The purpose of Emily’s List is about as clear as it gets.
We elect Democratic pro-choice women to office.
Three criteria for funding in one concise sentence, that they be Democrats, pro-choice and female. Fair enough. This is the glory of our American democracy, that you can support candidates for the reasons that matter to you, good or bad, and Emily’s List has its reasons.
But apparently there’s an asterisk in there somewhere, and an invisible caveat. Maybe I can’t see it because I’m male. Maybe because of the very long list of things about me that make me a pariah to the left, but I suspect it’s because of my liberal leanings of tolerance, civil rights and reason that I can’t see the asterisk and caveat. Fortunately, the New York Times is here to tell me about it.
One of the largest contributors to Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s political rise announced on Tuesday that it would cut off its financial support if the senator continues to refuse to change the Senate’s filibuster rules to allow for passage of far-reaching voting rights legislation.
Emily’s List, the largest funder of female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights, made the extraordinary announcement as the Senate barreled toward votes this week on a bill to reverse restrictions on voting passed by a number of Republican-led state legislatures.
Krysten Sinema? She’s a woman. She’s pro-choice. And while her party affiliation is Democrat, enough so that Chuck Schumer is the Majority Leader rather than the kid begging for a shot at the microphone after a press conference, is she Democrat enough for Emily’s List?
“Understanding that access to the ballot box and confidence in election results are critical to our work and our country, we have joined with many others to impress upon Senator Sinema the importance of the pending voting rights legislation in the Senate,” Laphonza Butler, the president of Emily’s List, said in a statement. “So far those concerns have not been addressed.”
To be fair, Emily’s List is entitled to use its funding as it chooses, even if its contributors may not, like me, have seen the asterisk and caveat, and thought they were providing funding to pro-choice women running as Democrats, regardless of their positions on other issues.
Whether the two pending voting bills are critical to “access to the ballot box” is debatable, but Sinema says she support the bills. Her issue is with blowing up the filibuster to enact them, a proposition of significant doubt given the potential that the Democrats might not always be the majority in the Senate.
She added, “Right now, Senator Sinema’s decision to reject the voices of allies, partners and constituents who believe the importance of voting rights outweighs that of an arcane process means she will find herself standing alone in the next election.”
So it’s less a matter of the arguments against busting the filibuster than it is about Sinema breaking ranks from her “allies,” meaning the dark pink money of Emily’s List. Is there no tolerance for reasonable minds to differ in tiny tent of the Dems?
In a statement on Tuesday night, Ms. Sinema noted that the filibuster “has been used repeatedly to protect against wild swings in federal policy, including in the area of protecting women’s health care.”
“Different people of good faith can have honest disagreements about policy and strategy,” she said. “Such honest disagreements are normal, and I respect those who have reached different conclusions on how to achieve our shared goals of addressing voter suppression and election subversion, and making the Senate work better for everyday Americans.”
The natural reaction of pointing out that Senate Republicans have been disingenuous and disciplined in their refusal to break ranks and vote for any Dem proposition has merit. It’s fair to argue that they will not put country above party, and their recalcitrance to break ranks is worthy of note. But if it’s fair to call out the Republicans for their refusal to give fair consideration to any Dem proposals, are the Dems any better for doing the same, and punishing any member who fails to toe the line set by their allies by cutting off their funding?
So now I can see the asterisk and the caveat. Not only does Emily’s List support Democrat pro-choice women, but women who do as they’re told and follow the orthodoxy of the party. This doesn’t strike me as particularly feminist, liberal or Democratic, but then I’m a pariah so what would I know of such things?
Edit: Thanks to Genya, @electionbabe, there may be an answer to the question:
Today, we’re changing our endorsement criteria to reflect our commitment to the freedom to vote. Going forward, we won’t endorse any U.S. senator who doesn’t support changing the Senate rules to pass voting rights legislation. Our democracy is on the line. #DeliverForVotingRights
— NARAL (@NARAL) January 18, 2022