Tom Perez made a strong and polarizing statement last week which has caused an ideological discussion to take place about what the requirements are to be a Democrat.
“Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health.”
In what seems to be an ever increasingly polarized world, a statement such as this can be isolating at best, and contradictory at worst. On the face of it, many people who consider themselves progressive will see nothing wrong with such an assertion. After all, part of the challenge we face with increased polarization is the proliferation of echo chambers. Chances are if you are pro-choice then your friends and close members of your network will share a similar view. The people in your network probably were socialized the same way you were and thus they often share their perspectives which help to reinforce yours. During the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, this was the running theme across all my social media channels. Luckily for me, I have friends and associates who sit on either side of the ideological divide on abortion, and hence I have often been presented both sides.
The real challenge that exists behind the Democratic Party Chairman’s words is the fact that he is using that singular ideological issue as part of the requirements to support the Democratic party. Now I’m not trying to misinterpret what he is saying. However, I think it is unfortunate that political parties must be affiliated with an ideological perspective. On January 21, 2017, across the globe, thousands of women filled the streets with signs and placards in what would be called the Women’s March. They chanted and protested, asserting that they have the right to control their body. A right that I believe is fundamental regardless of where you lie on the ideological spectrum. While being a success in terms of the numbers of women and the spread of protests around the world, there was a significant portion of backlash that came from some pro-life women feeling unwanted at the march.
Many critics of the march described it as more of an anti-Trump movement and less of a march for women’s rights. I find that distinction somewhat laughable. Looking at all that has transpired in American politics of late, those two issues are more linked than one might initially imagine. The truth is that not all pro-life women are Republicans and not all pro-choice women are Democrats. The conflation of the two is what creates the ideological divide that Perez is asserting.
It has been extremely disheartening to see that politicians will say anything in order to stroke their political base. Consider this, how do Tom Perez’s statements impact the political opinion of moderate voters? Is it not possible to like everything on the Democratic Party’s platform but disagree with the right to an abortion? Does the framing of the “other” benefit anyone in the long run? Or is this more of a should pineapples go on pizza discussion?
Maybe it’s my youth or just my more liberal perspective that forms my views on the issue, but Perez’s statements will do more harm than good. One of the major keys to Donald Trump’s success at the polls was his use of the “other” to polarize views and effectively encourage echo chambers. Abortion is not in any shape or form an issue that can be equated to a pizza topping. It is also not an issue that needs to become overly intellectualized either. People should have the right to hold onto their perspective of either pro-life or pro-choice because for most people that perspective is never challenged until you find yourself in that situation. Additionally, the law combined with a robust educational system should provide enough opportunities for women to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. As a man, I think that Tom Perez, while potentially meaning well, should refrain from speaking on matters of women’s rights. There is no need for us to divide voters on singular issues, instead, all political parties should aim to be more pragmatic in their definition of their requirements to be considered a member.
This might seem naïve to some, but I would argue that continuing down the path of the “other” will only lead to further public division, hardship, and injustice. Already there has been a backlash from pro-life Democrats and even Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has had to answer for Perez’s statements. Just remember everyone, your views are your own and if you respect the views of others then we can continue to walk down a path towards equity.
[Featured Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]