Democratic Women of Tennessee, It’s Time to Have a Little Talk

Let me say up front that, from what I know of him, I like Rep. Butch Borchert. He’s fighting for jobs in his district and that, really, is where every legislator’s priority should be. If he thinks he knows better than me what I should do with my body, I don’t like it, but I’ll live with it. I don’t think being anti-abortion disqualifies you from being a Democrat or even a Democratic politician.

But when the Democratic party itself starts talking positively about anti-abortion candidates specifically because of their anti-abortion records, as if that’s a selling point?

Then it’s time for us Democratic women to open our eyes and see the world how it is. If this is what the Tennessee Democratic Party sees as praiseworthy, as an argument for voting for someone, then there is no reason for Democratic women to continue to be loyal to the Democratic party. There is no difference. I mean, I suspect that’s the point in the other direction–to try to signal to conservative voters that there is no difference, so they could vote Democratic if they like. But it’s the point we need to hear as well–there is no difference. On a state level, you could vote Republican if you like and feel no tinge of regret.

I, myself, will not be doing that. I will, however, be continuing my refusal to give money to the Democratic party. I will ask you, Democratic women, to consider how much of your free time you give to the Party for work the Party pays men to do. Just consider it. Look around you when you’re at functions. See if you’re giving away something other folks get paid for.

And third, I will no longer give my “free” votes away to Democrats, until the state party gets its act together. In the past, if I knew a little something about the race, I voted for the candidate I thought would be best, regardless of party. This means that, in those races, I was probably voting Democrat 80% of the time. In races where I didn’t know anything or when there were no other candidates (with the exception of Sheriff Hall, who I don’t vote for), I have voted straight Democrat.

I will no longer be doing that. I will either not vote in those races or write in someone I do think would do an acceptable job.

Just one person doing this doesn’t accomplish much, I know.

But I don’t know any other way to show my disdain for the party in equal amounts to how they’ve shown their flip disdain for Democratic women today.

35 thoughts on “Democratic Women of Tennessee, It’s Time to Have a Little Talk

  1. One person writing about it and telling others can accomplish much, however, ma’am.

    Count me as number two, standing alongside you.

    Thank you.

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  3. Aunt B, I don’t know where you live, but I think its in Davidson County. Im pretty sure its not Henry County and it is those people who Rep. Borchert is elected to represent. As far as the TNDP piece, I tend to look at it as supporting a candidate in his district, not making an anti-choice position a party platform.

    As a Catholic and a Democrat I have struggled constantly throughout the years to get friends to stop being single issue pro-life voters. I am saddened when I see fellow Democrats doing the same thing.

  4. Yes, but I was as clear as I could be that I, too, support Rep. Borchert and, if he is legitimately anti-abortion, then he is legitimately anti-abortion and should vote as such. He’s a fine representative for his district.

    This doesn’t have anything to do with him.

    This has to do with the Democratic Party celebrating and promoting his anti-abortion position, even going so far as to call him “pro-life,” as if those who disagree with him are, what, pro-death?

    If the Party wants my vote, it can’t continue to insult me when it’s not ignoring me. It’s as simple as that.

    There are many, many ways the party can support Borchert that don’t require them to throw women under the bus.

  5. I think I understand your position. While I don’t necessarly agree with it, it is certainly consistant and well thought out, and that is something hard to find on both sides of this issue.

  6. I have tried saying something like this to folks who called and wanted me to donate to the state party, but I am fairly sure that they were trained not to listen to reasons for non-donations.

  7. B, let me take up where Mr. Calloway left off. In my opinion, single-issue voters are simply short-sighted, whether the single issue is abortion, or guns, or anything else. I think the most apt old expression to describe what results is “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

    If you vote for a candidate’s opponent because of that candidate’s (or his party’s) position on a single issue, you almost certainly unintentionally endorse the opponent’s position on a lot of issues on which you disagree.

    If you withhold support from a candidate or party in a close race because of a single issue, you may very well enable his/her opponent to win, with the same result as if you had voted for the opponent.

    If you look closely enough you will find something to dislike about EVERYONE who runs for public office. So what’s a politically mature adult to do?

    What you do is, you perform a balancing test. You say to yourself, “I find this candidate’s ( or this party’s) position on this important issue despicable. At the same time, I support their position on almost every other matter. Therefore, although it does not make me happy, I will hold my nose and vote for this guy.” Or not.

    Like you, I have usually voted a straight party ticket. Like you, I have also occasionally voted across party lines when, ON BALANCE, I found the opponent’s overall position closer to my own than my party’s candidate.

    I have no idea how to educate voters and to encourage them not to be monomaniacs, especially when bumper stickers, television commercials, and the cynical manipulation of soundbite-driven media all conspire to encourage people to be one-issue voters. But it’s a project worth taking on.

    I share your frustration with the Tennessee Democratic Party, which appears to have mastered the philosophy of sacrificing its principles in the vain hope of short term gains – especially since those “short term gains” appear to be out of reach in the curent political climate. I suggest, however, that the answer is not to withhold support from Democratic candidates, but to do everything possible to replace the party leadership with people who won’t prostitute themselves for the sake of temporary success.

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  9. Personally, I’ve had it up to here with Democratic men telling Democratic women not to get so flustered by the state party’s consistent use of our bodies as a bargaining chip. There’s a technical term for it: “Bullshit.”

    Celebrating and promoting votes like Borchert’s is exactly the same thing as that insipid “petri dish” mailer sent out during the waning days of Ty Cobb II. It means the TNDP doesn’t mind if Tennessee’s women and girls don’t have access to healthcare. It means the TNDP is fine and dandy with Tennessee’s women and girls being forced to give birth to their rapists’ babies. It means the TNDP is a-ok with Tennessee’s women and girls dying for lack of a 6th-week d&c that would have ended a terminal pregnancy.

    And enough already with the “butbutbut the voters of that county are conservative! He’s just representing their interests!” Contrary to what the TNDP *clearly* believes, women are simply not that stupid. We know that the state party doesn’t represent OUR interests or protect OUR rights. The good ole boys have run this thing straight into the ground, and they can damn well clean up their own mess if they want the support and assistance of Democratic women.

  10. Mark, I think you’re missing the point. As I read it, Aunt B isn’t choosing to not vote for ANY Democrat because of the party platform, she’s saying she refuses to support the PARTY because of their new platform. She even said outright that being anti-abortion doesn’t disqualify anyone from being a Democrat, but when the party AS A WHOLE is taking a stance, it’s time to stop supporting that PARTY.

    So, yeah, she’s going to weigh each candidate and voted as she will, but if she’s not sure, she’s no longer simply going to “trust” that the Democrat’s candidate is more aligned with her as she did before and vote regardless, because that faith is no longer there. And of course she’s no longer going to give money to a party that openly throws her under the bus.

  11. Peach, I think you’re correct: that is, indeed, what B is saying.

    What I’m saying is that it is an artificial distinction. If you don’t support the party financially, the individual candidates WILL suffer.

    Take Borchert as an example. His brother controls one of the richest PACs in the state, so he might not be as profoundly affected by a falloff in donations to the party. But other Democratic candidates, in other districts, would be hamstrung by a dramatic drop in donations to the party.

    I hate a lot of what the party is doing these days. That doesn’t mean I’m willing to take a chance on helping more wingnut Republicans get elected. That would not be in my best interest, or yours … or Aunt B’s.

  12. But Mark, if pro-choice Democrats really are so terrifically outnumbered in Tennessee as to be a non-entity to the party (not having “enough” of an interest to see our party reflect our needs) then we’re not talking about a significant drop in donations, right?

    Power of the purse. If the state party wants our money, they can try earning it. Presumably, party leadership has already done their due diligence and concluded that the benefit of selling out Democratic women far outweighs the financial risk. I fail to see how it’s our problem if their economic models suck.

  13. Mark, but that’s always the blackmail isn’t it? No matter what the Democrats do to put their ass-ends in the faces of women, we have to take it AND we can’t reduce our support for them or the Republicans will be so much worse.

    Here’s my question. Okay, my two questions.

    1. Does the TNDP distribute money to all candidates or do some candidates get a lot of support and others get little? I can tell you, it’s the latter. So, my not giving money doesn’t hurt the little guy. The TNDP is already not supporting them.

    2. Vance Dennis came over here yesterday and, though I think he’s wrongity, wrong, wrong, wrong about an issue I feel very passionate about, I found him to be very thoughtful and someone interesting to have a conversation with. They’re not all Campfield. Am I really supposed to be afraid of more people like him getting into office? I mean, if that’s what newbie Republican legislators are going to be like, hey, I’m in favor of that.

    So, I’m just saying, the trust is broken. I don’t believe the Republican bogeyman is that much worse than what we’ve been through in the last legislative session. And I’m tired of being expected to just take whatever the Democrats dish out because they think I have no better options.

  14. Emmy Lou, excellent point. They made a calculation that they could afford whatever outrage women would feel about that press release. It’s not my job to protect them from that calculation.

  15. Mark, I think that Aunt B’s position might make more since then you think. If a disdain for the State Party shifts money from the party coffers to candidate coffers, then I don’t see any problems, assuming it doesn’t mean money that would go to close races goes instead to non contested safe seats.

  16. …and while we’re on the subject, why is it that women only hear the “he’s just representing his constituents’ views” story when we’re talking about an anti-choice rep? And not, say, when we’re talking about Senator Henry?

  17. Please understand, I don’t think “selling out Democratic women” is a smart political strategy. I find what the party is doing to be morally reprehensible, in addition to being stupid. It is a betrayal, not only of Democratic women, but of all people in the state. And I don’t think you can presume that the party leadership has done “due diligence.” I think what they’re doing smacks of desperation – not a condition which is conducive to clear thought.

    The question I’m posing is this: do you think you’ll be better off with Republicans even more firmly in the saddle? Because that’s the likely outcome of withholding your support from the Democratic party.

    I’ll say it again: we need to turn the Democratic leadership around, or turn them out. We don’t need to hamstring Democratic candidates across the state with a “There! That’ll teach ’em!” sort of mentality.

    If you held a gun to my head, I’d say this: I think the Democratic party in Tennessee will be down for the foreseeable future. I think, no matter what happens, the party will be out of power for years to come. If you think that situation justifies withholding your support from the party, I can’t tell you that you are absolutely mistaken. But I can say, I’d prefer to dump the current leadership and replace it with people who, knowing that we will likely lose, are still committed to giving the people of the state an alternative to right wingers, Teabaggers, racists, sexists, nativists, and morons. While we may not be able to stop their agenda, we can at least moderate some of the worst aspects of it until people get tired of the crap. In short, I’d rather try to fix the problem than compound it by sitting on my wallet.

    If the answer to a no-win situation was to refuse to play, Hedy Weinberg would have retired years ago. Instead, she plugs away, losing most of the time, but winning an occasional victory that improves life for everyone. That’s where I think you and I ought to be.

  18. And B., I agree with your assessment of Vance Dennis. I thought yesterday’s discussion was remarkable.

  19. That’s a pretty significant change in tone, Mark, for one who started out on the “single-issue voter” bandwagon and toeing the state party line.

    While I appreciate what you’re saying, I disagree with the assessment. I don’t think supporting the state party is an effective way to express extreme disagreement with the actions of the state party. Instead, I think withholding funds from the state party is perhaps the only way to communicate my disfavor of their tactics. Perhaps a failure to raise funds with this message of screwing women over will eventually be noted.

    Meanwhile, there are plenty of other Democratic groups that I can actually participate in, supporting the leaders I know and trust and helping them on the long climb up the ladder. The Davidson County Dems are one; the Young Dems are another. Whoever’s writing the big checks at the state level is never going to care about little ‘ole me. I’ve simply noticed their lack of concern, and have decided to respond in kind.

  20. Don’t get me wrong, Emmy Lou – I still think letting a single issue determine your vote or your support for a candidate is a bad idea. It seemed to me that we were talking about two separate subjects – one being the single issue voter, and the other being expressing your disapproval of the party by withholding financial support from the party. Was I wrong about that?

    If every dollar you and others of your opinion withhold from the party simply gets donated to individual Democratic candidates, perhaps my fears will be unjustified. I fear that it won’t be a simple reallocation, however. I fear that the total figure spent supporting Democratic candidates will drop significantly. That, in my opinion, would be a shame.

    I’m the last guy on earth who would DEMAND that you spend your own money to support something you can’t stomach. After all, freedom of individual conscience is part of what we’re supposed to be about as Democrats. That doesn’t mean that I won’t make the strongest argument I can to persuade you that it is in your best interest to continue to support the candidates, despite your (justifiable) anger at the party leadership.

    If we can agree that the real problem here is the party leadership knuckling under because of a perceived advantage in pandering to the right, I’m simply saying that the appropriate remedy is to fire that wrongheaded leadership – not to starve the party of funds. At the end of the day, you and I may just have to disagree about this.

  21. Yes, Mark, you’re just about a half a block from where I am. Keep coming this way.

    See, as I see it, you and I cannot fire the party leadership (unless you are a secret bigwig; I am not.). We have to make it so uncomfortable for the party that they change direction.

    All we have to force that change is our wallets and our votes. We starve the party to force a change in leadership and a change in strategy. How else is that going to happen?

    Believe me, if sitting around complaining about the Democrats on the internet did any good, we’d be having a different conversation. But we complain on the internet. They write us off. We tell them what we’d like to see (press releases that tell us about candidates and what good things they’re doing, for instance) and they use one of the rare press releases that does that to flip women off. We raise money and ask our readers to give money and they spend the next year trolling blog comments to make sure we know how unappreciated it is.


    Then it’s come to this.

    For me, anyway.

  22. I conditionally disagree, Mark, about the single-issue thing. Especially when that single issue is abortion. As we should all know by now, the ‘pro-life’ position as it plays out in policy is anything but pro-life when it comes to women’s health and autonomy and children’s health after birth. I’m sure there are many ‘single issues’ that are heavily intertwined with other issues (at least potentially), but I can’t off-hand think of one that’s quite so loaded and that puts so much on the line for at least half the population. So, if for no other reason than my love and respect for my wife and my daughter, I’d have to say that the abortion issue is a make or break ‘single issue’ to me. (Tariffs on foreign-made automobiles, not so much.) Any office-seeker who advertises himself as ‘pro-life’ is going to have to go a long way to prove that he supports a woman’s right to govern her own body, otherwise he doesn’t get my vote.

    Being in the Green Party, of course, means that I don’t get shoe-horned into voting for who I think is going to screw me less. (Silly me, with my childish visions of dancing sugar-plum fairies and modern parliamentary democracy…)

  23. Sam, pro-lifers aren’t “pro-life,” any more than pro-choicers are “pro-abortion.” We need some new labels.

    I started to say that “small government vs. big government” is a single-issue that is dispositive for some voters, and is heavily intertwined with other issues – and it is. But you and I know that most people who profess to believe in “small government” are either delusional or untruthful, because they typically support giant government expenditures on military and law enforcement functions, so it isn’t really small government.

    Stretching a point, I could say I would be a single issue voter, too, if the single issue were, “Let’s repeal the Constitution and institute a dictatorship.” Short of that, however, no single issue overrides every other issue for me.

    In all honesty, I don’t remember ever voting for someone who openly campaigned on repealing Roe v. Wade. But at the same time, I don’t ever remember ONLY considering a candidate’s stand on abortion. Isn’t it true that if someone takes the wrong position on abortion, they generally take other positions that equally disqualify them as well?

    Tell the truth: if you knew nothing about a particular candidate other than his stand on abortion, would you say to yourself, “I’m not going to listen to anything else in this whole campaign?” If not, I’d submit you may not be a single-issue voter on this subject, either.

  24. Isn’t it true that if someone takes the wrong position on abortion, they generally take other positions that equally disqualify them as well?

    Yes, I think so. That’s why I don’t think there really are that many single-issue voters out there.

    Individuals and political candidates can be complicated, but abortion is the kind of issue that’s usually (if not always) a good litmus test for the general philosophy of a candidate. The direction in which one is willing to make policy regarding the personal autonomy and liberty of half the population versus the relative value of a blastocyst or fetus creates a pretty powerful philosophical gravity well.

  25. Sam, it is definitely not true that there are few single issue voters. I regularly encounter people who would vote Democraticly if not for abortion and Aunt B herself has stated previously that would never vote for a legislator who voted for sjr127. While it is often, but not always, the case that views on abortion are predictive of other views, it doesn’t change the fact that statements like B made during session or the views of many of Catholics mean those not too uncommon exceptions will never get to prove their overall worth.

    Also, the manner in which you categorize the two positions shows a lack of appreciation for the other sides views. It is attitudes like that keep most reasonable discussion from being able to happen.

  26. The reasonable discussion begins when the ‘other side’ comes clean about what it really wants. If reduction of abortion is the goal, there are better ways of doing it than reducing women to chattel. My characterization of the anti-abortion position takes into account that there are many people who may sincerely believe that they are solely interested in protecting pre-born ‘life’; the problem is in their usual chosen path of implementing their ideology. The policies all reek of slut-shaming and keeping women in second-class status. That’s why there’s a strong correlation between opposition to abortion and opposition to contraception. See why it’s a deal-breaker? It’s most likely not just a single issue. It’s more likely a Trojan horse. The ‘pro-life’ position– again, we’re not talking idle theory, we’re talking about how it plays out in policy– is rife with dishonesty and oppression. Therefore, any politician who claims to want to pursue ‘pro-life’ policies is someone who I would not trust on multiple levels.

  27. Mark, can you actually come up with an example of a politician who is anti-choice but in favor of providing good, affordable health care for women and children, in favor of easily available, affordable contraception for teenagers, proper sex-ed in the schools and not that “abstinence-only” junk, nutritional support for women and children living in food deserts, proper child care in or close to workplaces, etc., etc.? I might rethink my anti-“pro-life” position if you show me any in TN.

  28. That’s an awesome point, nm. If you think about it, effectively providing for all those things you list will most likely send unwanted pregnancy and abortion rates waaay down.

  29. Oh, I expect so. Good for women, good for children, reducing abortion–what’s not to like? And that’s not even mentioning a host of other issues that matter to women; just the ones that make pro-choice/”pro-life” a lot more than a single issue.

    To be fair, I think that in the northeast you can find a handful of such politicians; at least you used to be able to. But, seriously, I haven’t encountered any of them in TN. And I don’t like it when people say that abortion is a single-issue thing, because it so clearly doesn’t stand alone and apart from other issues in women’s lives.

  30. No, nm, I can’t think of anyone like that in Tennessee, although it wouldn’t shock me to learn that some anti-abortion Dems in Congress voted for health care reform. Ben Nelson is one example, I think.

    Ain’t it strange that many people who oppose abortions are also against contraception? It kind of makes you recall how the law got to its present state. The Roe decision, after all, was built on the foundation of the Griswold (contraception) decision, including its key line, “if the right to privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted government intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.”

    Would a religious conservative say that abortion, contraception, and sex education are all a single issue? I think some of them might see all of those things as a single “No nooky for you!” subject.

  31. I think the no-abortion/no-contraception crowd has two main elements. One is also the no-sex-ed, you don’t get to have sex unless I say it’s OK crowd. The other is Catholics, who in parts of the country are often pro-comprehensive-sex-ed (so long as “the Church says this is a sin” is part of the comprehensiveness) and pro-lots of other good things for women and children. I disagree with many aspects of what they work for, but they seem to come from a healthier place. And the seamless garment idea means that some of them (I’m talking laity and local clergy, not the bishops, mostly) emphasize decreasing demand for abortion over decreasing access to abortion.

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