I was furious the other day when I read that the Sierra Club had declined to endorse Darcy Burner (D-WA) in what is arguably the most important congressional race in the country. It made me think back to Markos' first book, Crashing the Gates and how he chastised single-issue advocacy groups playing politics (badly) by bending over backwards to appear bipartisan, damaging any semblance of a progressive coalition in the process. In the past we have attacked boneheaded moves by HRC and NARAL when they've endorsed Republicans whose only quality was that they were not quite as bad as your garden variety, drooling fascist GOP member of Congress. HRC, an out-of-touch, Inside-the-Beltway gay civil rights organization, for example, endorsed Susan Collin's mediocre record on gay issues while ignoring Tom Allen's 100% record. Their callous political calculations-- that if Allen won he'd be pro-gay anyway and that if Collins won she'd "owe" them-- are just plain putrid and it's typical of these one-issue, puffed-up Insider orgs in Washington.
Today the opposite happened, thanks to some foresight from Planned Parenthood. Collins Watch broke the story in Maine.
In a precedent-setting move with national ramifications, Planned Parenthood has broken decisively with Sen. Collins, and will endorse Rep. Allen's bid to unseat her.
The decision to intervene in the race--coming from the nation's most important and respected pro-choice organization--sounds an urgent warning to pro-choice Collins supporters, admonishing them to take another look at the junior senator's record.
And because Planned Parenthood backed Collins in 2002 (and frequently endorses Republicans) its support for Allen represents a serious, nonpartisan challenge to Collins' carefully-cultivated "moderate" image.
It's the first time Planned Parenthood has backed the challenger to a senator it had previously endorsed. It also seems to be the first time Planned Parenthood has backed a Senate challenger over an incumbent who identifies as pro-choice. And It also serves as an example to other so-called "progressive" groups, showing that it's possible to avoid reflexively fluffing those in power. It still irks actual progressives that NARAL endorsed Joe Lieberman over Ned Lamont-- and Lincoln Chafee over Sheldon Whitehouse. There have been rumors all year, in fact, that the undependable NARAL would even, despite her overwhelmingly rubber stamp posture and intense support for McCain, endorse Collins this year. In light of Planned Parenthood's courageous decision, NARAL might be more hesitant to make such a move. Instead they should remember that Collins:
-voted for the confirmation of anti-Choice radical Sammy Alito to the Supreme Court.
-voted for nearly all of President Bush's lower court judicial nominees, including right-wing activist appointees like Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown.
-voted for the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, a law that pro-choice groups saw as a backdoor attempt to undermine Roe v. Wade.
-has remained silent about the Bush administration's recently proposed DHHS rule, which grants health care providers wide latitude to deny services to women on a case by case basis.
So... today we congratulate Panned Parenthood for doing the right thing. This is probably a good time to remind everyone that Tom Allen's race to win the Maine Senate seat is tightening and that Tom needs help from grassroots donors. You can do that here at our Blue America ActBlue page.
Follow Howie Klein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/downwithtyranny