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We Must Uphold Our Platform!

by Laura Nevitt on May 18, 2011 · 28 comments

Yesterday the Minnesota Senate passed two bills that attack a women’s right to make reproductive choices for herself and have access to affordable health care. SF103 severely limits state funding for abortions while SF 936 prohibits abortion after 20 weeks. Both of these bills have House versions that were passed last week and now these bills will go to Governor Dayton’s desk to be vetoed.

Not only is this a sad day for all women in Minnesota and the legacy of Roe v. Wade, it is especially sad to me as the President of the DFL Feminist Caucus. I am particularly saddened because of the number of DFLers who authored these bills and voted in favor of them. I worry that they could help to override the veto.

The DFL Platform specifically states, in two distinct  places, the party’s support for women and for choice.

In the Civil, Human and Constitutional Rights Section:
“We oppose government interference in all matters related to the control of one’s own body, including protection of the rights of women to bear children, practice birth control and obtain safe and legal abortions “

In the Health and Human Services section:
“We support private and public funding for health care programs that include pregnancy care, family planning and abortions, regardless of age or income”

I proudly align myself with the DFL and  head up the DFL Feminist Caucus because I believe in the principles and platform of this party and am proud that they are so willing to put it in writing. As a woman and as a feminist I know that this party is the one that should stand up for my values and for me.  Notice I said should.

While I am glad the DFL  has  this commitment in  writing, I now hope they start putting it into action.

With the passage of the two bills 19 DFLer’s voted against women and their own platform. Five of them even put their names on the bills. Here is the list:

SF 649/ HF 936 – Abortions at or after 20 weeks postfertilization age prohibited unless exceptions apply, and civil and criminal penalties provided.

DFL Senators:
Gary Kubly – SD20
Keith Langseth  - SD9
Tom Saxhaug –  SD3
Dan Sparks – SD27
LeRoy Stumpf – SD1

DFL Representatives:
Authors: Patti Fritz – 26B, John Ward – 12A,
Voted for:
Joe Atkins – 39B
David Dill – 6A
Denise Dittrich – 47A
Kent Eken – 2A
Patti Fritz – 26B
Larru Hosch – 14B
Kory Kath – 26A
Lyle Koenen – 20B
Ann Lenczewski – 40B
Paul Marquart – 9B
Mary Murphy – 6B
Gene Pelowski – 31A
John Ward – 12A

SF 103/HF 201 – Limit State Funding to state-sponsored health-programs that provide abortions

DFL Senators:
Gary Kubly – SD20
Keith Langseth  - SD9
LeRoy Stumpf – SD1

DFL Representatives:
Authors: Patti Fritz – 26B,  Mary Murphy – 6B, Larry Hosch – 14B, Lyle Koenen – 20B
David Dill – 39B
Denise Dittrich – 47A
Kent Eken – 2A
Patti Fritz -26B
Larry Hosch – 14B
Kyle Koenen – 26A
Ann Lenczewski – 40B
Paul Marquart – 9B
Terry Morrow – 23A
Mary Murhphy – 6B
Gene Pelowski – 31A
John Ward – 12A

I know that calling out fellow DFLers will be taken in different ways – some positive and some negative. I know I will get accused of causing infighting or the like. But to me and the members of the DFLFC this is about accountability.

The DFL has a party platform and I expect that when someone decides to run as a DFLer,  seeks our endorsement and gets it,  that they will  uphold that platform to the best of their ability.  To put your name on or vote for a bill that goes directly against not one, but two ( I could push it to 3) of the party’s platform is a unacceptable.

The DFL party, which raises much of its money off of the back of activists, women and feminists, puts that money to use by helping get these anti-choice DFLers elected.  This needs to change.

The DFL Feminist Caucus is committed to making sure these principles are upheld by all elected officials who choose to call themselves a DFLer and get money from the DFL.  To that end we call on all DFL officials to support, without qualification, their platform that recognizes the rights and health of women are not negotiable.

Laura M. Nevitt
DFL Feminist Caucus

TonyAngelo May 18, 2011 at 12:49 am

Until one of these legislators actually votes to override a Dayton veto, any talk of withdrawing the party endorsement is premature. We are not Republicans, we have room in our tent for opposing viewpoints.

If one of them does vote to override a veto however… well than I’m all for pulling their endorsement and running a primary challenge.

laurie May 18, 2011 at 12:56 am

Thank you Laura,

Finally a caucus having the balls to call out the party.

Dont see any other caucuses doing this

Curmudgeon May 18, 2011 at 2:51 am

This isn’t about party loyalty, it’s about human decency. These despicable democrats have turned their back on women and on human decency. Why? to get elected. If those district want a Republican to lead them on to destruction, elect a real Republican instead of these Republican fake copies. This widespread hatred of the real people in Minnesota and rank cowardice is one of the reasons I quit the DFL. If I lived in any of the contaminated districts, I’d have no qualms about voting Republican.

It’s a shame that the real people in the DFL part and the legislature, and there are many truly caring souls, are saddled with this scum.

Some months ago a I asked one of the representatives on the hate list about fair and moral tax policies. Her answer, “I have to get elected!” Golly gee, how wonderful.

TonyAngelo May 18, 2011 at 4:47 pm

guarantee the GOP majority stays intact.

Laura Nevitt May 18, 2011 at 1:19 am

No one is calling for “pulling an endorsement” – mostly because that only happens when they are running for election or re-election – which none of them currently are. It will be a whole other issue next year.

What we are asking is that if those who choose to run as a DFLer and expect to get money and support from the party(again, when they are running for election/re-election)  - that they uphold our Platform – is this really too much to ask?

Dan May 18, 2011 at 1:20 am

1)  The DFL platform is meaningless.  As a general rule you want DFL candidates to confirm with the ideas set forth in the platform, but the idea that the platform is somehow binding on these DFLers is nonsense.  Voters elected these reps.  No one elected the DFL platform to anything.

2) The last thing you want to do when your party is in the minority is to go on purity purges.  I don’t like anti-choice DFLers any more than you do, but now is the time to expand the tent, not shrink it.

3)  As someone else points out, these votes don’t matter because Dayton will veto the bills.  If the veto gets overridden due to DFL votes, you can call people out, but these votes are irrelevant.  

JML May 18, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Dan is correct on all points. This is the problem when a party platform becomes less of an expression of principles and more a repository for particular policy goals. A party platform shouldn’t be a means to hold representatives to a kind of purity test, but instead an expression of common ideals designed to help tell the voter or potential party member what the party stands for in general terms.

When a rep. votes in ways that are out of step from the party platform, it’s really up to the local party unit that nominated them to determine if they’ve gone so far away from the DFL party ideals as to look to move them out. If the constituency caucuses have a similar beef they can deny their endorsement or criticize as well, but expecting a state-wide push against individual reps…well, these folks weren’t elected state-wide, so I’d expect them to tell people to go pound sand. They care more about the opinions of people in their district than any constituency caucus or party platform, and really that’s the way it should be.

I don’t think they’re going to have the votes to override, and I expect the DFL leadership in the House & Senate will be carefully counting noses…and when they know they’ve got the votes to sustain the veto certain members will be allowed to vote their conscience or their district. I’m not panicking yet. (and with most of these Reps & sens, if anyone was surprised they voted this way, they really weren’t paying attention)

Dan May 18, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Dan is correct on all points.

I don’t get that too much on this blog.  Thanks.  

Laura Nevitt May 18, 2011 at 2:13 am

Sorry Dan,

They aren’t irrelevant to me and lots of women who think choice matters. It is exactly this attitude that is the problem – just because Dayton may end up vetoing them, doesn’t make it ok.

And you are correct – the platform is meaningless right now – but it shouldn’t be. The Platform is what the party is supposed to stand for and we should start upholding it. And no, its not binding – but it should mean something.

And no one is talking about a “purity” test or throwing anyone out of the party – but we have principles and values that we are supposed to uphold, that are supposed to be important to us and worth fighting for – is that not so?

NorthernMNer May 18, 2011 at 2:43 am

but think the venue for this is at the local party level.  Its one thing to cast a vote to reflect the overall character of the district you represent, but there are core principles we need to highlight.

This doesn’t mean there will be no consequences, however.

Praise in public, punish in private.  

I have a feeling some of these DFL members will need to do a lot of fence-mending if they want canvassers, donations, phone-bankers, etc.  


ericf May 18, 2011 at 3:03 am

They’re going to be more concerned with the reaction in their own districts than with the state party. They may not care a bit about anyone outside their districts. Some legislators get pretty provincial.

Of course, too much playing to conservative or swing voters can alienate the people who donate, doorknock etc., which matters a lot at the legislative level. Can’t just figure on running enough TV ads to make up for lack of enthusiasm.  

laurie May 18, 2011 at 3:17 am

in the 2010 election local parties didn’t get HQ support, didn’t timely reports, didn’t get any thing as far as leadership, direction, VAN help, Coordinated Campaign help, or people stepping forward to even run against GOP candidates. The local level can’t do anything if candidates are not allowed to use the state dfl calendar, the coordinated campaign volunteers and more. This is as much a Top on down as it is a bottom on up.

Dan May 18, 2011 at 9:00 pm

First of all, choice is very important to me.  Wherever possible, I want to see the DFL choose pro-choice candidates.  I got in some heated arguments here when Carly Melin was going up against an anti-choice DFLer for Tony Sertich’s safe DFL seat.  I don’t want you to think I don’t take this issue seriously.  

When I say the platform is meaningless, I mean that it always has been and always will be meaningless.  I expect that a lot of DFL elected officials have never read the platform and have no idea what’s in it.  Its an exercise for delegates to feel like they have input, but it has no bearing whatsoever on what DFL candidates support. I agree that choice is an important Democratic party principle and you can argue that Democrats should be pro-choice.  But the DFL platform is irrelevant.

Whether you like it or not, punishing DFLers for bad votes on choice issues is a purity test.  In theory, the idea of the “big tent” seems great, but what the big tent means is that you are willing to tolerate people who oppose things that you support.  The Democrats made big gains nationally in 2006 and 2008, then their supporters got upset because a lot of blue dog Democrats voted the wrong way on important issues.  As a general rule, you have a choice between a pure minority, or an impure majority.  We would like to think that we can elect progressives in every district, but the reality is that the only way we can win some districts is with blue dog-type candidates.      

The fact that the votes don’t matter because they will get vetoed is important. I expect that when push comes to shove, enough of these DFLers would change their votes to prevent an override.  They just don’t want to spend their political capital if they don’t have to.  I don’t have a problem with that.  We need to be focused on results, not principles.  

radicalhw May 18, 2011 at 2:46 am

Since when is it “purity” to demand that legislators stand up for women’s civil rights?  If it were the rights of another DFL core constituency, would you react the same way?  

Why wait until Gov. Dayton vetoes the bills to call these legislators out?  Do you believe in the platform’s values, or don’t you?  

How you answer will say a lot about how you value women in the party–their money, their time, and their votes.

Dan May 18, 2011 at 9:08 pm

It has always been “purity” to call out anti-choice Democrats.  That is probably the single biggest purity issue Democrats have faced.  When you talk about having a “big tent”, you aren’t talking about having members who diverge on minor issues, you are tolerating members who have fundamental differences on big issues, like choice.  

BPete May 18, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Thank you Laura, for saying what needed to be said.
It’s called a Platform, not a List of Suggestions, and it does get voted on, by the SCC.
I can’t help but wonder what other basic Human right we’d be willing to dismiss, for the sake of a few more votes.
We have a lot of strong Advocates for Women’s rights in our Legislature, and they make me extremely proud of my Party. To have these anti-Women DFLer’s voting the way they do, lends credence to the other side, instead of bolstering our side, and negates all the good they’re trying to do.
Not only should we contact these anti-Women DFLer’s, but we should also send a note of thanks, and support, to those who are upholding our principles.

” If we don’t fight hard enough for the things we stand for, at some point we have to realize we don’t really stand for them.”    Paul Wellstone

Dan May 18, 2011 at 9:04 pm

It is called a platform, but the reality is that at best its a list of suggestions.    

taxpayingliberal May 18, 2011 at 8:00 pm

I’d love to see how much money these candidates received from the DFL or it caucuses or volunteer time the caucuses spent on these campaigns. My guess is little if anything.

 Caucuses that only influence the platform without providing the means to help elect are worse than worthless.

These folks voted for these issues for several reasons but one of the reasons was because there is no price to pay for voting against the platform. The opposite is also true. If they had voted for the platform would the caucus have supported them with more than a pat on the back next fall?  Hardly.

If you want to enforce the platform and once again make it worth something:  then do what these elected have done, raise money, campaign and actually do some work.  

TigerLilyQueen May 18, 2011 at 10:31 pm

I want to thank Laura and the DFL Feminist Caucus for addressing something that has been gnawing at my soul.  Why on earth would I support a DFL party that gives money and resources to candidates who DON’T SUPPORT ME?

This whole notion of a big tent is a farce if women are pushed to the back of the tent…next to the rotting garbage, with leaky holes in the ceiling and eating castoff scraps, while watching the rest of the folks under the tent enjoying a sumptuous feast in the dry part of the tent, away from the stench and the flies.  

Why on earth would we want to stand under that tent, if we are treated like second-class citizens? Add insult to injury…we’re asked to donate money to stand under that nasty portion of the tent and watch everyone else get what they want while we don’t. More insult? We’re asked to volunteer so that the jerks who pushed us into the leaky part of the tent don’t have to sully themselves by walking through the drips in the leaky section to dispose of their trash. We should be happy to do the dirty work for them, eh?

Nobody puts this bitch in the back of the tent and expects me to like it. If we have to have a big tent, then who do you choose to occupy that tent…the DFL Women of Minnesota or the anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ legislators? You can’t have both.

Chris May 18, 2011 at 11:03 pm

SF 649/ HF 936 – Abortions at or after 20 weeks postfertilization age prohibited unless exceptions apply, and civil and criminal penalties provided.


this is 2/3 of the way through the second trimester. Isn’t viability 22-24 weeks? Is this what we want to run on heading into 2012? I’d prefer to focus on the GOP-led Legislature’s record.

Are we really willing to throw Democrats under the bus on something like this? Wouldn’t a Tea Party representative be far worse than Larry Hosch supporting something that probably most Minnesotans favor, anyway.

Laura Nevitt May 19, 2011 at 3:47 am

This is about throwing them under the bus – interesting that pointing out votes that go directly against something the DFL/Dems are supposed to stand for is automatically taken as a negative – especially when it come to women and choice. If this were about labor, farmers, a race issue or anything else – this wouldn’t even be an issue.

What this is about is women and their families being able to make reproductive choices for themselves and not legislating it. Period.  We start making exceptions is what got us here in the first place. it about trying to uphold that value. Its about expressing an opinion, belief and frustrating about this issue continually gets shoved to sidelines for the sake holding on to seats.

Its about the continued onslaught of this kind of legislation going on here, across the nation and at the federal level. Do you realize that there have been over 1000 pieces of legislation across the nation this year alone that attack funding to healthcare and reproductive care for women – over 1000! This is unprecedented.

This is about wanting my party and its elected leaders to hold up the values that the members have decided are important to us.

taxpayingliberal May 18, 2011 at 11:38 pm

To state that these candidates are “anti woman” because of this vote is to ignore reality.  Many of them are fighting hard to hold the line on cuts to women’s health care, all day kindergarten, Planned Parenthood, employment and many other women’s issues. Let me assure you that the alternative to these folks will be far worse.

The reason these bills came up in the 1st place is because Republicans hold both houses.  Is the solution to give Republicans an even bigger majority?

I know that all of these representatives received hundreds of phone calls and e-mail from the other side. What effort was made by the feminist caucus or any other group?

I drive by many pro life billboards on my way to work from up here and have yet to see a single pro choice one in ten years.  There is a reason why Larry is the only elected DFL’er in the entire 6th district (the biggest district in the state).

It’s time to realize that getting an issue on the DFL platform is just the 1st step and not the last.  

Laura Nevitt May 19, 2011 at 3:34 am

Interesting that you brought up the billboard thing – there have been man attempts in the past to purchase billboards to counter the prolific number of anti-choice ones – almost every attempt has been rebuffed by the billboard owners.

I also don’t buy the argument that holding to one’s beliefs automatically means they would lose their seats – I think they cast these votes just so they say they look good to their district – but they don’t really believe it. I think that if you hold true to your own values from the get-go, your constituents will honor that – remember Paul Wellstone?

Dan May 19, 2011 at 5:11 pm

I think that if you hold true to your own values from the get-go, your constituents will honor that – remember Paul Wellstone?  

Paul Wellstone, like any Democrat elected statewide in close races, piled up big margins in the cities and the Iron Range, and lost badly in the type of districts these representatives are from.  The fact is that no matter how much you “hold true” there are some districts that aren’t going to elect unabashed liberals.

JML May 19, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Here’s the thing: some of these Reps. & Sens. actually believe the votes they’ve taken (others may just be trying to representing their district). I may not agree with their vote, but come on. For instance, Ann Lenczewski has ALWAYS voted this way, everyone knows where she stands on this. If that’s no longer acceptable then the DFL Feminist Caucus should find a candidate to challenge her for endorsement and/or primary her, but let’s not pretend this is some shocking betrayal that’s she’s not 100% on board with the DFL platform!

And Wellstone comparisons just don’t do it for me any longer. I loved Paul as much as anyone, but A) not every politician in this state is Paul, B) Paul voted for DOMA, so he struggled with these issues too. Trotting out Wellstone as the reason why DFLers must have fidelity to the platform just doesn’t fly.

ericf May 19, 2011 at 11:35 am

The subject of when to challenge incumbents who were more hindrance than help came up during the health care debate. I wrote a lengthy post then about the questions that need to be asked being engaging in an intraparty challenge with some real-life examples, plus a couple thought experiments on problematic Democrats applying the criteria I laid out. http://www.mnprogressiveprojec

In re-reading it just now, I noticed mentioning in the comments that if the conservadems were going to lose their seats anyway, might as well challenge them in hopes of picking a candidate who could win, and one year later, a bunch of Democratic incumbents who opposed health care reform lost anyway. The chance of the incumbent keeping the seat in the general election is one of the criteria I laid out.

taxpayingliberal May 20, 2011 at 1:21 am

Laura: How much effort was put into this before the vote was taken? What did any pro choice group including the FC do to sway the members votes?  

Laura Nevitt May 20, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Every pro-choice women’s organization that I know of made calls and had members at eh capitol when they could. Some of the bigger ones that have enough staff and money – like NARAL, Planned Parenthood and MN NOW have lobbyist over at the capitol talking to these legislators everyday. So there was lots of effort made.

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