Progressive issues rule the political arena during the Democratic primary for gubernatorial races. The environment, health care, choice, education, LGBTQ matters and welfare become topics of discussion and debate by the very politicians who stand up for these rights and issues best. The question then becomes who is the most progressive and best suited for the highest office in the state.
What are liberal voters looking for in a candidate? They seek a candidate who vigorously protects the rights of underrepresented people and the environment. Liberal voters are concerned with keeping reproductive rights in the control of women, not the government. Someone who will be bold enough to stand up for LGBTQ rights without wavering. And like most other voters they look for prudent experience and intellect.
With saying that, how could a leader in the progressive community like Mark Pocan endorse a gubernatorial candidate like Tom Barrett? Barrett’s voting record in the U.S. House of Representatives is less than stellar. It is surprising that Pocan is willing to allow his powerful name recognition to be linked to a candidate like Barrett.
In 1996 and 1997 in roll-call votes #65 and #94 respectively Barrett voted to ban so-called “partial-birth” abortions, which should make any pro-choice politicians and voters question his pro-choice platform. Last Monday night the College Democrats invited Barrett to speak at their meeting. There he defended his anti-choice votes by saying that the pro-choice community can’t win debating eight-month abortions and that the choice movement fights for the wrong things.
I would like to offer to Barrett that women’s lives are considered not only the right “things” but also very important “things.” He should also know that late-term abortions are only 1/15th of 1 percent of all abortions and 86 percent of those are preformed because of life endangerment to the pregnant woman.
As a progressive, Barrett must also support gay rights, yet his campaign literature cannot fool inquisitive voters. In 1996 he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in roll-call vote #316. In voting for this bill, Barrett proved that he views people of the LGBTQ community less than equal to heterosexuals like himself. Also in 1993 he voted to eliminate the Washington, D.C., domestic-partners ordinance, denying queer or unmarried couples the ability to retain their health benefits. When questioned about these votes at the College Democrats meeting Barrett quickly announced his endorsement from openly gay state representative Mark Pocan.
Jennifer Epps, ASM Diversity Committee member, attended the meeting and said, “just because he has endorsements from gay politicians does not give him the right to discriminate against queer people.”
While Barrett is using Pocan’s endorsement freely he does not support the state representative as much as Pocan supports him. When asked if he would support Pocan’s new bill, Barrett said, “I would work with Mark to get something appropriate and acceptable that I could sign.” His less-than-supportive answer should ignite the attention of Pocan and others as to Barrett’s true motives.
Barrett seems like a nice guy, but voting has little to do with kindness and a whole lot to do with issues. Barrett is not the progressive candidate he desperately wants to be. Other gubernatorial candidates such as Kathleen Falk are light-years ahead of Barrett on executive experience, thus the balancing of a budget, and important progressive issues. Falk supports domestic partnership benefits and will not tremble under anti-choice pressures, for she is 100 percent pro-choice. Kathleen Falk tackles every issue seriously and she truly is the candidate for liberal and progressive voters.
The women’s vote in the 2000 Presidential Election was coveted by every campaign. Some argue that it was the deciding factor in the race. In Wisconsin’s 2002 Democratic primary progressive issues will take control of voters. In the end, the candidate who stands for the rights of all people will move on to round two of the gubernatorial race — and that candidate should not be Tom Barrett.
Lauren Besser (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a junior majoring in political science and English.