According to Ken Herman’s column in today’s Austin American-Statesman, at a candidate forum featuring thirteen of the eighteen GOP candidates seeking the Congressional seat Lamar Smith is vacating in District 21, contender Jenifer Sarver said, “It’s not a popular primary message to tell you that I want to work with the other side, but I think it’s necessary.” She also said she’s concerned about the GOP, “because I see a party that’s aging and white, and that’s not the future of our country…. We have a tone that is shutting people out. Young people are not interested in joining our party. Women are leaving our party in droves. And if you look out over this audience it’s a very white crowd here tonight.” Another candidate Matt McCall filled the silence that followed her response with “We shouldn’t be getting along with the side that wants to kill babies.” He added, “Married women vote Republican…. We don’t have a problem with women. We have a problem that people aren’t getting married in this country.”
Embedded in these quotes are various challenges of our time that we need to overcome. The first is thinking of our two major political parties as “sides.” While each party has its own general strategies as a starting point for making policy, we are all on the same side–the side of the American people. If the two parties work together, each bringing their strategic points of view and seeking expert opinion along the way, chances increase for producing policies that increase the quality of individual and community life.
Matt McCall demonstrated the tone “that is shutting people out,” with his words, “We shouldn’t be getting along with the side that wants to kill babies.” No one wants to kill babies. We do need for office holders, most of whom are male, to grapple with the fact that one-half of babies’ deliveries are paid for by Medicaid and more than one-third are born to single mothers. The state of affairs in our reproductive health in our nation–including the highest rate of maternal mortality in the country being here in Texas–is appalling. We keep on allowing new generations of people to be born into poverty. The current administration in the U.S. and in Texas is not showing love for these babies when it ignores the need for health care, quality public education, and a decent environment for all these young lives that join us each day. Start funding social services appropriately and start making accessible contraception a part of people’s life habit. Then think of this as a world in which “we” live, not a world in which one side is “Republican” and the other, “Democrat.” In the meantime, for those of you in District 21 who care about the young children being born into poverty and the mothers who give birth to them, consider casting your vote in the Democratic primary. While Friends for Civil Action doesn’t endorse candidates, know that I personally am impressed by Joseph Kopser; he strikes me as a savvy strategist who will work for all of us, not just some of us. Those of us who don’t vote in his district can still consider helping with campaign contributions and volunteer help.