. Why do conservatives want to legislate from the bench instead of just amending the constitution like the founders intended?

Posted by: M.A. | Aug 29, 2005 10:03:48 PM

Ezra,

Thanks for mentioning SB 840. It's really bothered me a lot that the California single-payer proposal hasn't attracted more coverage in the progressive blogosphere. Kevin Drum hasn't mentioned it in any of his healthcare posts.

In fact, you'd be doing us a real service, if you could do a rundown of the proposal for this space (or any other).

Posted by: Abby | Aug 29, 2005 11:53:26 PM

"Regular Americans agree with the right, for the most part, on an aggresive war on terror, gun owner rights, school vouchers, how to handle poverty, tax cuts, the ACLU, the UN, the Patriot Act....

Cherry picking?"

Actually, that's mostly false. Americans trust Democrats on education, on all manner of economic issues, they agree with us on minimum wage and other antipoverty measures, they're with us on health care, they believe we should address the deficit before we cut taxes, I have no idea what you're talking about with the UN, I have no idea what the ACLU has to do with anything, they agree with us on repealing specific provisions of the PATRIOT Act, they agree with us on social security, on health care, on child care, they agree with us on gun restrictions (exactly the same as they agree with you on abortion restrictions, incidentally -- for the basic right but also for restrictions), and so forth. As for terror, I have no idea what "agreeing" with you on that even means, and in any case, that's quite irrelevant at the state level.

You know what the problem with this argument is for you, Toast? The numbers actually exist. Pulling stuff out of your ass does you no good here...

Posted by: Ezra | Aug 30, 2005 12:09:49 AM

I got a poll for you.

George W. Bush 286 electoral votes, 62,040,606 popular votes.

John F. Kerry 251 electoral votes, 59,028,109 popular votes.

That is the only poll that matters. Why do you think the Dems keep losing elections? Cuz that space between New York and California doesn't support the liberal agenda. The country has moved farther and farther to the right in the last three elections.

By the way,

The left's anti-poverty measures have destroyed the poor family.

Most Americans see the UN as irrelevant and corrupt. The left thinks the UN is super!

Most Americans see the ACLU as anti-Christian and pro-terrorist. The left thinks the ACLU is super!

Posted by: Captain Toke | Aug 30, 2005 12:59:24 AM

I have no idea what you're talking about with the UN, I have no idea what the ACLU has to do with anything, they agree with us on repealing specific provisions of the PATRIOT Act, they agree with us on social security, on health care, on child care, they agree with us on gun restrictions (exactly the same as they agree with you on abortion restrictions, incidentally -- for the basic right but also for restrictions), and so forth.

Of *course* they do! They are you!
It gives you no credibility, however. Perhaps in the academic California 'bubble' you live in it does, but to most in this country, it's like saying the Communists agree with you...and they really do as well!! ( we won't get into the connections between them)

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 30, 2005 8:00:09 AM

I just remembered that in California, the great bastion of liberalism, Scott Peterson was convicted of murdering Lacy's unborn child. Yes, this fetus has rights. This law exists not in West Virginia or Georgia, but right there in "river city"!
How does Ezra and his yes-men reconcile that? Another anomaly of state politics? Lack of democracy?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 30, 2005 8:24:10 AM

States matter not only the policies they enact - and you're absolutely right about their effect on citizens - but also they serve as a testing ground for policy, message, and candidates.

And the Democrats have been neglecting this level. It's like the baseball team that dumps all of its AAA prospects to take a stab at landing the marquee major-leaguer. It's a roll of the dice, and in the short-run it may pay off, but it may not, and it's certainly not good in the long term.

Posted by: Kenneth Fair | Aug 30, 2005 2:02:20 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.