Political Math & The Activist’s Lament

The article is fluttering around Twitter as I type:

Wendy Davis backs 20-week abortion ban that defers to women

A few points I’d like to make quickly while this is still topical:

One. When an issue like reproductive justice drives your activism, you will always be disappointed by politicians over the long haul.

At key moments, they will be your champions, but then, they will have to do what legislators do, which is compromise and try to appeal to the wishes of the greatest number of people (or voters, if you are cynical/practical).

This is the activist’s lament. You put your heart, soul, time, and money into a cause and a candidate, and the return is incremental and slow.

We chant what do we want? X! When do we want it? NOW! Because it just isn’t as catchy to say we want it after it has been drafted, proposed in committee, calendared, debated, voted out of committee, etc. etc. in such a manner that a majority can get behind it without pissing off too many people.

I mean, if you can get that into a chant, have it at, but …

Two: Wendy Davis was responding to a question from an editorial board about what kind of legislation she might support, not a question about what her first act as governor would be. She gave a politician’s answer, pointing out that she’s in line with what most Texans support. She gave a measured response that was pretty brave, considering she’d know that it would disappoint some of her most ardent supporters. She could have declined to answer, I suppose, but then we’d be reading an article about how evasive she is.

Three: Let’s say Wendy Davis did write a 20-week ban that gave, as she described it, deference to what a woman and her doctor decided without providing a bright line legislative rule. This would be something similar to a ban except in cases where a woman’s life or health was at risk, per her doctor, and the doctor would have the discretion to say that emotional distress over carrying an unwanted pregnancy would be a valid reason to terminate.

Trust me, no GOP legislator in Texas would support that, even if every D in the big pink dome got behind it. That gives too much power to the woman and doctor, and you know the GOP would be calling mental health exceptions and not wanting to carry a pregnancy to term “frivolous” and such. So the likelihood of Wendy, as governor, having to sign such a bill is slim to none.

That’s a pretty awful way to say don’t worry about it, I realize, but that’s how the politics would play out on this.

Four: This is Texas. It is not the time for a Texas Democrat trying to break the hold the GOP has had statewide for 20 years to become the champion of progressive abortion legislation. No hate from the blue states, please.

Five: Don’t take your eye off the ball. Right now, this could go two ways.

On the one hand, Wendy Davis could get elected, turning Texas blue earlier than anyone dared dream, bringing Leticia Van De Putte into the Lt. Gov. office and a whole bunch of other great Ds into positions of authority. National money would come into Texas for 2016, and we’d have a shot at making some great, but still incremental, change.

On the other, Greg Abbott could get elected. We’d not be talking about the nuances of a 20-week ban, let me assure you. We’d be talking about wholesale assaults on the rights, health, and well-being of the majority of Texans. Healthcare? He’d gut it. Public education? He’d sell it to the highest bidder. Payday loans? On every corner, dragging people into debt with no regulation or protection. Voting rights? ID, please. Immigration? How high can we build that fence again, and how many law enforcement officers can we send south to militarize one of the most vibrant parts of our state? Environmental protection? If that means protection for polluters, sure.

Electoral politics will always let the activist down. The only way to win an election is to get more votes than your opponent, and the math you need to get there isn’t pretty. I don’t like it, but it is the game we are forced to play, so I plan to play it to win. I’m #TeamWendy, and hope you are, too.

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