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Monday, April 18, 2005

PA-Sen: Choosing on Choice?

Posted by Bob Brigham

As Lakoff says, when you negate a frame you invoke the frame. In Pennsylvania's 2006 Senate race, we are seeing this proven. In the past two days, the Philadelphia Inquirer has devoted a large number of column inches towards examining the subject that the DC insiders said wouldn't be an issue: Choice.

Yesterday, Karen Heller had a column titled, No primary for you. The sub-head read, "With Senate candidates like these, one thing's certain: Women lose."

If Casey defeats Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania will have the dubious distinction of fielding one of the Senate's most moderate Republicans and one of its most conservative Democrats, so conservative the Republicans will wonder why he isn't theirs.

Casey was chosen for several reasons: name, name, name, and that his politics are virtually indistinguishable from those of Santorum, to say nothing of his looks, age and family life.

Like his father - did we mention that his father was the late governor Robert Casey? - the state treasurer is staunchly anti-abortion. He's also staunchly against gun control.

Choice as an issue will not matter in the Pennsylvania race. There is no choice.

Well, actually there is. Which Carrie Budoff and Thomas Fitzgerald report on today:

But as a 2006 U.S. Senate candidate, recruited by national Democrats for one of its highest-profile races, Casey will be forced to address abortion as he seeks the nomination from a party in which he holds the minority view. [...]

Top Democratic leaders see Casey as their best chance against Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, who worked for eight years to help pass the 2003 ban on late-term abortions. To win the nomination, Casey must first get by Chuck Pennacchio, a University of the Arts professor who supports abortion rights.

So will choice become an issue in the primary?

"A lot of women will make sure that not a nickel of their money goes to Casey," said Kim Gandy, head of the National Organization for Women, which has gathered 13,000 signatures on a Web protest petition.

There is even talk of wealthy donors boycotting the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in retaliation. You can see the passion in the Karen Heller piece:

Casey is not an appealing choice to progressive women. Specifically, he makes this progressive woman ill.

Santorum and Casey are like the old Patty Duke Show, they walk alike and talk alike and, gee, if you can tell them apart, please, let me know. [...]

Both parties should be open to more voices. I just don't want Bob Casey's voice representing mine.

Casey's Web site offers no positions yet, though he's uttered plenty of hollow platitudes about "supporting working families." Aren't we all for working families?

He supports various welfare entitlements which, a cynic might point out, poor women are going to need, especially if access to choice keeps diminishing.

Like all voters, Philadelphians ought to be selfish. Women voters ought to be selfish. I don't see either candidate representing my interests, or those of a lot of other women.

I've asked social and political activists why, more than a year before the election, this huge state can't produce better candidates instead of Brylcreemed clones. One organizer said to me, "I tend to support causes that have a realistic chance of getting accomplished."

There has to be more choice than none.

As regular readers know, Swing State Project's Tim Tagaris directs communication for pro-Choice Democrat Chuck Pennacchio. He offers his take on MyDD and Daily Kos.

I have two concerns at this point.

My first concern is that by negating Choice as an issue, it has become the defining story of the campaign. By agreeing with Santorum, not only are we turning off our base, but we also threaten to invoke right-wing frames by signaling to voters that the right has the good ideas. As the storyboard of the 2006 campaign unfolds as a backlash against the theocrats assault upon personal rights, my worry is that Democrats may be unable to take advantage of the national debate in this key race.

My greater concern is that some DC consultants want to move Democrats away from individual rights at a time that we should be highlighting our defense of civil liberties. Pennsylvania will be the most nationalized race in 2006, my choice is for a candidate who is on message with the rest of the Party.

There are ways that anti-choice candidates can approach the issue without harming the Party. But this isn't it:

Like his father, Casey Jr. said he believes the government's right to protect the vulnerable includes the unborn. He bases his conviction on biology, he said, not his Catholic theology.

"There's a life there," he said.

Casey said he will not make it a defining issue.

Regardless of what the Casey campaign is planning, with a stance like that I don't see how abortion can be anything other than the defining issue.

Posted at 01:18 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Democrats, Pennsylvania | Technorati