News & Politics

Pelosi's Opposition: C Street Dem Who's Anti-Choice

The next election that matters: the battle for who will lead House Democrats. The outcome will show just how far to the right Democrats are willing to move.

Remember the words, "Stupak Amendment?"  Keep those in mind as you read further.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today announced that she would place herself in the running to become House minority leader when Congress reconvenes. 

California's Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House, was in large part responsible for ensuring the success of virtually every piece of legislation passed during the Obama Administration, including health care reform.  Some bills that succeeded in the House failed in the Senate due to lack of effective action to pass them.  Pelosi did not allow this to happen in the House whlie she held the gavel in her hand.

While clearly elements of some of these laws leave something to be desired--such as the ban on coverage for abortion care in private insurance policies--Pelosi's ability to navigate and garner majority votes from an often fractious Democratic majority has won accolades even from opponents. 

Pelosi also endured--seemingly without batting an eyelash--a flood of mean-spirited and sexist campaigns against her by both Republican and Tea Party actors seeking to vilify her through the use of imagery and strategies devised by people with the maturity level of sixth graders, and in what could only be described as a bid to distract from their own lack of ideas, lack of experience, lack of true leadership ability, or all of the above.

Pelosi, however, is being challenged by none other than Congressman Heath Shuler, D-N.C., a good-ol'-boy conservative southern Blue Dog Democrat. According to the Washington Post:

A fiscally-conservative Blue Dog, Shuler opposed the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street in 2008, President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill and the March 2010 health-care reform, caslling it too expensive. He was so diametrically opposed to the Democratic agenda at times that Politico said he was on top of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) “disfavor list.”Thrush, Glenn, “Pelosi’s list: Who’s on her bad side?” Politico.com, March 2, 2009(2)

Shuler is also anti-choice, with an 85 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee.  And he's proud of it.  I'm not sure whether this is "worse," but according to Jeff Sharlet, he also is a member of the "C Street crowd." He of course voted for the Stupak Amendment in the health reform bill, but after it was in there, opposed passage of the final bill

Shuler was joined today by what a Roll Call headline ominously stated was "more Democrats" calling for her to step down totalling all of...."more Democrats" translating to two more men.

One is Congressman Albio Sires, D-N.J., and the other is Dan Boren, D-Okla.

Calling Pelosi a "lightening rod," Sires also said:

I think she’s been a very strong leader, I support her, but the result of this election shows we need some new direction and I think the best way is for her to move on." 

Boren, also a Blue Dog conservative, released a statement Friday saying he would not support Pelosi to lead the Caucus.

“I cannot in good conscience support Nancy Pelosi as Leader,” Boren said. “I intend to support a more conservative Democrat alternative.”

According to a Washington Post profile:

Given Oklahoma’s centrist ideological leanings, Boren walks a fine line politically — one that often strays far from the Democratic Party. He’s often frustrated the House Democratic leadership with votes against major Democratic initiatives, and even refused to explicitly endorse Barack Obamaafter he won the party’s 2008 presidential nomination."Dan Boren won’t endorse Obama,” Associated Press, June 10, 2008.(3)"Dan Boren won’t endorse Obama,” Associated Press, June 10, 2008. He has been targeted by national labor groups for his position against the Employee Free Choice Act, which labor argues would make it harder to unionize. But on the other side of the political spectrum, Boren has support from gun-rights groups as he sits on the board of the National Rifle Association.

Boren's exact position on choice issues is mixed.  He claims he is pro-choice but has an 82 percent rating from NRLC, not a good thing in the women's rights world.

And all of this is quite ironic.

First of all, the Blue Dog Democratic Coalition was decimated this past Tuesday, losing half their coalition.  They of course blame this on Pelosi.  But the fact is that the small minority now represented by this coalition is challenging one of the most effective Speakers of the House in recent history, one who is now representative of a far larger share of Democrats.

Second, they are anti-choice.  And third they are....white men.

Newsflash for Shuler, Boren and others.  Women have long been a critical constituency of the Democratic party, and though even women had had enough of the lack of leadership of men in the party of late, were nonetheless generally responsible for making the difference in this election between a huge loss (the House) and complete devastation (if the Dems had also lost the Senate).  If not for progressive women voters in Colorado (Michael Bennet), Washington State (Patty Murray), and California (Barbara Boxer), to name a few, the Democrats would all be very blue, dawg, indeed.

But women as advocates, funders, and voters are not happy with the gutting of their private coverage on abortion care, nor the prospect of not having contraceptives covered under health insurance.  The majority of women do not want to see further tax cuts for the wealthy, the slashing of Pell grants, increases in retirement age, elimination of the minimium wage, or the gutting of environmental regulations while we give away the store to billionaires.  And they certainly don't want a Speaker of the House who is more interested in acting like a right-wing conservative in Democrat's clothing than a Democrat driven by deeply held principles, and whose modus operandi would be bending over backward to accommodate John Boehner on issues of critical concern to women, whether in regard to promised attacks on health care or in other areas such as the economy, environment, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. 

Shuler also represents the mind-numbingly unnuanced view that Democrats lost so many seats last Tuesday because they were too "liberal," a viewpoint being pushed by folks like Evan Bayh, Mark Penn, and the not-really-clear-on-anything group, Third Way.  Newsflash: If we wanted a one-party system, I am sure many more people out there would have just voted for right-wing conservatives and gotten it over with. 

I'm fairly certain that given women are indeed the majority supporters of the Democratic Party, they'd be very happy to have a female minority leader who promises to fight for their priorities, rather than another line of men throwing them under the bus of whichever party.  And I find it ironic that after so many years of driving the political bus nowhere fast, men are so quick to ditch women leaders.

Daily Kos is running a petition campaign for those wanting to support the Speaker's bid to become minority leader.

 

Jodi Jacobson is editor-in-chief of RH Reality Check.
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