Building a New Party in the Heart of Dixie

by Matthew Tyson

Beginning in the 1960’s, the Southern Strategy brought about a war between the Republican and Democratic parties in Alabama. That war dragged on for decades. Then, in the early part of the 21st century, the GOP took down Democratic Governor Don Siegelman and clinched a Republican-controlled state house and senate for the first time in over a century.

The effects of that victory are still very prevalent today. The Democratic Party in Alabama isn’t waning. It’s dead. Outside of a few districts in the Black Belt, Alabama is as red as the day is long. The war is over, and the Democrats lost.

Being a Democrat in Alabama is rough. I should know. As both a proud Alabamian and dedicated Democrat, I’ve dealt firsthand with the frustration of living in such a divided house. Thanks to the burning rhetoric and idealism of the right, Democrats in the Heart of Dixie might as well be card-carrying communists. The GOP has so successfully predicated us as socialist, big government, America-haters that we can’t even have a constructive conversation without the dark cloud of presumption hanging over our heads.

Our state party is in shambles, and we have little to no voice, but worst of all, we are forced to sit and watch as two decades of total Republican leadership have pushed Alabama even deeper into economic turmoil.

Alabama is consistently ranked at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to healthcare, education, poverty, and unemployment. Our prisons are overcrowded. Our jobless rate is higher than the national average. Even worse, it was recently revealed to the public (conveniently after Bentley waltzed back into the governor’s mansion) that our debt is hundreds of millions of dollars worse than originally thought.

All this under the watch of the GOP. Continue reading

Run Like It’s 2004!

I feel like we are in a time warp.

Ten years ago, I wrote a post-election analysis on why Democrats failed in the 2004 election. Senator John Kerry had been the Democratic nominee for President. Kerry used the abortion boilerplate language endorsed by NARAL and embraced by most Democratic strategists since New York’s Governor Mario Cuomo’s famous speech years earlier arguing that an elected official should not try to impose his or her personal position on abortion on anyone else nor legislate on it. Therefore, even though Senator Kerry believed that life begins at conception, he stated that he would not vote to protect life. The party used Kerry’s example as an excuse to usher pro-life democrats out the back flap of the big tent with an arrogance that said our vote did not make a difference.

As a result, Senator Kerry lost to George Bush. The Republicans secured their 233-seat majority in the House and built to a 55-seat majority in the Senate. In the 2004 post-election analysis, I wrote, “Pro-life Democrats are not surprised by the outcome of this year’s elections. In fact, pro-life Democrats have been pleading with the national party for respectful inclusion in the party. Unfortunately, the “big-tent” party has allowed itself to be controlled by pro-choice forces and the Democratic party has suffered as a result.  For the past 25 years, pro-life Democrats have been leaving the party over the issue of abortion.”

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UPS Does the Just Thing for Pregnant Workers–Going Forward

With oral argument approaching in the Supreme Court pregnancy discrimination case of Young v. United Parcel Service, UPS has announced that (as the Washington Post reports), “[S]tarting January 1, the company will offer temporary light duty positions not just to workers injured on the job, which is current policy, but to pregnant workers who need it as well.” The change in policy was announced to employees and in UPS’s brief filed in the Court.

This is great news for UPS’s female workers, those who are and those who will become pregnant. It also sends a high-profile message that accommodating pregnant workers is the just thing to do, especially when similar physical conditions stemming from (e.g.) on-the-job injuries are accommodated.

The Post reports that the brief of numerous pro-life organizations (in which Democrats for Life played a central role) may have helped put pressure on UPS to change:

Young’s supporters say the UPS policy change comes as Young’s case has drawn increasing support from all across the political spectrum, including conservative groups opposed to abortion, like Americans United for Life, business groups, women’s groups, workers’ rights advocates and the left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union.

“This has been a public relations nightmare for UPS,” said Tom Spiggle, an employment attorney and author of a book on pregnancy discrimination, “You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired!”

This will not moot the Young case, because UPS still says its earlier denial of accommodation to Peggy Young was legal, and it’s still defending against her claim for monetary damages.

(Cross-posted at Mirror of Justice)

Interview at Millennial Blog on Pregnancy Discrimination Case and Pro-Life Brief

Many readers of this blog likely know Millennial, a popular blog written and managed by young Catholics.  I did an online interview for the blog on the current pregnancy discrimination case, Young v. UPS, and the amicus brief filed by 23 pro-life organizations including Dems for Life.  I emphasize that the brief makes “a strong statement: pro-life groups believe that supporting pregnant women (including through effectively enforcing non-discrimination laws) is fundamentally pro-life.”

Article in the The Week on Pregnancy Discrimination and “Bipartisan Support”

An interesting article in The Week on the subject of pregnancy discrimination, headlined as “The feminist issue that too many women ignore.” The articles makes reference to the briefs by both pro-life and pro-choice groups supporting Peggy Young, the plaintiff in the SCT in Young v. United Parcel Service. It quotes the pro-life brief and then adds (speaking presumably about potential legislative efforts down the line, beyond the SCT case):

While some feminists will surely resist working too closely with those who oppose abortion, others might view this as an opportunity to step outside their circles and increase the likelihood of making positive change. As writer and critic Judith Shulevitz puts it in her recent examination of the state of feminism today, getting legislation passed that will help working mothers will require “being willing to make compromises and unlikely alliances to get the necessary votes.” By “unlikely” she means those who “fall afoul of Emily’s List.”

(Cross-posted at Mirror of Justice)

Commentary on the Pro-Life Brief Supporting Protecting Pregnant Women from Discrimination

Various places on the web–left, right, and center–are commenting on the Supreme Court brief filed by Democrats for Life and 22 other pro-life organizations supporting strong protection for pregnant women against discrimination.

The Economist:

ACTIVISTS on warring sides of the abortion debate rarely take the same position when it comes to Supreme Court cases involving women’s rights. But pro-choicers and pro-lifers have found common cause in Young v United Parcel Service, a pregnancy discrimination case the justices will take up on December 3rd.

Mother Jones:

[The narrow interpretation of the pregnancy-discrimination] law does not sit well with feminists or anti-abortion groups, who recognize the significance that economics play in decisions about abortion. Abortion foes are deeply concerned that pregnancy discrimination encourages abortion and forces women to endanger the health of their unborn children by continuing to work under conditions their doctors deem hazardous.

In the press call, Galen Carey, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals, called on “all involved to recognize the sacred gift of life and give special protection to women who nurture the life in their womb.”

The Baptist Press:

[Southern Baptist leader] President Russell D. Moore said in a statement for Baptist Press about the brief, “Being pro-life means standing both with unborn children and with their mothers. We must speak for pregnant women who should not have to decide between loving their babies, caring for their health and making a living.”  pro-life and pro-choice groups in this case pursue “different paths to get to working rights for pregnant women, but a means to the same end.”

Statements from a couple of the organizations that supported the brief: Americans United for Life (co-counsel on the brief); All Our Lives (a progressive pro-life organization that joined as an amicus).

Friend-of-the-Court Brief of Pro-Life Organizations Supporting Strong Protection for Pregnant Workers from Discrimination

I’m very pleased to tell others about a “friend of the court brief” brief, filed in the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday by Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) and 22 other pro-life organizations in Young v. United Parcel Service, an important case involving the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (the PDA).  The brief, which supports the pregnant employee who filed suit against UPS, is by pro-life organizations from across the political spectrum, from Concerned Women for America and the Southern Baptists to Feminists for Nonviolent Choices and DFLA.  Here is the DFLA news release summarizing the case (and also linking to the brief). I worked on the brief on behalf of DFLA.

The filing of the brief makes important statements that are crucial in our society, polarized as it is over the “life” issue and how to address it.  In this, a variety of pro-life groups with different missions, who disagree on other things, have come together to emphasize that supporting pregnant women is a fundamentally pro-life position.  I suspect that, in our polarized atmosphere, some people may be surprised that a bunch of pro-life groups have filed to support working women—so please spread the news!

The case involves Peggy Young, a driver for UPS who became pregnant and, based on the doctor’s note concerning lifting restrictions, sought to be switched to “light duty” work for the remaining few months of her pregnancy.  UPS had provided such an accommodation for several significant categories of employees, including those injured on the job, those with disabilities, and those who had lost their commercial driving license for various medical reasons—but it refused to accommodate Young.  She was forced to take an unpaid leave and lost her employer-provided health insurance for several months.  Young sued under the PDA, which requires that pregnant women be treated the same as other employees “similar in their ability or inability to work.”  Although UPS had made the accommodations mentioned above, the lower courts ruled against Young because there were other categories of employees UPS had not accommodated (e.g. off-the-job injuries); essentially, the court said that pregnancy was not discriminated against if it was treated no worse than those and was not ”singled out” for denial.  Young is seeking reversal in the Supreme Court.

The case raises an important issue concerning the effectiveness of the PDA’s protection for pregnant employees, since many employers make accommodations for some but not all employees with physical limitations.  The pro-life organizations’ brief argues that pregnancy should be treated as well as conditions the employer deems important enough to accommodate, not as poorly as conditions the employer refuses to accommodate.  The brief points to the background of the PDA, which had support in 1978 from pro-life groups and pro-life members of Congress.  Their rationale was that protecting pregnant women from discrimination reduces pressure on economically vulnerable women to abort their children, and helps support the fundamental right to bear children and raise a family.  The brief makes those very same arguments.

Cross-posted (with minor changes) at Mirror of Justice

Should Democrats Oppose Michael Boggs?

I recently watched the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Michael Boggs, President Obama’s pick for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.  As a Democrat, I was appalled by the line of questioning by the Senate Democrats, who never steered away from attacking the pro-life views of the nominee to focus on other issues relevant to his qualifications.

It is one thing for abortion rights groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood to opposed candidates and judges who hold a pro-life position. They hold selfish reasons for doing so. Abortion is their livelihood. It is another thing for senators, who are charged with vetting judicial candidates, to ignore their responsibility and instead represent the minority views of one industry.   

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Give pregnant women a choice and a chance

With all the talk about contraception and abortion, we wanted to reinforce what we, as pro-life Democrats, have articulated for years. Give pregnant women a real choice by providing support to carry the child to term.

Statistics consistently show that financial concerns are the number one reason women choose abortion. Our Pregnant Women Support Act signed into law in 2010 is taking that reason away and providing assistance to women who do not want abortion but lack the necessary resources or support to carry their pregnancies to term. You can read some highlights here.

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Let it go

** The following was published in The Hill – Congress Blog **

Last I checked, the Griswold v. Connecticut and Eisenstadt v. Baird decisions, which provided a constitutional right to contraception for married and unmarried couples, still stand. No one has been denied access by law.

So what is all the fuss with the Hobby Lobby decision? Why is there a flurry of bills addressing abortion and contraception in the U.S. Senate? Did the Supreme Court ban contraception or women’s access to contraception in their recent ruling?

The answer is no.