Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Connie Saltonstall serves as a reminder: We need more women in government

Yeah, I know, you're probably thinking "Obviously we need more women in government. Duh." After all, out of the 535 members of Congress, only 93 are women. That's a whopping 17 percent. In the history of Congress, only 222 women have ever served, including those serving today. All women in Congress taken together still wouldn't make up half the people in Congress.

Which brings me to this: Democrat Connie Saltonstall of Michigan, who was set to run for Bart Stupak's seat (you all remember him, right? anti-choicer who held up the health care reform bill?) in the House of Representatives, has dropped out of the race. Here is her statement:
I regretfully announce that I am withdrawing from the Democratic primary for U.S. Representative in Michigan’s First Congressional District.

I am forced to do this because it has become apparent to my campaign that the leadership of the Michigan Democratic Party has preemptively anointed Gary McDowell as their Democratic candidate. They are replacing Bart Stupak with another Upper Peninsula, Anti-Choice, Anti- Women’s healthcare rights candidate. From past experience I realize that with the Michigan Democratic Party actively opposing me, I will not be able to raise the money necessary to conduct a winning campaign. I am not the only candidate that has been the target of this kind of manipulation. I hope that in the future the Party will reject this interference and insist on an open primary allowing voters to choose the candidate who represents their values.

I challenged Bart Stupak because he was threatening to take down the healthcare bill. His amendment threatened access for women to get health insurance even with private funds. There is an aggressive movement across the country to pass laws to restrict women from making responsible healthcare choices to protect their health, and furthermore, to criminalize their actions. The same people who think government should stay out of their lives, are legislating government into the doctor’s office. Individuals, families, and physicians are the ones who should be making the complicated and difficult decisions we all face regarding reproductive healthcare and life issues.

While I think Gary MacDowell is a very nice person, I cannot support his anti-choice politics, and I cannot support a party that endorses candidates who vote to restrict women’s legal rights and access to healthcare. It is time for Democrats to stop compromising on this issue. I am proud that my campaign has raised the dialogue on healthcare and choice, and I will continue my leadership role concerning these issues.

I want to thank all of my supporters in the First District and across the nation who contributed their time, money, endorsements, and good wishes for my campaign. We were first in the race, raised more money than any other Democratic candidate to date, collected over 1500 petition signatures, put together a professional campaign team and a path to victory. Without the interference of the democratic leadership, we might just have won the election!
Disheartening, to say the least. As Sam Bennett, president of the Women's Campaign Forum said, "Unfortunately, we see this scenario all too often: The political establishment on both sides of the aisle will not step outside of their comfort zones to support women." And we are seeing this way too often from the Democrats, from local races up to the presidency -- a willingness to throw women under the bus. I expect that from Republicans; I (stupidly?) expect better from Democrats.

Gary McDowell said he believes an anti-abortion Democrat has an "advantage" in the 1st Congressional District. "The district is socially conservative, and yes, I do believe a pro-life candidate has an advantage." Even though, as the same story points out, both President Obama and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm are abortion-rights supporters and they won the 1st District in Michigan in their elections. And now we won't know if Saltonstall could have succeeded, and that is a shame -- we desperately need voices like hers in our national government.

I think Amie Newman at RH Reality Check sums it up well:
McDowell, according to the Michigan Messenger, has been endorsed by the anti-choice organization, Right to Life, an extreme, conservative group. Which begs the question - just where does the Michigan Democratic Party draw the line? They now support candidates who are not only extremely anti-choice but clearly extremely opposed to women's rights and autonomy. If the Democratic Party values womens' health and rights, then they must show it by endorsing and supporting candidates who do as well. Continuing to throw their support behind candidates who throw women's health and safety out as if this was just a question of political maneuverings is a dangerous proposition.
We deserve better.


raybeckerman said...

I am very disappointed, and I don't accept Ms. Saltonstall's explanation.

She should not have entered the primary if she was willing to accept the edict of the party bosses; she was running for the people.

What happens to the > $100,000 people contributed to help her wage her fight against the anti-choice, anti-hcr forces?

The lesson to be learned is not that we need more women in government, but that we need more people in government who are willing to fight for the people.

Rosie said...

Maybe she dropped out because she doesn't want to take more campaign contributions for what she thinks is a losing battle?

I get what you're saying, and of course we need people in government willing to fight for the people. HOWEVER. We do need more women in government, period. The representation is awful, unless you are a white man. Our country should be ashamed of this, but instead we get things like the Democratic Party endorsing a candidate who doesn't give a second thought to women's health.

Getting people into government who are then going to fight for the people isn't going to happen under those kinds of circumstances. It's a numbers game. It couldn't be less about the people.


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