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Pollitt tics

By Michael J. Smith on Friday September 22, 2006 10:31 PM

I used to like reading Katha Pollitt -- one of the few voices in The Nation that seemed sharp, and individual, rather than a ponderous, moralizing, Op-Ed wannabe. And I always thought she was pretty smart, too.

But there's something about American electoral politics that makes even smart people stupid. Poor Katha has a column this week which is, truly, one of the saddest things I've ever read.

I'm writing this column in Clinton, Connecticut, where I live part of the year and hope to vote in November. I'm abandoning the antiquated voting booths of New York City because I want to do my bit to help the Democrats take back the House and Senate....

It's all downhill from there. It's an abortion column, basically, and Katha ties herself in knots trying to argue that single-issue reproductive-rights advocates should not be supporting candidates based on their reproductive-rights record. Rather, they should support Democrats no matter what. Here's her argument, reproduced (and reduced, like a deglazing sauce) from NARAL. It seems that if Democrats get control of Congress, the following wonderful things will occur:

  1.  Pro-choice lawmakers would control key committees, and pro-choice lawmakers would instantly become a majority on every panel.
  2. Rather than sitting through anti-choice hearing after hearing, called by anti-choice committee chairs, new committee chairs could spend their time promoting women's health.
  3. Anti-choice lawmakers would no longer have a forum to spread propaganda....
  4. Pro-choice lawmakers could hold hearings to investigate the FDA's refusal to approve emergency contraception over the counter, the devastating effects of the global gag rule on women's health, and pro-choice measures that could reduce America's staggeringly high rate of teen pregnancy.
  5. Pro-choice forces would control the Senate and House floor schedules. This means that we could avoid anti-choice legislative attacks--and instead, see votes on pro-choice bills that have been held up.
It's hard to choose, but I think my favorite is point 2: The Democrats wouldn't have to "sit through" so many tedious hearings -- and they could use the time, instead, to "promote women's health." Personally, I could ask nothing more of Smith's Inferno than that Democrats should have to spend eternity sitting through hearings -- and as for "promoting women's health," where, I wonder, has Katha gotten the idea that Democrats would do any such thing?

This woman is too bright, and too funny, and too experienced, to degrade herself with this kind of Daily Kos congressional-page sophomorism. "Control the floor schedule," for Heaven's sake -- is this what left politics in the United States has come to?

Comments (12)

J. Alva Scruggs:

Ho, ho! Even "single issue" groups have to appeal to a broad constituency. It can be an ugly, compromising process getting enough people on the same page, but that's often what it takes. Keeping at least some non-partisan cred gives the groups room to make enforcement of bad laws much harder. Ultimately, they need to be in a position to defy the government, regardless of what suit its wearing. You don't get that by hugging a party tarbaby.

"We need support in both parties. I can take out a fully antichoice incumbent, so why would I turn my back on my friends?"

Schipp gets it. I'm sure one could criticize NARAL on other grounds, but not for a lack of understanding about the way power works in a formal democracy. If you can't lower the boom, you got nothing.

Oh that is just freakin' priceless! "Don't support prochoice candidates if it might make a democrat lose." If it were up to women like herself, Katha would still be waiting for sufferage.

Y'know, there was a very brief time, about five years or so ago, where The Nation actually got a little bit...exciting. Uh, huh, The Nation was _exciting_ for a time, there, when Seattle had just happened and we were cranking up for "A16" in the spring, Ralph Nader was making the old-guard Donk geezers shit themselves in public -- and The Nation was running guest columns by Michael Moore -- of all people -- who was telling people to vote for Ralph Nader, f'crissakes.

Then the Donks rolled over, Bush "won", and suddenly in The Nation it was "oh, woe is us for ever thinking there would ever be a solution outside the Democratic Party", and Moore was publishing open apologies to the Democrats for having supported Nader. The Nation turned into a hundred-percent weak-assed partisan rag; I can remember a headline from the last Presidential "election" which read, in so many words, "Kill Ralph". Their craven shilling for Democrats in '02 and '04 pretty much finished them for me. There's an article in there this week headlined -- as I recall -- "A Battle for the Soul of the Democrats", which had to be one of the more absurd headlines I've ever seen in The Nation. Democrats? Soul?

The subscription's in the Dear Wife's name, so it keeps coming to our house, and she reads it from cover to cover; sadly, I think the DW is reading The Nation because she thinks it'll counteract the effects of all the Meet The Press, McLaughlin Group, Chris Matthews and Anderson Cooper she watches.

I think the DW is reading The Nation because she thinks it'll counteract the effects of all the Meet The Press, McLaughlin Group, Chris Matthews and Anderson Cooper she watches.
I fear the cure may be worse than the disease.

Seriously -- there's a lot in what you say. The buffoonery of the right seems to evoke a corresponding buffoonery in what passes for the Left, but with the sign reversed -- if the McLaughlins are red-faced, spittle-spraying bad boys, the lefties have to be law-abiding, institution-worshipping Parson Weemses. It's like the righties have taken the bad-boy niche, so us Pwogs can't do that. Why not?

js paine:

from deep inside
the bad to the bone niche:

i may have read something
by this lady bug
maybe a lot
but i never tied it to her brand
or at least not enough
to retain the brand even

so i can't vouch for her
" i was wise once " -ness

but the pro choice fetocide litmus
is pure upper middle class
fem pandering anyway

a luxury issue for folks without
necessary issues

come on

dems will
crusade to retain "our"
legal abortion right ???

so f...ing what

hasn't technology taken
that threat:
state by state
kill the baby
down to the level
buying a bag of grass ???

surely the folks flamed up on this
have nothing to worry about personally

so its all gratuitous
prog oblige altruism

lookin' out for poor teen gals
from your high sister love perch...???

i guess its not a sin
its not like me
trying to screw em

but come on
a pending
yahoo jesus backed
" state" war on abortions ???

like on drugs ????

that dear hearts
will never be declared
and surely not enforced

illegality would prolly make it
more availible and cheaper too

better the deal get freed
of its goo goo medical vampires

teen pregnancy rates ???

this too is as phoney an issue
as we got in the quiver

phoney as the craven teen sex wave itself

the war on higher paying jobs
where's the donk
calling for a pearl harbor attackon that
on the artificial job scarcity system itself

where's thew donk cry

" storm the fed "

what dem has a plan to stop
any serious shit ???

other then
raising the wage min
pumping more loan dollars
and tax credits into
the ultimo
pro klass snob apppeal
up lift issue:

4 more years of school shit
college for all

hasn't technology taken
that threat:
state by state
kill the baby
down to the level
buying a bag of grass ???

You've got it backwards, jsp. Grass laws are actually a bizarre hodgepodge, hot-and-cold affair that frequently put Federal and State law enforcement at odds with each other. That's certainly the case in this state. Last I heard, OR's medical marijuana laws were far more generous to pot-smokers than Federal laws are. Which means that if you smoke in accordance with OR law, you are in no way protected should the Feds decide to take a shine to you. Ahem.

The more of a patchwork these laws are, the more even "nice" daughters of the edjamacated risk incurring the wrath of the law and ending up publically disgraced, or in the pen. I don't wish that on anybody, though you could make the argument that it could be a dynamically polarizing event, much like the revived draft could be. Others, of course, fear the gigantic body count and loss of future talented citizens makes the price of such a risk too high. That was certainly the case in the draft thread here, and it's not a settled issue when feminists discuss reproductive rights, either.

I think that the potential of a huge break between feminists and the remainder of pwogs/Demopwogs is always there. Much as it's always there between the pwogs/Demopwogs and labor, or Black folks, and so on. So far, however, it's only potential. The Dems continue to bank on people like Pollitt and her Nation pals being the bailing wire and spit that holds the sputtering, outdated engine together.

Pollitt has always been a staunch supporter of equal access, and there was a time in '00 when she seemed to make the connection between the rollback of rights and the fact that Democrats were in charge for much of it. But all that is forgotten now. She's a team player, with the duopolistic ring firmly through her nose. She pines for a time that even she once knew never really existed for feminists in the DP. And every time Bush's crew gives a yank to the right, she and her buddies have no choice but to follow along. For some reason, they have forgotten those wire-cutters in their back pockets. It's really a fucking shame.


Prithee, Smithee: "If it were up to women like herself, Katha would still be waiting for sufferage."

I don't think that's quite fair to Pollitt, who *used* to know better. See some of her earlier columns around very similar questions, at about the time of the 2000 and 2004 elections. She knew that party politics and movement (Movement?) politics were not the same thing, and that women should not depend on any of the usual governmental institutions to give them their rights. In the 90s she even pointed out what a cynical pig Bill Clinton was on these points. But like a lot of libs, the Dubya regime has worn her down, I think. (Molly Ivins is another example, though she's not nearly as cool or smart as Pollitt.) She's heard the Anyone But Bush mantra too often and bought into it.

I've been a fan of Pollitt's for a long time myself, though I'm aware of her weaknesses. She's been best on feminist/women's issues and literature/arts. When she goes into things like "postmodernism" or the science wars, she tends to fall apart. I had a lot more problems with the coilumns reprinted in _Virginity or Death!_ than I did with her earlier stuff, and I don't think it's just because I've changed.

I remember the Nation being exciting too... back in the late 60s, when I started reading it in my high school library. There's still some good stuff in there, though -- Naomi Klein's important piece reminding us that the Bush gang isn't the first US administration to use torture, for example. But it's an odd coincidence that I finally let my 20-plus year subscription lapse just before Pollitt's latest sad column. She and Andrew Cockburn used to be the main reasons I kept the sub going. Now I can read Cockburn at Counterpunch. As for Pollitt, what to do? Shto delat?


Personally, I think single-issue politics are just great, and I wish we had more of it. I wish there were more people who simply would not vote, ever, for a warmonger, or an AIPAC drone, or a right-to-lifer, or a job-exporter or a union-buster or or or.... Our politics would be a lot healthier if people really would just stick to their goddam guns on the issues that really matter to them.

If reproductive rights is your issue, that's fine with me. It is, after all, part of a commitment to liberty and autonomy, which ought to be Left banners, in my opinion.

Katha was the first one at The Nation rag to come out against Dennis Kucinich. Why? because he came too late to the Pro Choice side. I realize Dennis sold his supporters out. But at the time Katha was banging on him, he was far and away the best candidate in the Democrappy Party.

js paine:

i'm a hydra issue guy

its hard to imagine an issue i'm not willing to chop off
so long as it doubles itself
after i'm done my handy work

but in any event

issue trumps party seems the key here

poor KP
seems as stuck on teen gal
choice protection

as i am
on baldness remedies

i suspect we'd all agree
certain sine qua non
issue holders
look foolish
to the rest of us flexible flyers

am i right here??

if there's no one with
your view on issue alpha running
you boycott

there's no moving to the beta issue
in this
its not a lexical ordering

its a litmus pass or i'm staying home

how about a candidate
staunch as mike fink
on the main issue

but ready to sup with the devils
overlook wrong stands
on topic A

js paine:


i can not agree

hodge podge indeed

but i claim
the analogy brakes down
at the point of enforcement

even worse then grass users

okay trafficking in after pills may get a trial or two

but i 'd like to see a conviction even on that
unless the person has other admissible

but users ending up

"publically disgraced, or in the pen"

none sense
won't happen here
not even in the nut bar states


like the creationist challenge

a boogey man the dem's can costlessly offer to protect us from

vigilante anti abortion riders

will make them evaporate

they'll hunt down mexicans instead

watch the RC apparatchiks
already climbing off
to all the more fully "mount"

anti gay marriage

talk about single issue politics

paine's law

you can't mobilize the yahoos
to fight two unrelated
irrational culture threats at once

Maybe you'd see it differently if you had different equipment, jsp. Or not. I posted more about this on my LJ, if anyone's interested.

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