Monday, April 2, 2012

When is Nonpartisan Not Nonpartisan? [Updated]

    A short time ago I wrote about a website called Name It. Change It., an affiliate of the Women's Campaign Fund (WCF).   While my original focus was on the conflicting messages within WCF sites about "what issues are important to women," I was also intrigued by another statement on the main page of the WCF website:
NONPARTISAN - We support women leaders who support reproductive health choices for all, regardless of political party.
As I began to investigate this claim, I found that the information provided on their website about candidates backed by WCF certainly seemed to confirm the non-partisan claim.  I could find no indication of the political parties of any of the 61 listed candidates.  However, elsewhere on their main page the mission of the WCF is proclaimed as follows:
The Women’s Campaign Fund, a nonpartisan organization, is dedicated to dramatically increasing the number of women in elected office who support reproductive health choices for all. [Emphasis added]
Given the obvious divide between Democrats and Republicans on the issue of abortion (the non-euphemistic and more succinct term for "reproductive health choices"), I was reasonably sure Democratic Party candidates would far outnumber Republicans.  I was not disappointed.  Here is what my research turned up:
Democratic Party - 58
Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party - 2
Republican Party - 1
A Republican! Yes, Elizabeth Childs is running for Barney Frank's open seat in Massachusetts.  However (surprise, surprise,) Childs is not exactly a lifelong Republican, as the Boston Globe notes.  She's actually a nine-month Republican:
Childs had been registered as either a Democrat or an unenrolled voter for two decades before registering as a Republican in July, just before announcing she was running for Congress.
The Globe article also notes the following about the Democratic side of the race:
But in a statement released by the Childs campaign Wednesday, Nassour said Childs is “the best candidate to take on the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joseph Kennedy, and bring more bipartisan balance and strength to our Congressional delegation,” she added.
Perhaps I'm just cynical, but is it possible that Childs believed it would be easier to face a Kennedy in Massachusetts as a Republican in the general election rather than a Democrat in the primary with the hope that some of that old Scott Brown magic will rub off?  In any case, Childs is certainly not going out of her way to draw attention to her new Republican identity.  A search of her campaign website does return two hits for "Republican," but a perusal of the two pages listed by the search reveals the word is nowhere to be found.
   So, "Women's Campaign Fund, a nonpartisan organization?"  Technically, yes; but in practice, the group is about as nonpartisan as the Congressional Black Caucus.  "Women's Campaign Fund" might not be completely honest and descriptive, but "Liberal Democratic Pro-Choice Women's Fund" would definitely be more difficult to fit on a letterhead.

UPDATE:  Someone pointed out that I would need to analyze the "reproductive health choices" positions of the WCF candidates' opponents to really judge the nonpartisan nature of the WCF.  I acknowledge I am primarily relying on the IIQLAD test, but until the hiring freeze at the Speak With Authority Think Tank is lifted, it will have to do. However, I can add these to the mix:

  1. According to Gallup, 25% of Republican women identify as “pro-choice”. Theoretically, at least, the numbers are out there.
  2. In January, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, one of WCF’s high profile women, wrote in the Huffington Post, “we must recommit ourselves to doing all we can to elect more pro-choice Democratic women to Congress in 2012.”
  3. There is a longer list of all WCF-endorsed candidates who won their races and are currently serving, but are not necessarily up for reelection. There could be more Republicans on that list, but I have not researched that. Yet.

That being said, I still find the data and empirical evidence so far persuasive enough that I am comfortable with my preliminary conclusion that WCF is only slightly more nonpartisan than they are gender-inclusive.

Originally published before the update at Blogger News Network on April 2, 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment