Imagine if Democrats, sick and tired of losing white votes in Mississippi, decided to nominate a segregationist for governor. Imagine if they found that LGBTQ rights turn off voters in Tennessee, so they ran one of those anti-same-sex-marriage Christian bakers. Imagine if they found that plenty of Oklahoma voters didn’t believe in climate change, so they ran a denialist. After all, why get hung up on one item in the long list of good things we all support when the important thing is getting back into power? Everyone has to take one for the team sometimes, right?
Don’t worry, Nation readers. These scenarios aren’t about to happen. Only women are expected to let history roll backwards over them. Only women’s rights to contraception and abortion are perpetually debatable, postponable, side-trackable, while those who insist on upholding the party platform—and the Constitution—are dismissed as rigid ideologues with a “litmus test.” Party leaders can’t come right out and say so—in fact, Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez has issued a statement declaring that abortion rights are non-negotiable. But if you pay attention, you can feel the waters are being tested. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi told The Washington Post, “This is not a rubber-stamp party.” Why else would Perez meet with Democrats for Life? And why did so many pay such close attention to Heath Mello, a former state legislator in Nebraska with a long record of anti-abortion votes, who ran for mayor of Omaha with the approval of both Bernie Sanders, and, initially, Perez? Maybe they hadn’t done their due diligence and didn’t know, or maybe it was a test: Can we win in red states if we run anti-abortion candidates?
After Mello lost, some blamed meddling out-of-state pro-choicers and the national media for making his many anti-abortion votes in the State Legislature a high-profile issue, despite the fact that his opponent was a reasonably popular Republican incumbent. So then why did the takeaway become “Ooh, look at those mean pro-choicers messing with our candidate” and not “Well, I guess being anti-choice isn’t such a vote-getter after all, and the price in nationwide opposition is too high to pay”? See above: because the issue concerns women’s rights. Amazingly, it is still an open question whether a woman is a person or a human bassinet.
Now comes Joshua Svaty, who is running in Kansas’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. Svaty, who served most recently as the state secretary of agriculture and EPA adviser, has a long anti-choice record from his years in the State Legislature (2003–9). He voted for no less than 11 anti-abortion bills, including one that declares the “unborn child” a person from the moment of conception, and a rather confusingly worded measure, vetoed by then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius, that would have allowed a woman’s husband, parent, or guardian to sue the clinic to prevent her from getting an abortion or receive damages if one had been performed. Never mind what the woman wanted; her pregnancy belongs to her family.