The Problem with Democrats

January 13, 2018 By: El Jefe Category: 2020 Election

I’ve never been a real Democratic party stalwart.  Though my grandfather, who was a Methodist preacher, described himself as a Texas Democrat when I was a kid, I’ve never thought of myself that way until many years later.  In the recent past, I’ve described myself with the same label, but to be honest, I really think of myself more as a Texas Progressive. And, I think some Democratic leaders are idiots.  Sorry if that offends some sensibilities.

I was never very outspoken or political until the late 90s/early 2000s when I got led (lured?) into party involvement, primarily after I was introduced to Nancy Pelosi when she was growing the DCCC and running for Speaker.  In 2001, at my first fancy Washington dinner with Pelosi for the DCCC, I shocked my table mates declaring that I was not a Democrat, nor really anything in particular, and that I thought for myself.  They looked at me as if I wasn’t wearing any pants or something.  Over the coming years, though, I evolved, and then went all-in for Obama very early.  I was surprised by the vitriol about my decision from Texas Dems I had come to know; one even tsk-tsked me about how stupid I was to support that unqualified “guy” over the real leader, Hillary Clinton.  But I was steadfast in my belief that Obama was the right candidate at the right time for the right reasons.  That worked out pretty well.

During the 2008 primaries, though, my dislike and distrust of party politics was strengthened by the behavior of party loyalists.  The campaign was vicious, as we all know.  Hillary hung on long after she lost until the second night of the convention when she finally caved.  After the convention, though, it got even worse. All the Obama haters poured into the campaign, and elbowed out early Obama supporters like me.  And Obama let it happen, trying desperately to get Clinton loyalists into his camp.  It worked and he won, but many of us who had enthusiastically supported him got steamrolled big time by the establishment Dems.  After the election, it was back to business as usual with the same people doing the same thing in local and state parties, and especially the DNC.  It made me sick.  The resulting disaster in 2016 was easily foreseen by anyone paying attention.

Which brings us to today.  Even with the worst president in US history infesting the White House spewing racist hatred and nonsensical tirades, the Democratic party still can’t find itself.  As I’ve written about before, party leadership is so entrenched and calcified that they think their silly slogan “A Better Deal” is somehow fresh new ground in which to plant a crop of new party loyalists, but it’s simply not.  The party is controlled by east and west coast urban elites and social activists, and has really disengaged from its base of working people, unions, and just regular folks.  A new report by Cheri Bustos, a third term Democrat in the House representing northwest Illinois summarizes the problem.  She points out some pretty grim facts:

“The number of Democrats holding office across the nation is at its lowest point since the 1920s and the decline has been especially severe in rural America.”

For example, in 2009, Democrats held 57 percent of the heartland’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now: 39 percent. In 2008, Barack Obama won seven of the eight heartland states. In 2012, he won six. In 2016? Trump won six.  Of the 737 counties in the midwest, Trump won all but 63. The party has lost the heartland, at least as a reliable constituency.  Repubs control the statehouses in 32 states.  Even with horrible policies, the Repubs dominate the center of the country.  Why?  Because they push the buttons that appeal to the heartland, but not just God, guns, and gays, but government incompetence, “job killing” regulations, and the plight of working class voters.  The Dems’ problem, even when they talk the opposite, is that the party suffers from serious group think, and demands ideological purity in all issues.  There’s no room in the “big tent party” for those opposed to abortion, those who believe in more conservative fiscal policy, or have concerns different from the coasts and urban areas.  Party leadership talks all about diversity, but allows only certain brands of diversity.

As a result, many traditional voters don’t believe the national party speaks to them.  National leaders give lip service to jobs, but then don’t really do anything about jobs when they are in power.  They talk a lot about wage equality, but don’t talk to the problems of that welder from Ohio or that farmer in Iowa.  And because there are fewer and fewer Dems representing the heartland, the problem becomes a vicious circle where the remaining Dems focus on their constituencies rather than those Dems serving life sentences in Red Land by accident of geography.  That’s how you get lifelong Dems voting for Donald Trump.  His lies and promises speak to them better than platitudes from some “Latte-Sipping Panty Waist” from San Francisco.

I don’t have an answer to the problem more than imploring organizations like the DCCC and local parties to stop raising money from Dems in red states to shore up the base in blue states.  Plus, they’ve GOT to talk about other issues besides marriage equality, abortion, and religious tolerance.  Those issues are certainly important, but they’re not the ONLY issues. They’ve GOT to address infrastructure; they’ve GOT to streamline the bureaucracy for businesses.  Being in business myself, I have to reluctantly admit that the federal bureaucracy for certain businesses in glacially slow.  In one of my companies, it routinely took FOUR YEARS to get a remediation plan for a gas well site on federal land approved.  FOUR YEARS?  And the entrenched bureaucrats would take the maximum time to get anything done.  If the time limit was 30 days for them to respond to a permit, you can bet on the 30th day at 5 pm, you’d get another data request or modification requirement that would stretch the time another 30 days.  This kind of bureaucracy, historically favored by Dems, is intended to improve safety and protect the environment, but it’s used as a weapon by unaccountable bureaucrats to make it as expensive as possible for private industry to operate. And I’m speaking from personal experience.  Like it or not, that kind of policy destroys jobs, pisses people off, and shifts votes to idiots like Trump.

The Dems have a once in a decade chance here to make some progress.  But if they don’t stop doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result, they will be able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, á la 2016.  And the country simply can’t afford that result again.

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40 Comments to “The Problem with Democrats”


  1. You pretty much nailed it about the problems at the top levels of the party.

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  2. Amen.

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  3. When the DCCC calls for donations, I try to be polite with the caller because I know that calling is only a job for them. Then I explain that when the DCCC gets around to supporting a viable candidate in my home state, I might send them some coin. They haven’t managed to do so for years.

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  4. Jane & PKM says:

    Mama would kill me for sharing most of the communications I had with Debbie WTF Schultz. We give to the state Democratic Party, Emily’s List, specific candidates and suggestions from Ms. Juanita Jean Herownself. Our family are not “new” Independents like those too embarrassed to admit they’re Republican and voted for Donnie. We caucused for Bernie and voted for Hilz in the general.

    Already we hear murmurs of limiting who plays in the 2020 primary. While that sux, where’s the focus on 2018? Better yet focus on today as in take it to Donnie and the Cans over immigration. There are 3 separate issues within immigration. #1 DACA #2 Immigration Reform #3 Border security

    Get DACA done. Today. Or tell Donnie his wall is about to crumble, send his bill to Mexico and a number of things that generally summon Mama with a bar of soap.

    Lyin’ Ryan does NOT control the House. His raucous No Freedom Caucus prevents him from doing anything without Democratic support. Make the sniveling little weasel pay up front. DACA or nothing, Paulie.

    Meanwhile, until the DNC acts like progressive FDR Democrats, they can hold their breath waiting for us to send them a dime.

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  5. Ohhh my!

    There are effectively two political choices for adults in America. If you are not Republican and you’re not Democrat you are part of the rounding error. I met with some of the new Dems today who were in my neighborhood passing out door hangers and shaking hands. They are not “bad” people, but their emphasis was on “marriage equality, abortion, and religious tolerance” and the more recent #metoo revelations. When I tried to remind them “the economy” was most important to the most voters, the push back was measurable. I wish them well and I will vote for them, but I haven’t a good feeling about their priorities in the big picture.

    BTW, hide bound foot-dragging bureaucracy is not exclusive to government. I had a traffic accident with a young woman insured by an insurance company headquartered in Washington County, Texas. It took this company every day of six weeks to settle the claim and pay off the note on my totaled motor car. Every phone call with them resembled a root canal sans anesthesia. The internet has not gotten to Washington County Texas based on my observation of their claim no-servicing non-efforts. I sincerely believe if the claims rep could have drug out the settlement another week or two they would have.

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  6. Charles R Phillips says:

    Not to sound like a Debby Downer, but it’s high time we torched the rotting ediface and started over.

    Ever since the FDR revolution, the Dems have been committing jiggery-pokery on the party until it is well and truly broken. Now’s the time to dig in and start over while we’ve got the repubs on the run.

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  7. Mother Jones' cat says:

    It sounds like most of us, myself included, aren’t giving money to the DNC or the DCCC. But I don’t think the DNC and the DCCC really care about the lack of donations from the hoi polloi. The DNC and the DCCC just care about the money they get from wealthy donors and bundlers. It is their dollars that they want and their interests that they serve.

    And on the topic of bureaucracy and private industry I think the problems El Jefe encounters in his business are the result of the fact that his is a small business. If you have big bucks and own a major corporation you fly through bureaucracy like a knife through butter. Plus, if you are a major corporation, you don’t have to comply with those pesky regulations because the state enforcers won’t pick on anybody that can afford to keep them tied up in court.

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  8. The top news stories this morning were of Trump’s raw vocabulary toward darker skinned people, and his lawyer paying off a porn star.

    Then, here in Hawaii, a state owned by the Democratic Party, with state employees mainly Democratic voters, one of them mistakenly sends out an incoming-ballistic-missile-this-is-not-a-drill message. That’s the national headline now.

    Trump’s indiscretions? Gone.

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  9. Sorry. Opposition to abortion is a dealbreaker. Women’s bodily autonomy is not a bargaining chip and my life is not yours to play with.

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  10. The Ds are terrible at tooting their own horn. And at raising hell. I know precinct level Rs who have been getting the daily talking points for 30 years.
    As an very early Obama supporter, I wondered what was up when they ignored Howard Dean. And sometimes I think the people who control the Democratic party have shit for brains. And i also am constantly pissed at precinct chairs who do not bother to get their very own know Ds to the polls. Where were the Ds when Tom Delay gerrymandering the county? Were they completely out to lunch?

    I will continue to vote D. But, I am in conflict with them. I have as much agreement with the Rs as I do with the Ds.

    Tata, like many here, I was very vocal getting the ERA passed in Texas. Since that time 50 years ago nearly, I have told anybody who would listen that the plan from the opposition from the beginning is to take any BC off the market. Even the hairy armpit feminist thought I was nuts.

    I gave up years ago. We give money to candidates. That’s it.

    And the one thing that affects me is the 07 race. Looks like the front runner doesn’t live in the district. If Alex wins, Culberson will eat his lunch for not living in the district. The other leader, an Emily’s list pick, thinks the only issue is abortion.
    I give up.

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  11. @Tata – I get it. But you’re damn sure not going to protect that right if Dems keep losing elections. You can demand purity, all the way to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Your choice.

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  12. Mother Jones’ Cat:

    I too, refuse to give the DNC any money. I politely but firmly tell them that when they can start acting like and backing progressive FDR democrat candidates, then I’ll consider giving them money. In the mean time, I’ll give money to individual candidates.

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  13. Jane & PKM says:

    Crone and Tata, health care is a human right that begins with women’s health care. The rates for infant and maternal mortality are increasing at criminal rates. Forced birthers like Mike Pence have made their states the STD capitols of the US. Whereas Hickenlooper in CO has dramatically reduced teen pregnancy.

    It’s all about messaging. Those candidates who cannot comprehend what Cecile Richards can state so succinctly need to beg her for a tutorial and show their quiz results afterward. We share your frustration. The concepts are so simple. I’m convinced the forced birthers are deliberately st00pid.

    El Jefe, not disagreeing with you. But simply pointing out that going Republican lite or wasting time trying to attract Republicans is futile. Think we can all agree that we need to excite voters so that they actually vote. Maybe step one is educating the candidates on messaging.

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  14. Kate Dungan says:

    I stopped going to local meetings quite some time ago. They had no idea what was going on…it’s like they never picked up a newspaper or magazine. When a local repube wrote something incendiary, they’d sit on their hands and ignore it. I finally got the president of the local group to return fire and I backed her up in the paper. She never did it again; she didn’t feel comfortable. They were worthless at the local level, and things like that are the root of the problem.

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  15. I have disagreements with the folks running the Dem party, yes, but tell me how to protest them without helping to elect GOPs, who vote in lockstep for policies I abhor. There is no viable third party in the US and won’t be for some time.

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  16. Sandridge says:

    Micr,
    Ja, ich kenne den, in Brenham, richtig? They’re a relatively small insurance company, likely very ‘conservative’ in every respect.
    I’ve gotten quotes from them, but I never get anyone with better than my USAA and State Farm rates.

    I often used to commute past their HQ, ja, and also the nearby Blue Bell HQ, plant, and dairy bar. Naturally the dairy bar was often irresistible on the long way home ;] .

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  17. El Jefe:

    Under zero circumstances will I ever vote for an anti-choice politician. Zero. There are issues on which I will compromise, but I have a daughter and a granddaughter, and I will never, never betray them. You can call me whatever name you like, but millions of women feel the way I do, and if you don’t already know that, remember that sea of pink hats a year ago, and know your point is moot.

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  18. Scotty in Illinois says:

    Amen.

    Politico’s cover story was about the young activists who turned Alaska purple- and how they had to work around, or run over the state party to take the legislature from the baggers. It’s an instructional manual that can be adapted elsewhere. Unfortunately, the DNC offers molds that they expect us to fit ourselves into

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  19. joel hanes says:

    disengaged from its base of working people, unions, and just regular folks.

    There’s your problem.
    That hasn’t been the Democratic base for forty years.
    Reaganism happened.
    There are no more politically potent unions.
    Just regular folks and working people got swept into the Republican Party by culture war issues (especially the adoption of single-issue antiabortion voting by evangelical Protestants) and by the Southern Strategy appeals to racism.

    The core of today’s Democratic Party is women and people of color. The unions are never coming back, and neither are the racists.

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  20. A couple years ago Samantha Bee did a piece on Falwell and friends using Roe v. Wade to rally their troops and build a movement. It should be required viewing for all the Congress.
    And every candidate local, state and national, and consultants.

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  21. another-otter says:

    to Crone@8:52. Link please.

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  22. @Jane & PKM – I wasn’t clear. I am most certainly not advocating Repub Lite, not in the slightest. But what I am advocating is not allowing some New York liberal party leader dictating purity of ideology rules for the entire party. That works in New York, but it sucks in southern Indiana. The party needs to support Dems, period.

    @Tata – Like I said, you do what you need to do, but I would argue that you’re going to have a hard time maintaining your position after President Pence nominates Jerry Falwell Jr. to the Supreme Court who then votes to overturn Roe v. Wade, and support gerrymandering. You can be righteously indignant, and I understand, but you also have to understand the realities of winning elections.

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  23. Joel Hanes, you beat me to it. The old Dem coalition is gone, unions have been busted to pieces. As a state employee retiree in a very blue state I’m embarrassed to tell folks I have an actual union-fought-for pension( that I worked for 36 years). But as my tax guy said, it’s not anything I did wrong- EVERY worker should have the same protections.

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  24. It’s been shown over and over again that economic anxiety is not the issue for most Trump voters. They are willing to lose benefits themselves, as long as black people, Muslims, immigrants, and others lose them too. The real base of our party is black people, especially women. We need to listen to them.

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  25. Marge Wood says:

    Keep talking. I am now overwhelmed by begging emails saying, “Why haven’t you (given money, filled out the form, etc)? I now unsubscribe and say you have no right to guilt trip me. I talk up the candidates I believe in (yay, Beto!) and explain stuff to people who will hold still long enough. I was so sorry that Bernie and Hillary couldn’t work things out and we got stuck with a crazy man because of the super rich supporting him, I guess that’s what happened.
    Remember about 18 years ago, the Dems weren’t organized enough and Rhett Smith got on the ballot. In Austin he got 30 percent of the vote without much of a campaign. He just likes to run for office, any candidate, any party.
    Is it too late to get Howard Dean back?

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  26. @Sandridge

    Ja in Brenham.

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  27. Karen Crosby says:

    What El Jefe said. And I live in Philly!

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  28. I think the brainwashing by Fox News contributed to the decline of the Democratic party as well (losing support).

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  29. joel hanes says:

    The party needs to support Dems, period.

    On this we ca can agree.

    If you ever stumble over a magic lamp, please wish for

    1. The ability to create Democratic-leaning billionaires who wish to reliably provide long-term funding for a Democratic infrastructure, such as state parties that work every day in every year, campus outreach to young progressives, county parties with regular office hours, “think tanks”, a couple lavishly-funded convention circuits, and a permanent Democratic Party media operation.

    2. Someone liberal to buy CNN from Ted Turner.

    3. A time machine

    Then

    Go back to 1977, and create a hundred or so Democratic-leaning billionaires. Have a couple lavish conventions at which you help them organize.
    Found Democratic Party recruiting organizations on most large college campuses, particularly at flagship state universities.

    Fast-forward to 1995. Have one of your billionaires pre-empt Time/Warner’s bid for CNN, and re-charter to pursue hard news and facts, profitability be damned.

    The ugly truth is that they have and always will have almost all the billionaires, and we must struggle along as best as we can with truth and ethics and humanity on our side instead of dollars.

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  30. joel hanes says:

    pension

    earned

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  31. El Jefe:

    My righteous indignation? One in three women will have an abortion. That’s the statistic that should render it obvious women should not support the forced birthers under any circumstances. One in three. Your mother, your wife, your daughter. One of them has had or will have an abortion.

    Which one are you willing to sacrifice to a back alley abortionist? These are the real issues of women’s lives and I am 100% sick of men talking about them as if our lives are not literally at stake.

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  32. Linda Phipps says:

    Purity. That was, in my opinion the biggest cause of Hillary’s loss. There were too many who wanted the perfect candidate (I actually wanted someone with Bernie’s passion and Hillary’s rolodex) but then I decided to just go with Hillary. This might be the very first time as a person on a pension to donate to Democratic candidate. The best thing for fence-sitters and holier than thou purists is to unhesitatingly back the down ballot democratic candidates. If we can turn the tide in 2018, maybe there will be enough time to persuade the country that the conservatives are selfish twits and need to go home.

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  33. Jane & PKM says:

    El Jefe, a few things to remember when the forced birther and wingnuts for the control of women attack Roe v. Wade. Number one is that Roe v. Wade was not “new” law. The Roe decision reinforced previous law and certain principles such as patient/doctor privilege and privacy. Also foremost is that they are hypocrites whose arguments have nothing to do with ‘pro-life.’ If 10% of what they claim had an element of truth to it, they’d be out in front of Walmart decrying the sale of condoms and low wages. Let’s not lose sight of the ugly truth that there is a war on women by those cretins. Good way to wrinkle their brows with consternation is to ask them their position on a different medical procedure other than abortion like maybe vasectomies.

    My apologies too, El Jefe. Bad sentence structure on my part at #13. Did not mean to remotely imply that you were advocating for Republican-lite. To be clear my issue(s) is/are with the candidates. If they can’t support sound economic principles and embrace human rights in the same appearance then maybe they need a few refresher courses before becoming candidates. A definite goal for Democrats and an invitation to Republicans.

    lol I know. Wishful thinking to invite Republicans to the 21st century.

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  34. El Jefe, the real power in the Dems is in the precincts as was surely demonstrated in Virginia, New Jersey et al in recent weeks. Ralph Northam was sworn in yesterday in Richmond along with his running mates. Even the R’s in the crowd were relieved. Gillespie, the K Street shill, was just not their cup of tea. Policies such as economics, human rights (includes women’s reproductive rights), civil rights, etc. are still seen by too many people everywhere as “egghead” stuff and they don’t want that. They see it as being constantly schooled by others who see them as ignorant, blissfully or not. So does that leave the common touch? I bet it does but hopefully not as common as the Golden Gibbon has made it. There isn’t enough bleach in the world to clean up after this guy and his tribe.

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  35. Karen Byrd says:

    I realize we must be unified to get the Republicans out of office, but I don’t want it done on the backs of women. We have been that ‘forfeit’ interest long enough. Where will women’s rights be if the Dems won’t defend us either? It won’t be one out of many. It will be every Dem in a purple or red district.

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  36. Jane & PKM says:

    Karen Byrd, it should not be incumbent on either women or persons of color to fix the accumulated messes of old white men.

    It’s incumbent on all of us with a conscience to vote and resist where Donnie and the snacilbupeR would take our country. Divided as our country might be, the majority of us know right from wrong. Dotard45 lost the election by 3 million votes. His electoral college ‘win’ is highly question given both the Russian interference and that a recount was derailed in the 3 states that gave him a questionable EC win.

    Moving forward, it’s not productive that we ‘white’ men lean on women and persons of color. But we do need to set aside our economic and dubious privileges.

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  37. Paul Haupt says:

    This is the best analysis of the Democratic party’s conundrum that I have seen. It needs to be a nationwide editorial.

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  38. Jonathon Hubbert says:

    The decline of the Democratic Party is entirely financial. As soon as Reagan moved on organized labor in ’81, the fight was on. When union members have bread on the table, a chicken in the pot, a car in the garage, gas in the car and time on their hands they will organize, support candidates that support them and rear their offspring to do the same [by example]. But … union members had to back-off to put bread on the table, a chicken in the pot, trade the Olds for a Chevy, buy regular fuel instead of premium, and the offspring didn’t have a role model at home; they were working two jobs each. I aplaud all the different opinions here and the forum Juanita Jean provides; the experience of the ‘el Jefe’ … but our first mission as soon as we get back in office is to riddle the repukes so they can never pull a phoenix on us. The reactionary movement of the koch bros., missy mcconnell, lyan ryan, the fifedom coalition, the t-potty, ‘religious liberty’ of the irreligious, et al must be strewn about the dessert to whither and die. They have tried to do this to us. They have failed — as they should have — and we must be ruthless. Although they are fundamentally flawed, in as much as they are not disciplined, and selected the one candidate that would provide us with the motivation and ammunition to remove them – Ample Rump/.45 – we must not flinch. THIS … is our mission.

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  39. I’m with @Tata. In some states, we’re already down to back alleys and drugs from Mexico.

    Our rights have been chipped away since Roe to the point where there are almost no clinics left and no doctors trained to do the procedure.

    If the Anti’s are willing to admit that BC reduces the need for abortions and are willing to admit that it’s better to have a safe, legal procedure, they’re welcome under the tent.

    My personal opinion is “Abortion on demand and without apology.”

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