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Progressive Candidate Darcy Burner: How I Became the Target of a Right-Wing Smear Campaign

After giving a speech about the politics of abortion, Burner became the target of a dishonest campaign cooked up by conservative bloggers.

Darcy Burner, who is running for Congress in Washington State's first district, has become somewhat of a star in liberal politics for the way she speaks her mind – she’s a full-throated, unapologetic progressive, not a wishy-washy, corporate-friendly Democrat.

After giving a powerful speech about the politics of abortion, Burner has recently become the target of a smear campaign cooked up by conservative bloggers and pushed into the mainstream media (perhaps with a little bit of help from her wealthy, more “centrist” primary opponent's staff).

Burner appeared on this week's AlterNet Radio Hour to help sort out the fact from the fiction. Below is a lightly edited transcript of the discussion. (You can listen to the whole show here, and learn more about Burner's campaign here.)

Joshua Holland: Darcy, you are now embroiled in one of those made-up nontroversies that the right cooks up to attack progressives. Let’s get the lingo straight. Would you characterize it as a flap or a brouhaha? Or maybe an imbroglio?

Darcy Burner: I have been characterizing it as a kerfuffle.

JH: I was leaning toward flap, but I’m not in Washington state so I don’t know how the politics are.

DB: I’m sure any of those words would work fine.

JH: So take us through this. Last week, we broadcast from Netroots Nation, the annual gathering of left-of-center writers and politicos, but I got in on Friday and I missed your keynote. Everyone said that it was extremely powerful. Then I saw this headline in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on a story written by Joel Connelly, “Standup and Give a Hand for Abortion? Is Darcy Burner Gutsy or Gauche?” This seems pretty similar to another headline that was on a notably stupid right-wing blog a day earlier. What’s going on here, Darcy? What did you actually say?

DB: In my keynote I was talking about how we go on offense in the "war on women." That was the topic of the conversation. I was talking about the different forms of power that we can apply to the problem.

One of them is cultural power. What stories do people have in their heads about issues? It turns out that one in three American women will have an abortion at some time in her life, but it is an issue that is kept so much in the closet that most people have no idea that their sisters, mothers, daughter or their friends have had abortions. The LGBT movement has done this amazing job of using the idea of coming out of the closet to change the stories in people’s heads about who it is that the right wing is demonizing when they condemn gay marriage. We’ve seen tremendous progress on that issue by helping people understand that these are their friends, neighbors and loved ones who are being talked about.

So I had suggested that one thing we could do to go on offense would be for women to come out of the closet about having had abortions. And I asked women who were comfortable standing up to do so -- to indicate that they were one of the people who had an abortion. A bunch of women -- somewhere around 150 women in the room -- stood up and I said, “Now all of you who are willing to stand with these women and every woman like them please join them.” At which point roughly all of the 2,000 people in the room stood with those women who had been courageous enough to stand up first.

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