Like many prochoice activists, when I first saw this article in Common Dreams, I was surprised and disappointed. Why was Bernie Sanders stumping for an enemy of women’s autonomy?
That was my first reaction. But after I thought more about it, my position softened. If Bernie believes that Mello will keep his word as mayor, he’s probably doing the right thing. If we need to change the minds and hearts of abortion opponents, that starts with accepting them where they are. When was the last time you were convinced by someone who was angry at you and insisting that you were wrong?
Principles, Persuasion, and Politics
Of course, in a perfect world, there would be no question that women must make their own choices free from government interference, direct or indirect. But this isn’t a perfect world. We need to persuade people who disagree with us.
As a practical matter, politics is often about seeking compromise (or at least it was before 1994) and trading favors. If Mello wins, and he believes Bernie helped him get there,then Mello will “owe” Bernie. That might be a good thing.
Keeping an Open Heart
The one point on which many thinking Americans agree is that demonizing the other side has not been helpful, and we need to stop. We won’t make progress by looking at the world through the lens of us vs. them.
Granted, some of our opponents are hard-core and will never get that we deserve autonomy and respect. I’m not waiting for Mitch McConnell to apologize to Elizabeth Warren and help pass single payer health care. But many people are just doing the best they can to get through life. And if they see that we have that in common, they may become more accepting and open. Call me naive, but I think it’s worth a try, even though it’s hard to learn new ways of thinking.
By supporting people who are with him on the issues closest to his heart and seem open to learning about other people’s viewpoints, Bernie is showing us how we need to move forward. And he’s doing it by walking the spiritual path he described during the campaign.