The Democrats' Dangerous Compromise
As a result of the disastrous 2016 election, Democrats have been, in recent months, torn apart for their continued dedication to ‘identity politics,’ or, as I like to call it, giving a shit about other human beings and how their identities are inextricably tied to their economic status in the United States. There are a few fair arguments to support this claim, such as the fact that Clinton made a mistake in positioning herself as the societal antithesis to Trump rather than bolstering herself as the right candidate based on her merits alone and not solely on the faults of her opponent. The worst of those who rally against identity politics hate, more than anything, being “politically correct” and often get the simple definition of this term wrong; while they think it means mincing words and setting up safe spaces for “fragile snowflakes,” all it really means is taking up the very simple task of using language that is inclusive to others, and protecting others’ rights to exist as human beings on planet earth. The Democratic Party has long made identity politics part of its political agenda because it has largely realized that citizens’ identities play a huge role in the amount of economic freedom that they possess. To deny the fact that, for example, granting women the right to do with their bodies what they please is linked entirely to their economic standing is a mistake that Democrats now seemed poised to make. In an interview with The Hill, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman (now that’s a mouthful) Ben Ray Lujan said that the party “will not withhold financial support for candidates who oppose abortion rights.” Much of the chatter among podcasters and op-ed writers has to do with winning back the House and the Senate in 2018, and it is no secret that these are trying and desperate times. Senator Bernie Sanders reiterated this feeling by telling NPR that it isn’t worth Democrats’ time to discredit qualified candidates just because they “disagree with us on one issue.” At the heart of it, he is right. Democrats should be able to string together a conga line of qualified politicians whose personal views may differ but, at the end of the day, they work together to advance the agenda of the Democratic Party. Candidates who actively seek to strip citizens of their reproductive rights do not qualify.
Here’s the thing about identity politics: it’s all about respect and tolerance of others’ views, so long as these views do not affect the lives of other human beings. What many people often get wrong about a pro-choice standpoint is that it does not, under any circumstances, say that women are required to have abortions. Nowhere. This is such a fanatical farce perpetuated over and over again by anti-choice groups who seek nothing other than to retain control over women’s bodies. People should obviously be allowed to believe whatever they want and hold strong their positions, but advocating that ALL Americans be denied access to abortions is oppressive and wrong. I personally would never argue with someone who said they were anti-choice about their own body, that if they found themselves pregnant with a child they could not financially support or with a dangerous pregnancy, they would carry that child to term no matter what. That is the prerogative of that woman and that woman alone. But this cannot be stated clearly enough: women require choice. Women require agency. Women require access to safe and affordable (ideally free) abortion. If we deny women these things, more often than not we confine them to poverty, isolation, health risks, and even death.
For the Democratic Party to openly suggest that it could be led by politicians who seek to further restrict women’s rights to their own bodies is a betrayal of half of the country’s population. The current political climate is, by all means, desperate. We must rally behind qualified people, and soon, or we risk being ruled by the Republicans for another two, four, or more years. But Lindy West, in her New York Times column, says it best: “abortion is not valid fodder for… compromise, nor is racism, nor is L.G.B.T.Q. equality, nor is any issue that puts people’s fundamental humanity up for debate. Abortion is not a fringe issue. Abortion is liberty.” By slowly slinking away from being firm supporters of identity politics and social justice, the Democratic Party will lose its heart. By refusing to acknowledge the ways in which social freedom is linked to economic success, the Democratic Party will lose its way. Women who are given the human right to decide what to do with their reproductive organs are more educated, more economically independent, healthier, and, most important of all, they are alive. Denying women access to safe and legal abortion will only result in more dangerous abortions, often ending in death of the woman and her unborn child. This is not a future for which the Democratic Party should advocate, no matter what.