Challenging Stupak (2)
If there's one thing that really differentiates (or should) the left from the right, to me, it's issues of individual freedom and self-determination vs. governmental, social, or other institutional efforts to limit that freedom. It's liberals who fought to end the laws against birth control and interracial marriage, who support the right to abortion, who rolled back the anti-sodomy laws, who fight back when schools, corporations, or other institutions try to assert arbitrary and unreasonable control over their students or employees. It's liberals who are driving the campaigns for drug decriminalization and gay marriage, even if many Democratic politicians do not have the courage to take a stand. The fight over the "social issues" is basically a fight over whether individuals should be able to live their own personal lives as they wish, or whether their choices should be arbitrarily limited by ancient religious taboos and the impersonal interests of giant private enterprises which, in practice, can exert far more power over individuals in most circumstances than the government does.
(It's true that the "standard" liberal position on one major issue -- gun rights -- flies in the face of this. But I don't believe this position is truly a consensus one. I've known liberals who were gun-rights supporters and even gun owners.)
In the freedom-vs.-control arena, it's hard to imagine any issue more fundamental than abortion. If you don't have an absolute right to make decisions about the inside of your own body, and your own reproductive processes, completely free of interference from laws or bullies or religious taboos, it's hard to see what right over anything you can claim.
Which is why Stupak is so jarring. I can understand a Democrat voting against HCR for any number of reasons. But a Democrat standing in the abortion-banners' camp seems like an absolute contradiction in terms.
Stupak has a challenger in Democratic primary: Connie Saltonstall, a solid liberal and pro-choicer who announced her candidacy only two weeks ago but has already been endorsed by the NOW and NARAL and is attracting nationwide attention. Seldom do we see such a clear choice between a real Democrat and a DINO.
There is, of course, a risk that Saltonstall might be less electable; the district, covering much of northern Michigan, is rural and fairly conservative. The danger is that she might lose and allow a Republican even worse than Stupak to take the seat. I haven't seen any polls on the relative strength of Saltonstall and Stupak against a Republican opponent, and it's probably too early for such polls to be meaningful yet anyway. But in this case the risk is worth taking. Stupak is too wrong on too central of an issue. If we could put Saltonstall in Congress in his place, we'd actually be further advancing the gains of 2006 and 2008, not just defending them.