I am thoroughly grateful to Lynn Harris article on Salon about Barack Obama's handful of "present" votes on abortion measures in the Illinois Senate. The story’s been getting out there like a whisper campaign (only not whispering) but the message the story is supposed to convey goes something like this: “These present votes show Obama isn’t going to defend reproductive rights as vigorously as you might think. He’s only going to do it when it’s convenient or easy but he’s not going to stick his political neck out defending abortion rights.”
Harris’ reporting provides a lot of context about the votes but what it seems to break down to is there was a bit of schism between Illinois NOW and NARAL of Illinois and Planned Parenthood. The later two wanted the bills to fail, and in order to get that, they needed to coax some friendly Republicans to side with them by voting “present” – and Obama was kind of used as ‘cover by numbers’ to coax this into happening. In other words, Obama could have voted “no” but if he had voted “no” it’s possible the pro-choice side might have lost some “present” votes from Republicans who would have switched to “yes.” (At least so goes the theory…)
This makes the schism a lot more understandable to me. It’s basically between an organization that had a stronger group of political purists and one that was more practical or realistic. (Basically like the differences between Green party voters and progressive democratic party voters). I’m more of a realist, if LBJ-canniness will get the job done, then so be it. And it’s also good to ask, do you want to be right or do you want to succeed? And can you achieve your goals without being so shrill as to turn off your allies.
State NOW organizations tend to be a little more of the purist strand than your statewide Planned Parenthood will be. And if Planned Parenthood of Illinois either thought up, or signed off on Obama’s strategy of voting present, then the explanation makes sense.
Anyway major love to Lynn Harris for ending the article as she does.
Anyway. That's the story. Make of it what you will: Mountain? Molehill? Obama's "present" votes, cannily pragmatic or lame? If "cannily pragmatic," then is he not the Man Who'll Change Politics that he says he is? Should we, while we're at it, worry about his law-nerdily understated support for Roe as worded? Or the fact that -- if
you ask me -- neither Dem seems to get that even parental consent with judicial bypass is unacceptable, too? Or should we quit splitting hairs, given that anyone's better on, well, everything than John "'Moderate' My Ass" McCain?
Damn straight! Which candidate is actually going to push for eliminating parental consent laws and not just try to knock them down. I’m not convinced that either one will actually put any kind of political capital working to expand access to abortion nationwide -- only try to keep it from shrinking to “only legal in blue states.”