Can We Please Use the Word “Women”?
Plus: Primetime for the Jan. 6th Committee.
We’ve had today’s date circled for weeks: tonight at 8 EDT, the House January 6th Committee begins its televised hearings. We’ll be watching, so there won’t be a Thursday Night Bulwark livestream. Stay tuned for our hot takes in tomorrow’s Morning Shots and in a special Friday All-Star Bulwark podcast.
ICYMI, our Amanda Carpenter provides a preview of what to look for tonight. Our friends at the Defend Democracy Project also describe what tonight’s hearing is about:
It is about Trump and his allies inciting violence and their ongoing plot to sabotage our elections and threaten our freedoms.
It is about an attack on our country, not just Congress or Members of Congress.
It’s about Americans seeing the evidence of a criminal conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election, a coverup, and the ongoing plan to sabotage future elections.
It's about holding people accountable and protecting Americans’ right to pick our own leaders.
It’s about fully understanding the threat MAGA Republicans still pose today and preventing them from succeeding.
It’s about the actions of Trump Republicans and how they will break the law and incite violence to claim power.
And, as you settle in to watch the committee in action, you should also check out JVL’s remarkable piece in the Atlantic today: “Mike Pence Is an American Hero.”
The story of Mike Pence is the negative space in the January 6 Committee investigation. As more details about the machinations of John Eastman, Mark Meadows, Ted Cruz, and others emerge, Pence’s own actions are ever present in the background. Without him, we might not have this committee. Without him, we might not even have this republic.
In the meantime, Congress continues to debate (and even pass) gun safety legislation, whose fate remains questionable. And we are learning details of a plot to assassinate a Supreme Court justice. A 26-year-old man traveled from California to Brett Kavanaugh’s neighborhood in Maryland. After he was arrested outside the justice’s home, police found that he was carrying a “black tactical chest rig and tactical knife,” as well as “a pistol with two magazines and ammunition, pepper spray, zip ties, a hammer, a screwdriver, a nail punch, a crowbar, a pistol light and duct tape, in addition to other items, according to the affidavit.”
His plan was to break into the house, kill the justice and then kill himself…
Mr. Roske told the police that he was upset about the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and about a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion suggesting that the justices were poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that guarantees the right to an abortion. There have been protests outside Justice Kavanaugh’s home and the homes of the other justices since the leaked draft was published last month.
In addition to the abortion ruling, the justices could strike down a century-old New York State law that places strict limits on the carrying of handguns. Both decisions are expected to be issued this month.
“Roske indicated that he believed the justice that he intended to kill would side with Second Amendment decisions that would loosen gun control laws,” the affidavit said.
The incident occurred only days after David Graham’s warning that “the relative scarcity of assassinations in recent years might not be a result of a lack of would-be assassins but rather a streak of good luck. As long as the nation remains viciously divided, its luck might not hold out forever.”
Bonus via Axios: “The U.S. government is bracing for a potential surge in political violence once the Supreme Court hands down the ruling that's expected to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to a Department of Homeland Security memo…”
Bonus x2: Remember this? “QAnon believer who plotted to kill Nancy Pelosi came to D.C. ready for war.”
A Vanishing Word in Abortion Debate: ‘Women’
This is a genuinely gobsmacking story because (1) it’s in the NYT, not, say, Fox News, and (2) it’s just a gobsmacking story.
The paper chronicles the number of progressive groups which have decided that using the words “woman” or “women” is insufficiently inclusive. So, the folks who brought us “Latinx” have now decided that rather than talking about “mothers” they will use terms like “pregnant people” and “chestfeeding.”
You suspect that I am pulling your collective lower appendages. I assure you that I am not.
The Times starts with the ACLU, which put out a tweet about the threat to abortion rights:
As the NYT notes: “This tweet encompassed so much and so many and yet neglected to mention a relevant demographic: women.”
This was not an oversight, nor was it peculiar to the language favored by the A.C.L.U. Language has been changing fast, even as the Supreme Court appears poised to overturn a constitutional guarantee to abortion rights and progressives face the task of spearheading opposition.
Is this just random nut-picking? Unfortunately not.
From Planned Parenthood to NARAL Pro-Choice America to the American Medical Association to city and state health departments and younger activists, the word “women” has in a matter of a few years appeared far less in talk of abortion and pregnancy.
Driven by allies and activists for transgender people, medical, government and progressive organizations have adopted gender-neutral language that draws few distinctions between women and transgender men, as well as those who reject those identities altogether.
So I probably need to brace for the usual blowback, when I remind you that only women get pregnant. Only women give birth to babies. That may seem blindingly self-evident, but . . . no.
In 2020, NARAL issued a guide to activists on abortion that stressed they should talk about a “woman’s choice.” Two years later, the same guide emphasized the need for “gender-neutral language.”
Last year, the editor of The Lancet, a British medical journal, apologized for a cover that referred to “bodies with vaginas” rather than women.
Today, “pregnant people” and “birthing people” have elbowed aside “pregnant women.”
The impulse to tinker with language has spilled over into government agencies and prestigious medical facilities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a section on “Care for Breastfeeding People,” the governor of New York issued guidance on partners accompanying “birthing people” during Covid, and city and some state health departments offer “people who are pregnant” advice on “chestfeeding.”
The Cleveland Clinic, a well-known nonprofit hospital, posed a question on its website: “Who has a vagina?” Its answer begins, “People who are assigned female at birth (AFAB) have vaginas.” The American Cancer Society website recommends cancer screenings for “people with a cervix.”
I know that you deserve a deeper and more nuances analysis than simply: WTAF? So I will defer to Charlton Heston’s character in Planet of the Apes.
A centrist future?
Here’s something else to keep an eye on: a new moderate party in New Jersey is hoping to break the partisan duopoly by allowing so-called “fusion-voting.” Via the NYT:
The party, led by a core of local Republicans, Democrats and independents alarmed by the G.O.P.’s rightward drift under former President Donald J. Trump, has given itself a name that makes its middle-of-the-road ideological positioning crystal clear: the Moderate Party.
The party’s goal is to give centrist voters more of a voice at a time when, the group’s founders say, America’s two major parties have drifted toward the political fringes. But unlike traditional third parties, the Moderate Party hopes to nudge the Democratic and Republican Parties toward the center, not replace or compete with them…
Under fusion voting, multiple parties can nominate the same candidate, who then appears more than once on the ballot. Proponents say it allows voters who don’t feel comfortable with either major party to express their preferences without “wasting” votes on candidates with no hope of winning.
Exit take: Yes, please.
1. How San Francisco became a failed city
In the wake of the recall of San Francisco’s uber-progressive D.A., Chesa Boudin, make sure you read this piece by Nellie Bowles:
I used to tell myself that San Francisco’s politics were wacky but the city was trying—really trying—to be good. But the reality is that with the smartest minds and so much money and the very best of intentions, San Francisco became a cruel city. It became so dogmatically progressive that maintaining the purity of the politics required accepting—or at least ignoring—devastating results.
But this dogmatism may be buckling under pressure from reality. Earlier this year, in a landslide, San Francisco voters recalled the head of the school board and two of her most progressive colleagues. These are the people who also turned out Boudin; early results showed that about 60 percent of voters chose to recall him.
2. Time for the Democrats’ Chesa Boudin Moment
My spirit animal, Ruy Teixeira, writes in the Liberal Patriot:
So Democrats are hemorrhaging support among Asian voters, alienating other nonwhite voters with their lax approach to public safety and losing many formerly loyal white liberals and moderates who are “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore”. What to do?
The answer seems clear to me. It’s time for Democrats to adopt former UK prime minister Tony Blair’s felicitous slogan: “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”. Conservative outlets like Fox News may exaggerate but voters really do want law and order—done fairly and humanely, but law and order just the same. Democrats still seem reluctant to highlight their commitment to cracking down on crime and criminals because that is something that, well, Fox News would say.
This has got to stop. Weakness on crime damages the Democrats’ brand and especially hurts some of their most vulnerable constituents….
Biden (or some other leading Democrat) should say something like this, as recommended by Charlie Sykes at The Bulwark:
We must continue the fight for social justice, but it should not come at the price of public safety. In some of our biggest cities we have folks who think that we shouldn’t put criminals in jail or downplay the dangers of violent crime. They are wrong. We have to protect our families and our neighborhoods.
And then name some names. I think you know who I have in mind. It’s time for the Democrats’ Chesa Boudin Moment!
3. Race and Place: Community Disparities and Inequality
Lawrence Eppard and Erik Nelson in today’s Bulwark:
Racial inequality in the United States cannot be understood—let alone meaningfully addressed—without grappling with this fact: Decades after the end of Jim Crow, American neighborhoods remain highly segregated and the disparities among communities are perpetuated across generations. The characteristics of a child’s community—especially during his or her earliest years—have a major role in shaping that child’s life chances. The fact that black and white children are raised in such different neighborhoods is both a cause and an effect of racial inequality.
"Without him, we might not have this committee. Without him, we might not even have this republic."
I don't disagree with anything said about VP Pence. His unwillingness to break the law and do his proscribed part in the attempted coup did save us from the alternative.
However, I abhor the fact that we have reached a point where we feel a need to applaud his (and others) actions in upholding their oaths to the Constitution and the Rule of Law. I want to go back to the days when we could (and should be able to) take that for granted in our elected officials. I know that is another shattered norm, but damn do I miss it!
Thank you, thank you, thank you. The two largest contributions I give each year for as long as I can remember are to my undergraduate institution and Planned Parenthood. At a fundraiser this past weekend I raised the same issue with Alex McGill Johnson, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of American, having already discussed it with the Executive Director of our local chapter. I found Alex charming, knowledgeable and articulate and I agreed with virtually everything she said, but she did go to the inclusiveness talking points. I told her my feeling that in doing so we let the tail wag the dog. People who don't identify as women or are transitioning are a small percentage of those affected by reproductive rights. By using the word people we put them front and center. This immediately gives talking points to deceitful idiots like Tucker Carlson who has commented that Democrats want men to have babies and probably turns off a lot of centrists who as James Carville has noted are alienated by what he calls "faculty lounge" expressions. More importantly, it clouds the issue that the abortion debate is fundamentally about equal rights for WOMEN. Without reproductive freedom, the gains woman have made in my lifetime will likely vanish. I have a daughter and three granddaughters - I'll do everything in my power not to allow that to happen.