There's a lot going on this week-more than I can hope to cover--which is, in my strange universe, actually a good thing since it makes this whole blogging gig just a tiny bit easier. And isn't making my life a little nicer what's really important? Yes, I think so.
As Obey retires Wisconsin prepares for a potential Battle Royale
After all that, you can't exactly call the man a quitter.
Lots of people-mostly those with a political ax to grind-are calling him a "career politician," though, because that's become one of the nasty political slurs du jour. Me, I try to take a more nuanced approach to the subject. There are people you want to serve as your representative for a longer period of time and those you'd like to see gone the moment they show up. And there's certainly an argument to be made that politics should never be someone's full-time career, since it has a tendency to make them focus more on running for reelection than on being a thoughtful legislator.
For the most part, though, Obey has proven himself to be part of the counter-argument. The longest serving member of either house of Congress in Wisconsin's history, and one of its most progressive, Obey has been instrumental in a number of important legislative victories. For instance, he chaired the committee that rewrote the House's Code of Ethics to force members to publicly disclose their personal financial dealings so it would be easier to see any potential conflicts of interest. Obey has also been a champion of health care reform, is a strong anti-war advocate, and seems to have demonstrated sanity in regards to immigration policy, among other things.
But he never seems to have been a party-line guy, either, and there are things he's supported or voted against with which I strongly disagree (mostly in terms of abortion rights).
I like that, though. I like people thoughtful enough to surprise you, even when you disagree. Point is, I've been mostly proud to have him representing my state and I'm sad to see him go. On the plus side, as Obey said in his press conference yesterday, "I think frankly that my district is ready for someone new to make a fresh start."
We live in a time of great political and social change (and even a little upheaval) and I think new blood is generally helpful to seeing the process through to more positive results.
On the other hand, I wouldn't blame Democrats for being a little peeved at the guy for waiting so long to announce. There are just six months until the election, and six months in American political language are, like, a couple of minutes (oh what I wouldn't give for the Brits' abbreviated campaign season). Jack over at the Sconz rightly suggests that "the Dems are pissed. He should have announced earlier, and given them some time to develop a candidate." Conversely, he goes on to note that Obey dropping out earlier might have actually helped the fundraising efforts of his opponents, especially since "Republican donors were less likely to give to a hopeless campaign against an entrenched incumbent than a campaign for an open seat in a swing district."
Hard to say.
Republicans, of course, are champing at the bit to see one of their own elected in his stead. It seems the 7th has been fairly staunchly on Obey's side for much of the past 40 years, so I'm not sure how likely that is but it will depend a great deal on the candidates fielded by all parties, no matter how confident Dems claim to feel at the moment.
At the moment, Republicans only seem to have two candidates and they spend more time fighting with each other than talking about what they can do for the 7th. Former MTV reality star turned District Attorney Sean Duffy has the mixed-bag support of Sarah Palin going for him, but he loses GOP street cred for actually taking a slightly less-crazy stance on gay rights (he opposes gay marriage but supports "legal contracts"/civil unions). Dan Mielke, the other Republican challenger, appears to full-on dislike the gays and subscribes to most of the other Neo-Con's Favorite Hits, but to his credit seems to love him some organic and local farming.
There's no telling how long it will be before potential Democratic challengers get their acts together to run, but I sincerely hope that whoever ends up getting the nod has a strong, progressive background and commitment, avoids the cat fighting of Duffy and Mielke, and stays on message.
Then again, hoping for a Democrat to stay on message is a little like hoping that Blaska will stop trolling The Daily Page. Ain't likely to happen any time soon, but a girl can dream.
So long, Dave Obey, and thanks for everything, including some of your parting words, which are more than a little awesome:
There has to be more to life than explaining the ridiculous, accountability destroying rules of the Senate to confused, angry, and frustrated constituents.
I am, frankly, weary of having to beg on a daily basis that both parties recognize that we do no favor for the country if we neglect to make the long-term investments in education, science, health, and energy that are necessary to modernize our economy and decline to raise the revenue needed to pay for those crucial investments. I do not want to be in a position as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of producing and defending lowest common denominator legislation that is inadequate to that task and, given the mood of the country, that is what I would have to do if I stayed."
Anti-choice forces still chipping away at women's rights
I am not pro-abortion. I strongly suspect that choosing to have one would be one of the most painfully difficult decisions of any woman's life, and I hope I'm never faced with a situation where such a thing might become necessary.
Still, I am staunchly pro-choice and have been appalled by the slow but steady erosion of women's reproductive rights that we've been seeing since the moment Roe v. Wade passed into law.
I was relieved, then, when the Madison Surgery Center's board voted 6-0 back in February '09 to start providing some second-trimester abortions at the clinic. The decision was a response to the retirement of Dr. Dennis Christensen, who had been the only one to offer the service in Madison.
So when the news came today that the center had changed its mind and opted not to provide the service, I was disappointed (to say the least). The center and its proponents have faced a torrent of protests, lawsuits, and outright threats since the initial decision was made, but I had hoped they wouldn't give in to such tactics.
No official statement has come from the center since the news broke but there had been hints of problems as long ago as January. An article in the Wisconsin State Journal pointed toward patient protest cancelations and clinic staff objections as taking a heavy toll on the effort to get the new service up and running. But it's not clear that those numbers were substantial enough to cause the backtracking.
UW Health, parent group of the UW Hospital which provides the doctor group for the Madison Surgery Center, has said that it will continue to offer second-trimester abortions but did not mention the center at all. They haven't given any clarification yet, either, so exactly how this will play out remains to be seen.
The bottom line is that by not having a safe place to get a later-term abortion in the city we are essentially denying a woman her rights. We're also forcing those women who truly need the procedure to either incur greater expense and trouble to seek it out elsewhere, or just making it outright prohibitive. That is, of course, the goal of anti-choice activists and in far too many cases they're winning.
It's a war of inches; giving up one may not seem like much at the time, but bit by bit we're letting the forces of repression regain control. It's long past time to fight back and stop that from happening. We owe it to ourselves, to future generations, and to those who worked so hard to see any progress made in the first place.