The Democratic Party has no idea what the hell it’s doing.
Tom Perez and Bernie Sanders betrayed their competing political ideologies on their joyride into America’s heartland. Their squabbling laid bare the party’s lack of a coherent vision. But the bigger issue is that the party leadership doesn’t understand which constituents it needs to connect with: middle and working class women. Doing so requires firm Democratic support for reproductive freedom.
Establishment Democrats believe that Trump won because they neglected the middle and working classes. Maybe that’s true but it doesn’t matter. Their solution thus far has been pandering to white, middle class male voters at the expense of women’s rights.
Sanders and Perez provoked pro-choice outrage suggesting that reproductive freedom is not a fundamental Democratic issue during a stop in Omaha to support an anti-choice democratic candidate. More recently, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi echoed their sentiment when she called abortion a “fading issue” in an interview with the Washington Post. Anti-choice Democrats, according to Pelosi, should not be barred from the party if they otherwise support the working class. “In our caucus,” she said, “one thing unifies us: our values about working families.”
Gender issues like reproductive rights are indivisible from economic justice. Working class women would benefit from the minimum wage increase that Sanders champions but reproductive challenges like abortion add an additional financial burden. A woman who must travel hundreds of miles for an abortion her insurance won’t cover has to pay for travel, lodging, the procedure itself, and any medical complications that occur. She could spend thousands of dollars on top of losing wages.
The burden of reproduction obstructs women’s financial independence. Establishment liberals like Sanders and Pelosi believe you can separate the two. That only shows how much they don’t understand their supporters.
Women make up the majority of the Democratic base and in recent elections generated the bulk of grassroots activism. Moreover, most women support the right to choose, as do most people of any gender. Abortion is not the divisive voting issue that the mainstream left believes. Ignoring the fact that the “all people versus just women” argument is laden with misogyny and condescension, it does not make electoral sense to ignore women’s issues.
Even if access to contraception has zero impact on a woman’s financial independence, it directly impacts her physical independence. If men like Sanders (and heck, women like Pelosi) do not believe the latter is a critical human right, then they do not really serve the interests of the majority of their base.