Denounce Republicans? When there are Democrats co-sponsoring HR 3?

Originally posted (in a slightly different form) at The Radical Housewife:

I don’t need to tell you that the newly introduced bill HR 3 is a disaster for women’s rights, essentially codifying the Hyde Amendment into federal law while gently peeling away what qualifies as “rape” for women needing a funding exemption. You know: HR 3 is bad, bad, bad. So when you receive a message like this one from the DCCC, asking for you to sign a petition called “Rape is Rape: Denounce Republicans’ Extremist Anti-Choice Legislation,” you think it’s something you should support. From the petition’s text:

House Republicans are proposing to drastically narrow the definition of rape that qualifies for health care coverage. H.R. 3 would redefine rape in these cases to only include “forcible rape,” a definition that rules out a woman being drugged, children who are victims of statutory rape, and many date rape scenarios.

No matter what Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans want to call it, rape is rape — women should have the right to health care following a rape.

Fightin’ words, you think! It’s about time, especially since you haven’t quite trusted the Democratic Party since the debacle of Stupak-Pitts. For good reason, as it turns out. Nine Democrats co-sponsored HR 3, including my home state of Minnesota’s Collin Peterson. So why am I being asked to lash out at Republicans for this misogynist measure when there are DEMOCRATS sponsoring it? WHY?

I went to the DCCC’s Facebook page to pose the question. Politely, I thought.

Collin Peterson, a Democrat, is a co-sponsor of this bill. Get his name off this bill and I will give my name to your petition. Otherwise you are hypocrites.

Hey, the truth hurts. As I watched the flurry of messages on the page, I saw my comment get a thumbs-up. Nice. Others ignored my question, so I tried to post it again. This time I was blocked. For telling the truth? Did they think the photo of blonde kindergartener on my Facebook profile meant I was a Mama Grizzly plant? Seconds later, my comment was gone.

My own political shero, Shirley Chisholm, wasn’t treated wonderfully by the party back in the day, but she remained convinced that reform from within was the only way to go. What Would Shirley Do? It’s hard to say, especially since she didn’t have Twitter at her disposal. I’ll mull it over while I retweet the hell out of @DCCC…..

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  • http://feministing.com/members/kaelin/ Matt

    “Others ignored my question, so I tried to post it again. This time I was blocked. For telling the truth?”

    Making the same post more than once is considered “spam,” which at a minimum will result in the subsequent post being removed (no matter how nicely worded and non-threatening it is). Also, keep in mind that not everyone is obligated to respond to your post (it’s not a sustainable behavior). It is very sufficient when people to add their “likes” and a couple/few refer to your post in their replies (which are in turn “liked” by others in accordance to the level of support of their replies). It simply is not practical for people to flood the topic with a bunch of “me too” posts (whether they “me too” your post or “me too” the responses to your posts). Sometimes people don’t participate at all, and there are reasons for doing so (they don’t have anything meaningful to say and will just let the post stand, they aren’t sure what to say to that point, they don’t like it but would rather just let the conversation move on rather than respond to it, etc).

    “Collin Peterson, a Democrat, is a co-sponsor of this bill. Get his name off this bill and I will give my name to your petition. Otherwise you are hypocrites.

    The part I italicized is not needed. It is too concerned with making a point sting (not attacking the content, but attacking the people themselves — and “hypocrite” [like racist, sexist, bigot, etc] is just one of those words that can apply to about everyone if you look hard enough), especially when I doubt most of them want to let the joining Democrats off easy, either.

    Personally, though, I think your response misses the point a little bit, because both the petition and your response are painting things black-and-white here. The petition’s problem is that it casts Republicans as strictly responsible. The problem with your response is that you dismiss that there is any validity to the idea that Republicans bear a higher level of culpability (not so much for you refusing to sign, but by you going on the offensive and using the “hypocrite” label). Republicans are going to support the measure at an overwhelmingly higher rate, and while it is best to have a petition concern all those deserving of being petitioned (anyone who supports the bill, regardless of party affiliation), you don’t want to insult people for having those concerns — you can still expose hypocrisy without having call people hypocrites.

    • http://feministing.com/members/radicalhw/ Shannon Drury

      Matt, I disagree with your assertion that the label “hypocrite” is to be avoided when one is exposing hypocrisy. I also disagree with the notion that the only appropriate response to this petition is a nuanced one. While the DCCC gains political capital with women who think this petition is accomplishing something, ten Democrats in Congress are going to vote to enact this law, that we know harms women. I feel no remorse when I call them hypocrites.

      The Democratic Party platform states: “because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman’s right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay.” Democrats want women to believe that they will stand by these words in Congress, but the facts show otherwise.

    • http://feministing.com/members/ncohea/ Nick Cohea

      Matt, I respectfully disagree.

      1) I think you are being more than a bit unfair, and the principle of charity would surely help you here. The use of the word does not imply the actors are morally equivalent. It just means that the accusatory ones, presumably the Democratic, moderate or left-liberal audience to which this petition is directed, are not on very good footing to make this criticism of the Republicans. So when you say that Shannon is “dismiss[ing] that there is any validity to the idea that Republicans bear a higher level of culpability,” you are taking a reductive and unjustified leap. Twenty bucks says that Shannon believes that Democrats are mixed on reproductive justice, but Republicans are certainly worse. I don’t think anybody would have disagreement with that.

      2) While being confrontational, I think the use of the word “hypocrite” is needed to describe the Democratic Party with respect to this issue. It’s been a long-acknowledged fact that Democrats actually aren’t that far socially to the left or libertarian side (if you prefer, in my opinion, the more accurate European terminology), at least publicly. Many Democrats in Congress are against marriage equality (including the president), and many are against abortion and would like to see it restricted, regulated or abolished. (Or at least, that’s what they pretend. And here I am being charitable.) The reason they do this is that they judge the country to have a center-right political culture, and they think that pandering to conservative views of gender roles and patriarchal norms is a prerequisite for electability. (And it is.) The use of the word “hypocrite” is not only meant to criticize the Democrats co-sponsoring the bill but also to confront uncritical left-liberal Democrats who seem to take it for granted that donkeys are socially liberal. This is a problem also in the LGBT community, especially the trans subset of this community, which has been intensely critical of the HRC and other mainstream left-liberal gay organizations. (Yes, gay, and also White.) What would it look like to criticize this petition without using the word “hypocrite”? The only way I could imagine doing it is to substitute the definition for the word itself. Would we then say “It is problematic to have a petition condemning Republicans for supporting HR 3 because there are Democratic co-sponsors?” What would Democrats make of this? Unless we take them to be profoundly unintelligent, what we’re saying is that they are hypocritical. Surely, being political actors, they must have this word in their vocabulary to describe such situations, and then they will accuse us rightly of being confrontational and implying that they are hypocritical. The only way to make this criticism without being confrontational is not to make the criticism at all.

      3) Finally, standpoint worries me. Neither you nor I will ever know what it’s like to be raped–then to add insult to injury–be enslaved by the State to endure the searing pain of labor and delivery, and quite possibly to be forced to raise that child. What the Republicans (and some Democrats) are promoting is a catastrophic evil that I literally cannot comprehend. I see no reason not to avail ourselves of _any_ cogent criticism. I certainly see no reason to rebut Shannon’s criticism. I would only add to it by saying it’s a conscious, calculated, and callous move to animate conservatives (yet again) to make the lives of poor women even more difficult. What Republicans are literally trying to say is that rape isn’t even an _injury_ admitting a legal remedy, unless it’s the mythical kind of rape that we imagine going on in the back alley, which effaces reality that most rape is (what they would call) “grey.” The fact that they (which again includes Democrats) can even propose this and not be seen as monstrous really says a lot about rape culture, American political culture, and the extent to which we need complete social revolution. (And I don’t care how it gets done.)

      • http://feministing.com/members/kaelin/ Matt

        The problem with the word hypocrite isn’t that it isn’t accurate — it *is* a correct label. I am no stranger to Democratic hypocrisy and broken promises — I carry privilege in having natural citizenship, being non-Hispanic White, male, and heterosexual, but I have been regularly let down as genderqueer and agnostic (by Texas law, I am not allowed to run for state government!) Some people call this incident Democratic political hypocrisy — I call it Tuesday. To that point, just about every single living adult in the world is a hypocrite (often many times over). Using the word against anyone (Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, the Green Party, the Tea Party, nonpolitical groups, you name it) serves a more emotional purpose than a practical one, one that encourages the target to pull back into their shells (a trick that people can get really good at). While “hypocrite” is a less severe insult than “racist” in mainstream American discourse, I believe Jay Smooth’s video on “how to tell people they sound racist” applies here (and for any other sort of criticism that could involve a personal attack). If you want to change someone’s mind, you need to stick to “the act” instead of “their character” as much as possible.

        This is sort of a side point, but I trust you are plenty capable of describing the problem more concisely than saying “It is problematic to have a petition condemning Republicans for supporting HR 3 because there are Democratic co-sponsors?” Try “you should petition all supporters of HR 3 regardless of party.” It deals with the point (what a petition needs to do), and it’s short enough to not sound like you are awkwardly dancing around some inconvenient truth.

        Regarding part 3 (the severity of the bill), I can’t see why this seems to be targeted at me — I agree that this bill is awful in pretty much the way detailed (I had a pretty heated argument with my sister several months ago on a related abortion argument), and I don’t see where I gave any indication to the contrary.

        • http://feministing.com/members/kaelin/ Matt

          And to clarify, you can still use the “hypocrite” based word if you really want to, but you should attach it to the activity rather than the person(s). So you can just as well say “it is hypocritical to petition (all the?) House Republican(s) and not (the nine?) House Democrats who support this bill.” Even here, you keep the label on the activity rather than the person.

          Again, it’s not that you have to, but it gives you your best shot of getting them to change their minds (and their tune). If you aren’t in that business, then you are pretty much wasting your time going after them on their own forum.

  • http://feministing.com/members/rk/ Anne Marie

    174 people are involved with pushing this bill forward. Claiming it’s not Republican because only the bill’s sponsor and 94-95% of the total group are Republicans seems rather ridiculous. Also interesting that none of the Democrats supporting it are women, not surprising though.

  • http://feministing.com/members/franziakafka/ Franzia Kafka

    I agree with you 1,000 times over. The Dems, whose sorry asses wouldn’t have been elected to their offices without the support of the many liberal women who thought they were voting in their interests, continue to take women’s support even while helping to royally fuck up their reproductive rights. The whole clusterfuck of Stupak-Pitts forced me to seriously consider voting third party. Nothing’s going to change when the two major parties are basically the same, both dominated by men and neither especially concerned about the interests of women.

    • honeybee

      I see what you’re saying but realize a vote for a 3rd party is basically a vote for the Republicans, and there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that regardless of what you thinks of the Dems, the Republicans are 1000x worse in regards to women’s rights, gay/trans right, fair treatment for all, etc.

      Unfortunately in politics we are forced to always vote for the lesser of two evils, since rarely is there any party/candidate who is 100% exactly what we want. But voting for the lesser of 2 evils is still very important!!

      • http://feministing.com/members/kaelin/ Matt

        To clarify on the “a vote for the third party is a vote for the Republicans” is not true. It’s a vote for nobody. And if voting Democrat is the presumption, then the net change to that party’s tally by voting 3rd party is only -1 to the Democrats, whereas also voting Republican is a +1 to them, which essentially doubles the damage to the Democrats — in that context, voting third party is only half as damaging to Democrats as if you voted Republican, and you also “send a message” by supporting a third party.

        But really, you should not judge each one by the group. Look at the ones on your ballot. If you have a bum Democrat running, vote third party without regrets and penalize that Democrat for not representing you. If you have one that has shown the person will actually take enough of the right stances (as 95% of House Democrats may end up doing on this issue), then you should reward that one for doing the right thing.