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#DearJohn: A Few Notes on Choosing Your Battles Poorly

Ah, petitions! Such a wondrous part of a lively and engaged public discourse! So useful, in terms of registering dissent. Why, I like petitions so very much that I have one up right here on Tiger Beatdown.

You know who else has one up, though. The DCCC, which has partnered with lovely progressive site To bring us this:

Okay. Quick question. Can anyone see what’s wrong with this picture?

You are correct, little Timmy! The thing that is wrong with this picture is that it is totally fucking hypocritical and wrong! Somehow, it miraculously manages to mention bringing pressure against this bill, and the necessity for that, but also manages to frame it entirely in terms of bringing pressure against Republicans. What’s wrong with the picture is that it is missing any mention of the following:

Dan Boren [D-OK2]

Jerry Costello [D-IL12]

Mark Critz [D-PA12]

Joe Donnelly [D-IN2]

Daniel Lipinski [D-IL3]

Collin Peterson [D-MN7]

Nick Rahall [D-WV3]

Mike Ross [D-AR4]

Heath Shuler [D-NC11]

These are the Democrats who co-sponsored HR3. The DCCC has a $3.3 million investment in those Democrats. The worst attack on the right to choose in recent history, the bill that brought us a legal codification of “rape-rape,” the bill that will result in more poverty, more abuse, less freedom, and a huge and terrifying attack focused on making abortion impossible for the most vulnerable women and trans men in society, and Democrats are backing it.

You want to know why we keep losing our battles, on the front for legal and accessible abortion? Those names. Those men. Those Democrats, and the people who think like them, and the people who don’t call them out. That’s why.

Let us be extremely, excruciatingly clear on this: People’s lives, bodies, and health are not acceptable subjects for “bipartisan compromise.” We depend on the Democrats to have our backs on this; we depend on them to fucking get it, to know that this bill will harm or kill people in need of abortion. We depend on them to notice shit like the “forcible rape” clause — oh, yay, they took that out! Now let’s focus on what kind of callous asshole you have to be to include it in the first place, and how that attitude is evident on every single page of this bill — and to object to it before we have to spend a week protesting it. We depend on them to know the difference between right and wrong, and to represent the interests of their constituents — constituents who are or may be survivors, constituents who need or may need abortions — instead of sacrificing them to an extremist, discriminatory, bigoted anti-choice agenda when it serves their purposes to do so. And when they fail?

When they fail, kids, we call them the fuck out. Because to do anything else is to aid and abet them, as they use women, survivors, and people who need abortions as a political football. To do anything else is to participate in one of the worst habits of the left wing: Caring about certain constituents only until it becomes inconvenient, or they just don’t feel like it. At which point, we are sacrificed to “compromise.” Our health. Our lives. Our physical and psychological well-being. Our humanity. Sacrificed, again and again and again. It’s how Stupak-Pitts happened. It’s how Hyde happened. It’s why we keep losing. It’s why we still have to deal with so much crap, in 2011: They care about us to get our votes, then forget about us once they’re in office, and organizations like the DCCC — which is apparently just committed to electing and supporting “Democrats,” no matter whether they succeed at the job of pushing and standing up for Democratic values, no matter how often they cave to the people who want to hurt us — will give them a pass on that.

I’m really not clear on what was thinking, putting up this petition. But I know for damn sure what the DCCC was thinking. They were thinking that they could exploit HR3, and our concerns — our justifiable and eminently merited concerns, for our basic physical well-being — to rally opposition to “Republicans,” and gain a few points, and that they could do so without calling out the Democrats who betrayed us and backed this bill. Ahhhh, just get the chicks who are always yellin’ about rape a little angrier, we can use those chicks, they’re vocal and they get a lot of people all riled up, we can ride that whole “rape outrage” thing, it’ll be good for the polls, is what they were thinking. They were thinking that the substance of the battle doesn’t matter as much as gaining a few points against the GOP. They were thinking they could use us and neglect our core concerns. And they were thinking no-one would call them out on it.

They thought wrong. Let the DCCC know that we need a united front against HR3, and that united front includes, of necessity, calling out and condemning the Democrats who betrayed us by co-sponsoring this bill, as well as any Democrat who supports it. We vote Democrat because we rely on Democrats to support us and protect our interests. If they don’t do that, there’s no reason to keep giving them support which they evidently don’t value. And they will be surprised about what happens once our support is gone.


  1. Sarah wrote:

    I’ve e-mailed the DCCC stating my disgust for their partisan bullshit. If anyone would like to use my letter as a template, please feel free.

    “I noted with interest that the DCCC had partnered with to create a petition denouncing HR3. Imagine my surprise to see the wording claiming HR3 is a purely Republican effort (and I quote from your petition: “No matter what Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans want to call it…”). Has the DCCC failed to notice the NINE Democrats who have co-sponsored the bill?

    Frankly, I expect poor social policy behavior from Republicans, but I am appalled that the party that is supposed to support my rights as a woman isn’t calling out its own members who have joined in this anti-woman agenda. Where is the outrage from the DCCC?

    My rights, Dear DCCC, are not a political football. I will not ignore the behavior of Democrats who would have me give up my bodily autonomy, any more than I will ignore it when the Republicans attempt to do the same.

    What I find especially interesting, is that in my attempts to speak with the Democrats who co-sponsored this bill, I was consistently rejected because I “didn’t belong to their district.” Well, pardon my french, but fuck that noise. I am a woman, and I deserve to get to talk to the nitwits who think they can legislate my body.

    I beg of you, out and shame these nine Democrats, because without that acknowledgment from your organization, I shall continue to assume that the DCCC is a purely partisan political animal – making you no different than Republicans, in my eyes.


    Sarah Langlais”

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Permalink
  2. N'Awlins Contrarian wrote:

    Thanks for being willing to point this out. Whatever one’s beliefs and politics, it is good to remember, and as needed act on, the fact that partisan politics often does not align well with any principled, consistent approach to the issues. And anyone who doubts the unprincipled, hypocritical, even reptilian, nature of a substantial portion of both major parties’ elected officials is very naive.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Permalink
  3. LeftSidePositive wrote:

    Here is what I sent to the DNC (

    Dear Democratic Party,

    I am writing to express my great disappointment about the Democratic sponsors of HR3, an extremist and offensive bill that threatens women and families’ safety and healthcare. I have seen the Democratic Party’s press releases criticizing the Republicans who introduced this bill, but I have not heard of any disciplinary action taken against the nine Democrats who also sponsored it. After the disgusting manner in which Stupak-Pitts threatened health care reform and marginalized women’s health in particular, this is really too much.

    Please understand: human rights are not appropriate to use as a bargaining chip. A woman’s basic human right to defend her body against the pain, trauma, medical complications, and exploitation of an unwanted pregnancy is simply not negotiable. I understand that many people may have personal preferences with regard to unplanned pregnancy: this is all very well, but no one, no matter what their political stripe, should try to dictate those views on others through force of law. It is unconscionable that the Democratic Party has allowed adherents of forced pregnancy to run for office under its banner, and to hold positions of influence within its ranks.

    As such, I regret that I, a lifelong Democrat, will no longer be able to donate any money to the Democratic Party, nor will I be able to canvas, rally, volunteer in voter registration drives, or in any other way support the Democratic Party until it unequivocally declares support for freedom to choose an absolutely essential requirement for endorsement of any candidate. Furthermore, I will not be able to vote for any Democratic representative–on a national, state, or local level–unless their commitment to comprehensive reproductive health care is unwavering.

    Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I sincerely hope I can renew my support for the Democratic Party in the near future.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Permalink
  4. Gnatalby wrote:

    What’s also wrong with this picture is the, um, picture. Hunched over black and white sad rape victim turned away from the liiiiiiight I’m not saying that’s not how some people are after an assault, but part of this is about the fact that rape and rape victims don’t always look like what you expect them to. Let’s not pile on the idea that if you don’t act crushed enough in the immediate aftermath it doesn’t count as rape rape.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Permalink
  5. GallingGalla wrote:

    I must admit I fell for it. I’m really disappointed with my carelessness. It would have taken me 30 seconds to scan down the list of sponsors for those pesky D’s. Even better, it would have taken me 5 seconds to remember that DNCC gives a shit about one demographic: White, cis, hetero, middle-to-upper class men, and the rest of us are nothing more than fodder for their money machine. And if I had remembered that, I would have said “fuck that shit, I gave up on the Dems years ago” and not fell for their ploy.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Permalink
  6. GallingGalla wrote:

    I e-mailed the following to DNC:

    I am very disappointed that your recent petition regarding HR3 (No Taxpayer Funding For Abortions Act) completely failed to mention that NINE OF THE CO-SPONSORS OF THE BILL ARE DEMOCRATIC.

    It is apparent to me that you are using HR3 in a cynical manner solely as a lever to elect Democrats by any means, and that you care not that some of those Democrats are sponsoring legislation that is inimical to the fundamental rights of women.

    We have a right to bodily autonomy; we have a right to the medical treatment that is required to save our lives, save our health, and recover from rape and incest. It is clear to me that (once again) the Democratic Party doesn’t care about women, doesn’t care about gay, lesbian, or trans people, doesn’t care about poor people, doesn’t care about people of color – doesn’t care about us except as vending machines for cash, votes, and political cred. You have become the party by, of, and for upper-class white cissexual heterosexual capitalist men.

    Let me be clear about this: (1) The Democratic Party will not get a penny of my money nor a second of my time until the Party begins to truly care about everybody outside of that upper-class white cissexual heterosexual capitalist male demographic. (2) I will vote against Democrats who sponsor, vote in favor of, or sign into law this or any other women-hating, LGBT-hating, poor-hating, or racist legislation in the future.

    Oh, and by the way: the difference between Republicans and Democrats: Republicans are a hard, cold fist of steel aimed at the oppressed; Democrats are a velvet-covered hard, cold fist of steel aimed at the oppressed. In other words, two prongs of the same strategy.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Permalink
  7. GallingGalla wrote:

    Of course, I now realize that DNC (Democratic National Committee) and DNCC (Democratic National *Congressional* Committee) are two different orgs, but I have difficulty believing that they don’t have similar goals and strategies.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Permalink
  8. sossajes wrote:

    @LeftSidePositive:oh wow, that is just about perfect. I cannot imagine a better, more concise message to send. Thanks to you folks for doing the work that us folks can use! People with LDs can SERIOUSLY use stuff like this! Having a “script” or template is so useful.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Permalink
  9. Sharoney wrote:

    I print and keep posts like this beside my phone to quote whenever the DNC, DSCC or DNCC calls shilling for my money.

    We are not ATM machines to be activated whenever they need cash and ignored the rest of the time.

    Fuck that shit, indeed.

    And BTW, I’m VP of my local Dem Committee.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Permalink
  10. well up until this post I thought ‘dear john’ was directed solely at Boehner.

    The campaigns like dear john and Moore and Me focus on individual, powerful, ‘patriarchal’ men and I don’t think they do what you say you are trying to do- i.e. call out all politicians involved in anti-women or anti-abortion legislation.

    The campaign could have been called NotoHR3 or something.

    But it’s called ‘dear john’ and as someone outside the US I thought it was aimed at that one man, and at the republican party he is a member of.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 6:03 am | Permalink
  11. Samantha B. wrote:

    @Gallinggalla, it’s the DCCC. @Quiet Riot Girl, sure, but NotoHR3 isn’t terribly stand out from the clutter-able, something that’s sort of crucial to the success of a messaging campaign.

    NARAL doesn’t elaborate too much, but they make it sound like the bill was re-crafted in some fucking horrific ways:
    Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said the anti-choice House leadership’s decision to modify a provision that would redefine what constitutes rape will create even more problems for Speaker John Boehner and other anti-choice members supporting this agenda.

    “Even as they attempted to modify this rape-related provision found in two pieces of legislation, H.R. 3 and H.R. 358, these lawmakers inserted a new provision on page six of H.R.358, sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), that would allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortion care when necessary to save a woman’s life.

    ‘Anti-choice politicians have gone from redefining rape to denying abortion care to women who will die without it,” Keenan said. “When it comes to attacking women’s freedom and privacy, these politicians know no bounds. This debate is just getting started. Any member of Congress who has signed his or her name to this agenda must be held accountable for such extreme attacks against women’s reproductive-health services.'”

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 8:24 am | Permalink
  12. Kathleen wrote:

    Sarah — fantastic, helpful template. Thanks!

    Gnatalby — too right. Actually that’s what I thought Sady was going to say was “wrong with the picture” as soon as I saw it.

    Sady — yes, yes, yes, thank you. I am so effing tired of the Democrats never standing up for any damn thing and then blaming the Republicans for the tire tracks on everyone’s backs.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink
  13. emjaybee wrote:

    Hey wanted to point out that if you are not from IL 12th district, you can’t email Costello (haven’t gotten to the others yet); have run into congresspeople doing this before. Unless you fake your addy, not sure if that’s worthwhile.

    Always snail mail and phone messages of coursel

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Permalink
  14. Faith wrote:

    So this is completely off topic (please don’t slaughter me) but Google has failed me somewhat.
    What exactly is a kierarchy? I’ve seen it used here several times before, and I have no idea what it means.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Permalink
  15. Lu wrote:

    I just checked my Twitter page for the first time in a couple of days, and all my #DearJohn @SpeakerBoehner tweets are gone! I’m fairly new to Twitter, so I don’t want to overreact, but is there any way someone else could have deleted them? Say, @SpeakerBoehner himself????

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Permalink
  16. Lu wrote:

    Wait, never mind. I was looking at it wrong. SORRY! 🙁

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Permalink
  17. aravind wrote:

    @Faith: I think you mean Kyriarchy which is like a broader patriarchy (since it’s not about gender differentiating groups into those with and those without power, as much as the inequality between groups period – class, sexual orientation, race, religion, trans/cis-ness, and others along with gender).

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Permalink
  18. Mike wrote:

    I am getting older and maybe missed this election. But when did they hold an election and make these Republicans Gods who are given divine control over the lives and decisions of women in America. When is a man wiser and all knowing when it comes to controlling the reproductive systems of women.

    I think men should perhaps give more attention, and order if needed, to how other men handle their own reproductive wants and needs. They seem to get in trouble with this subject just about every day. They should put their own house in order before worrying about what women are doing with their own bodies. Cause gentlemen, frankly – it is none of your damn business- thank you very much.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Permalink
  19. Keller wrote:

    So, the Republicans retracted the “forced rape” redefinition, which felt like a small victory… and then I read about the “Protect Life Act” which seeks to extend the conscious clause to allow ER doctors to refuse life saving treatments for pregnant women, if that treatment till terminate their fetus.

    I am irate with the open misogyny of the Republican party. If they were pushing opening racist laws, the country would be up in arms. But openly sexist just slides right by?

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Permalink
  20. FarmerStina wrote:

    I’m delurking to tell you that today, before I even got a chance to look at your site, I got a letter in the mail from my state Democratic political organization asking me for money and to join their org. And because of your blog, I didn’t.

    Instead I wrote them this big long email about how I was refusing to support any organization that was affiliated with the national Democratic political party because they were allowing faux-gressive politicians to claim the label of Democrat. And I also accused them of supporting candidates and legislation that throws rape survivors and individuals with uteruses (uteri?) under the bus. And then I come to your blog and find another beautiful post saying everything I said, but way better!

    Thank you for this post and this blog. You’re making me a thorn in the side of many politicians! Hopefully some of them will listen.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Permalink
  21. GallingGalla wrote:

    Keller @ 19: If they were pushing opening racist laws, the country would be up in arms.

    The country doesn’t seem to be up in arms about AZ 1070 (the law that codifies racial profiling in the name of stopping so-called “illegal” immigration), or about the companion AZ 2281 that outlaws ethnic studies on the theory that such studies inculcate “anti-American” values, or Mississippi’s SB 2179, which is a copycat of AZ 1070. Many other states have passed or are considering similar racist legislation.

    Seems like racist laws are thriving, and we aren’t up in arms enough about them.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Permalink
  22. also Gallinggalla, feminists, and gay activists often make this hypothetical comparisons don’t they:

    ‘they wouldn’t do this if it was a race/ethnicity question’

    making out women and/or gay people’s oppression is worse than that of black people/ethnic minorities.

    I find this victim top trumps very annoying in identity politics.

    Monday, February 7, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink
  23. Anonymous wrote:

    I’m writing in Sady Doyle for President in 2012.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink