I was alerted in a liberal Facebook admin group the other day to a story involving Bernie Sanders that sounded absolutely outrageous. Most members of that group are rabidly anti-Bernie, some going so far as to claim that he is secretly working for Russia, or even Donald Trump.
On its face, the story sounds politically preposterous. Bernie Sanders who has strongly supported a woman’s right to choose is campaigning for Heath Mello, an anti-choice candidate in Nebraska. Naturally, Hillary Hawks were ready to go to war with Bernie Bots once again.
One thing that I have learned in my time writing political blogs is to refuse to let other people tell me what to be outraged by. Far too often, individuals base opinions off headlines, or hyper-partisan spin and falsehoods from for-profit outrage websites like Occupy Democrats or Palmer Report.
I decided to apply that degree of skepticism into diving into the research on the story, and give you the facts, without the spin. According to NPR, Omaha’s Democratic candidate for mayor does have a history of supporting anti-choice legislation in the state’s legislature, there is no denying that.
Mello has co-sponsored several bills in Nebraska’s unicameral legislature that would restrict abortion rights, including a 2009 measure requiring doctors to inform women seeking abortions about the availability of an ultrasound.
Sanders pushed back against the criticism. “The truth is that in some conservative states there will be candidates that are popular candidates who may not agree with me on every issue. I understand it. That’s what politics is about,” Sanders told NPR.
“If we are going to protect a woman’s right to choose, at the end of the day we’re going to need Democratic control over the House and the Senate, and state governments all over this nation,” he said. “And we have got to appreciate where people come from, and do our best to fight for the pro-choice agenda. But I think you just can’t exclude people who disagree with us on one issue.” (NPR)
Heath Mello’s voting record on reproductive rights leaves a lot to be desired, and that is putting it lightly. However, that isn’t unsurprising because he is a Catholic, and many Catholics are often progressive on many issues, but awfully regressive on abortion due to their religion’s teachings on the matter.
However, if you look at the rest of his voting record in Nebraska’s legislature, Heath Mello is actually pretty progressive. He has voted to repeal the death penalty, legalize medical marijuana, and give protections to LGBT workers. Aside from his stance on abortion, Heath Mello is a Democratic dream candidate, especially in a state as conservative as Nebraska.
I know a number of Catholics who have similar political beliefs to Heath Mello, and we have an anti-abortion governor here in Louisiana who happens to be a Catholic Democrat who also expanded Medicaid and LGBT protections. John Bel Edwards, while opposed to abortion, has stated he does not see the need for any further laws because the state is restrictive enough already. Heath Mello won’t be in a position to make decisions on women’s health as mayor, although he can do a lot of good for immigrants, minorities, etc.
The current mayor of Omaha is a Republican, and there is only one other Democrat running who pulled a tiny percentage of the vote. Heath Mello is by far the best chance Democrats have to take the mayor’s seat, and last time I checked, mayors don’t write state or federal laws, including when it comes to reproductive rights.
If you think you would be a better choice than Heath Mello, then by all means, throw your hat into the ring the next time around. However, when someone runs for a seat and they only disagree with you on one issue, one that they won’t be in a position to influence, it’s time to give the professional outrage machine a rest.