Washington, DC



Washington, DC

Katha Pollitt missed some key points in her analysis of how choice is playing in the midterm elections [“Subject to Debate,” Oct. 9]. She’s right that NARAL Pro-Choice America will play an integral role in many key races but wrong to suggest this electoral plan is self-defeating. It’s exactly the opposite. Our political action committee, which makes decisions on which candidates to endorse, comprises Democrats, Republicans and Independents from across the country. This board has authorized nearly $500,000 in direct contributions in this election cycle to 117 dynamic prochoice incumbents and challengers from both parties.

As I explained to Pollitt during our phone conversation, NARAL Pro-Choice America (and the board that makes our PAC decisions) supports candidates based on their individual records of support for a woman’s right to choose–not their party label. Yes, at this moment Congressional Democrats vote prochoice more often than incumbent Republicans. But as we all know in politics, the game board always changes. If you look at our generic vote count in the House, even if the Democrats take back control by a slim margin, without prochoice Republican votes there are more than enough antichoice Democrats to continue passing antichoice amendments and bills. The antichoice movement knows this and over the years has cultivated antichoice Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Should we be shortsighted and ignore the important and critically needed votes of prochoice Republicans?

Representatives Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons, both mentioned by Pollitt, have consistently stood up to antichoice leaders in their party and voted to support women’s freedom and privacy. In fact, both have served as leaders of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. They have never shied away from expressing their prochoice convictions. Without question, they have earned our endorsement.

Also, Pollitt gives too much weight to Connecticut when discussing how party control could switch in Congress. We can gain the fifteen seats we need for a prochoice House if Johnson and Simmons are re-elected.

The list below includes seventeen races in which we are supporting prochoice challengers against antichoice incumbents or prochoice challengers in open seats currently held by antichoice members. Yes, they’re all prochoice Democrats, who earned our endorsement under the same standards Johnson and Simmons did: Ellen Simon, Harry Mitchell, Ed Perlmutter, Ron Klein, Tammy Duckworth, Bruce Braley, Paul Aronsohn, Linda Stender, Attorney General Patricia Madrid, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mike Arcuri, Dan Maffei, Mary Jo Kilroy, Lois Murphy, Adm. Joe Sestak, Patrick Murphy, Darcy Burner. So, if fifteen of these seventeen candidates win in November, we could have a prochoice House that includes members of both parties. Given their records, Johnson and Simmons will continue, if re-elected, to cross party lines to support prochoice legislation.

Katha, we appreciate your consistent advocacy for women’s reproductive freedom. We hope you’ll consider giving some ink to many of the prochoice candidates I have mentioned. With so much at stake in this election, we all can agree that our energy now needs to be directed at insuring their success in November.

NANCY KEENAN, president
NARAL Pro-Choice America

Brooklyn, NY

We were disappointed to see the usually on-target Katha Pollitt lump the Working Families Party with single-issue groups that reflexively endorse Republicans. As Pollitt knows, labor and progressives had been pushing a hike in New York’s $5.15 minimum wage for years, but it was always blocked in the Republican-led State Senate. After five years of work, the WFP and its allies won a $2 per hour increase. The Republican senator who helped make that possible won our support, as did many Democrats who also played an integral role.

As the late, great Jack Newfield wrote (in the July 20, 2004, New York Sun), the minimum-wage increase marked “the culmination of a four-year crusade by the 6-year-old Working Families Party to better the living conditions of 700,000 New York State residents trapped in the low-wage world. Never before has a new political party made such an impact on statewide public policy.” As Newfield understood, we didn’t endorse Senator Spano for leverage; we did it so that “700,000 working stiffs will have a slightly better life.”

Look, there are many, many reasons to look forward to a Democratic-Working Families majority in the New York State legislature sometime in the next few years. But there are also reasons to want to improve the lives of low-income New Yorkers right now.

It’s also worth pointing out, since Pollitt is one of the most important feminist voices in the country, that she missed an important feminist angle of this battle. The majority of low-wage workers are women. They work part-time more than men, and they tend to have worse benefits (sick pay, vacation, pensions, etc.) as well. According to an article I read recently, “single women with children are most likely to declare bankruptcy.”

Pollitt is free to disagree with all of this. But if she thinks an extra seat for the Democratic minority was worth giving up the minimum wage hike, she needs to make that argument. Politics is full of tough decisions, and we sometimes make mistakes. But this one seemed then, and seems now, like a decent judgment call.

We welcome criticism from smart progressives like Pollitt–but first they have to acknowledge that in real-world politics it sometimes takes hard choices to get real results. The WFP has a pretty good track record, and we hope that Nation readers who live in New York (or Connecticut) will recognize that by voting on the WFP line in November.

Executive director, Working Families Party



John Nichols’s October 2 “What Can Sherrod Brown Do for the Democrats?” captured our future senator well–sharp as a whip, a truly compassionate listener, full of good new ideas. Nichols left out that he is a feisty fighter, running rebuttal ads three days after the first negative spots ran (Senator Kerry, take note). Nichols also didn’t mention Sherrod’s smart, wonderful wife, Connie Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize winner for her columns in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who is campaigning with him. Worst of all, the illustration makes Sherrod look like he has a skin disease! To see how good-looking he really is, go to www.sherrodbrown.com. Please!



John Nichols touts Sherrod Brown as a principled, gutsy, nearly flawless progressive who should serve as a role model for Democrats. On September 27, Representative Brown broke ranks with most of his House Democratic colleagues and voted with Republicans for the “enemy combatants” bill–a mild term for legislation that essentially abandons the rule of law and diminishes our nation’s moral standing in ways too monumental to fully grasp. I understand Nichols’s quest for progressive leaders to help guide Democrats to the victory we all seek, but I wonder what he thinks of Brown now.



Burlington, Vt.

Thank you for publishing Geoff Pingree and Lisa Abend’s “Spanish Justice,” an informative update on Spain’s use of “universal jurisdiction” in Guatemala [Oct. 9]. As someone who cares deeply about this issue and works for justice in Guatemala, I enjoy seeing a corrective to the media black hole that is coverage of Latin America since our gaze has shifted to the Middle East. It also reminds me why I subscribe to The Nation. It wasn’t so long ago that US policy supported despotic Latin American governments, thus the struggle for justice in Guatemala has great implications for current US rhetoric on democracy.



Rochester, NY

Daniel Lazare’s otherwise good review of Osman’s Dream [“Ottoman Ghosts,” Sept. 25] is marred by a common error about the Battle of Lepanto. Despite Catholic (Chesterton!) propaganda, Lepanto was not decisive and certainly did not result in the Ottomans’ “losing their grip in the eastern Mediterranean.”

In the year of Lepanto, the Ottomans took Cyprus. The vizier is said to have remarked that Venice may have singed his beard, but he had cut off her right arm (see Jan Morris, The Venetian Empire, a must-read for anyone interested in Aegean history).

And in 1645 the Ottomans conquered Crete, the jewel of the Aegean. (Besieged Iraklion famously held out till 1669, but Cretans count the Turkokratia from the fall of Chania, the capital at that time. Crete is the precise borderline between Christianity and Islam.)



New York City

Rather than echoing chest-thumping Catholic propaganda, I should have written merely that the Battle of Lepanto was a sign that the Ottoman domination of the eastern Mediterranean was not as complete as previously believed. My thanks to Sam Abrams for the clarification.




As a Chicagoan, I appreciated Katrina vanden Heuvel and Sam Graham-Felsen’s piece on the Big Box minimum-wage ordinance passed by the City Council [“Chicago’s Living Wage,” Sept. 25]. Sadly, Mayor Richard Daley “vetoed” the ordinance by getting three aldermen to change their votes. No job versus a low-paying job is no choice. Once again the big corporations won by bullying the people, saying they wouldn’t come to Chicago if the ordinance was in place. And we the people are the losers, in a city where people working all day cannot pay the rent and buy food for their families.



Vallejo, Calif.

Each time Bush’s press secretary appears in the news, I wait for the media to characterize the offerings with the obvious term: “Snow Job.” Have I missed it?


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