Tackling the campaign issues
by Kyle McClurg
Hoosiers are going to be making some serious political decisions in the upcoming mid-term election. And with three congressional districts, the 2nd, 8th and 9th, projected to be tight races, all eyes are on Indiana.
Three congressional seats out of 435 may not seem like much. But 15 is the magic number this year. The Democrats must wrest control of 15 seats away from the Republicans in order to gain the majority in the House. If the Democrats win these three Indiana districts, that is one-fifth of the battle won for the Democratic Party — and that makes the midterm elections in Indiana a very big deal.
A Democratic majority in the house could mean a number of things, most of which will be very difficult for the Republicans to swallow. The first acts of the new Congress will be to elect a new speaker, most likely Nancy Pelosi, and remove the high-ranking Republican representatives from their posts on important committees. Men like Bill Ross (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee, would lose their influential positions to Democrats.
Control of Congress means control of these powerful committees and the ability of Democrats to stymie further measures of the Bush Administration agenda, and possibly launching investigations into any alleged misconduct of the administration.
But before that can take place, the Democrats must make a good showing this Nov. 7. Indiana Republicans are doing everything that they can to stop that from happening.
Some polls are putting Democrat and local attorney Joe Donnelly ahead of incumbent Republican Chris Chocola by as much as 10 points in Indiana’s 2nd District congressional race, while other polls indicate the race is a dead heat. It’s a rematch for the two candidates, and while such races are traditionally not successful for the challenger, this year could be an exception.
The 2nd District is home to one of the largest Hungarian-American populations in the U.S., and a growing number of Hispanic-Americans, who tend to vote Democratic. Donnelly has a great deal of support from area unions as well.
Donnelly, along with fellow Democrats in Districts 8 and 9, was also named one of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” candidates. This gives Donnelly financial assistance from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and it also means that the DCCC is running attack ads against Chocola on Donnelly’s behalf.
Donnelly will take whatever help he can get. Chocola, a millionaire several times over, is one of the richest congressmen in the country, and he has beaten Donnelly in fund-raising, thanks mostly to the contributions of various political action committees.
It does appear that Chocola is a bit worried though. The incumbent has pushed for an increase in the number of debates that will be held in the district, a move usually reserved for a challenger. And Chocola is facing a lot of heat for failing to intervene in Mitch Daniels’ deal with a Spanish-Australian consortium to lease the Indiana Toll Road.
Democrat and popular Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth is challenging the incumbent Republican John Hostettler in Indiana’s Congressional District 8. The race in District 8 is living up to the district’s unofficial moniker, “The Bloody 8th,” at least for Hostettler, who, according to a poll released by the Evansville Courier Press, is trailing by over 20 points.
The Democrats may already be doing a victory dance, but the Republicans are far from conceding defeat. The National Republican Campaign Committee has been running attack ads on behalf of Hostettler. The ads have concentrated on linking the outcome of this race to the election of Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House. However, since a Newsweek poll suggests that more than half of Americans are not aware of who Nancy Pelosi is, this might be a sign that Hostettler is grabbing for straws.
Hostettler is not a very good fund-raiser and refuses to court political action committee money. Many political Web sites note that entities like the National Republican Campaign Committee are almost always coming to Hostettler’s rescue to make up for this shortcoming. They have spent $1.3 million so far. This game plan has worked for the past six elections, thanks in part to Hostettler’s usually excellent ”Get Out the Vote” effort. But it appears the Democrats have found a horse that can run this time.
Like the candidates in District 2, the two candidates in District 9 are very familiar with one another. In fact, this will be the third consecutive match-up between incumbent Republican Mike Sodrel and Democrat Baron Hill. Hill was ousted from this seat in 2004, and is now in the rubber match with Sodrel. Last election, this district was decided by only 1,500 votes and it could be just as close this year.
Baron Hill is facing a barrage of attack ads from the NRCC, trying to paint him as far too left for Indiana politics. And Sodrel is facing similar heat from DCCC attack ads, which attack him on points where he aligns himself with President Bush, especially the privatization of Social Security. Outspent by a million dollars in the last campaign, the DCCC appears not to want to make the same mistake this year.
Sodrel, a millionaire like Chocola, paints himself in the same light as Mitch Daniels in ’02 — as a man of the people — but the Hill campaign has worked very hard to paint “Millionaire Mike” as just the opposite.
It’s hard to say who is winning at this point. The polls are far too close to call. This may be the most important race because many believe it will serve as a barometer for Democratic success nationally.
by Laura McPhee
The outcome of the general election on Nov. 7, 2006, will give the winners of the majority vote a significant amount of power over the sex lives of all Indiana residents. Birth control is at stake. Sex education is at stake. Safe, legal abortion access is at stake. Parenthood is at stake. The rights of all gay and straight unmarried adults in a consensual sexual relationship are at stake.
With the exit of Sen. Majority Leader Bob Garton, who was defeated by a more zealous anti-gay and anti-women’s health candidate in the primaries, Republicans are certain to move quickly if they win the majority in the state Legislature to pass the most restrictive laws yet regarding sex; laws that will affect every one of us.
It’s not a matter of crying wolf any longer. If the Republicans retain the majority in the Indiana Statehouse after the midterm election, abortion will almost certainly become illegal in the state of Indiana — just as it has in South Dakota thanks to the Republican controlled Statehouse there.
The bill introduced by Republicans last year that makes all abortions illegal in the state of Indiana remains on the table, and many incumbents are enthusiastically proclaiming what they call a watershed moment in Republican politics and promising to derail decades of progress for women’s rights and make abortion — what has been a safe, legal procedure for more than three decades — a Class C felony if they are re-elected.
But it’s not just abortions that Republicans want to make illegal. Unmarried parents may soon become criminals as well. Last summer, Sen. Patricia Miller introduced a draft of a bill that would have required couples seeking all types of fertility treatments to show proof of marriage before becoming parents and make all unmarried people ineligible for any form of assisted reproduction. Additionally, the bill requires married couples to submit to a permit process stricter than the current adoption process in order to use medical technology to conceive.
Due to the vehement response she got from citizens statewide after NUVO broke the story of her “unauthorized reproduction” bill, Miller temporarily withdrew the legislation. In its place in the meantime, Miller authored SB 273, which tackles the product of fertility treatments. SB 273 would allow “abandoned embryos” to be adopted for use by other infertile (married) couples.
This legislation would seem a boon to prospective parents, but it raises many other questions. It creates a misdemeanor charge for anyone who intentionally destroys an “abandoned embryo,” but does not stipulate whether the biological parents can order their unused embryos destroyed, nor does it promise that a lab technician or maintenance crew won’t be charged with a related misdemeanor should a fertility clinic’s freezer go out.
The sex education initiatives introduced in the Indiana Statehouse last year give the most telling glimpse of the future if the Republicans retain a majority. Though it didn’t receive a deciding vote in the last session, House Bill 1202 remains a top priority for those who want to control not just our bodies, but our belief systems.
House Bill 1202 provides that: (1) marriage is preferred, encouraged and supported over any other domestic relationship; and (2) childbirth is preferred over abortion and (3) public schools may not allow instruction that is contrary to these statements. The bill provides criminal penalties for teachers who answer students’ questions regarding abortion and same-sex relationships in any way other than the state of Indiana prefers childbirth over abortion and marriage over all other domestic relationships.
There are already laws that require abstinence-only education in Indiana, but just to make sure that birth control is under legislative control, Republicans have vowed to pass legislation that would change Indiana law such that no person shall be required, as a condition of training, employment, pay, promotion or privileges, to dispense either (A) a medical device or drug that may result in an abortion; or (B) a birth control device or medication. So, the law would protect all the nurses and doctors who refuse to give emergency contraception to a rape victim, the pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control pills and the Wal-Mart employees who refuse to sell condoms.
The rights of marriage
For several years now, Indiana lawmakers and citizens have crafted public policy and debated the subject of same-sex marriages. The culmination of this debate for the Indiana General Assembly is Senate Joint Resolution No. 7 (SJR 7), a proposal to amend the Indiana state Constitution, making explicit the definition of marriage as only between one man and one woman and forbidding the rights of marriage from being granted to unmarried persons.
In order for the amendment to be ratified, the resolution must pass the Senate and House once (as it did by an overwhelming majority in 2005); pass the Senate and House again following the election of 2006; and then receive the majority of votes as a ballot issue in November of 2008.
Currently, SJR 7 will amend the Indiana Constitution as follows: (A) Marriage in Indiana consists only of the union of one man and one woman. (B) This Constitution or any other Indiana law may not be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.
Much of the attention the amendment has received focuses on the second of the bill’s two distinct parts, stating, “the legal rights of marriage cannot be construed or conferred upon unmarried couples.” In other states where similar amendments have been enacted, laws affecting domestic violence prosecution, health care benefits, adoptive and foster parenting have all been affected for gay and straight unmarried couples, and it is predicted that a host of other side-effects for unmarried persons will soon follow.
Serious repercussions from legislation similar to SJR 7 have already been seen in Michigan, Utah and Ohio, where the passage of a constitutional amendment resulted in the legal system’s inability to protect victims of domestic violence. In Michigan, one prosecutor has refused to issue protective orders because, in his words, “Domestic violence laws are for wife-beaters, not girlfriend-beaters.” Because Utah’s amendment states that no domestic status or union other than the legal union of one man and one woman has legal sanction or validity, protective orders in the context of an unmarried couple cannot be enforced. And in Ohio, where domestic violence law applies only to a person “living as a spouse,” the new constitutional amendment prohibits Ohio from recognizing a spouse outside the context of a legal union between one man and one woman.
Businesses will also be affected by the amendment. Proponents say the amendment protects businesses because they won’t be forced to provide benefits for unmarried couples. Opponents disagree and warn that the amendment will prevent businesses that want to do so from providing benefits, especially if these benefits are deemed a right of marriage.
Currently, Ball State University, Indiana University, Purdue University and Indiana State University all extend domestic-partner benefits to unmarried couples, including same-sex couples, as do large corporations such as Eli Lilly. Opponents of SJR 7 say the change will result in the loss of benefits for thousands of Indiana residents, and the loss of economic revenue and development when these industries are unable to attract diverse workers.
Opponents also warn that adoption and foster care laws will be affected in Indiana. Currently, the law allows unmarried couples, whether gay or straight, to jointly adopt or be foster parents. But lawmakers have vowed to re-introduce legislation next year that prevents gay individuals or couples from becoming parents by requiring marriage as a requirement for any couple, gay or straight, to jointly adopt, become foster parents or receive artificial fertilization treatments.
This year, you’re voting not just for the candidates, you’re also voting to retain control over your own body. You’re voting to retain your right to be a parent, to have access to birth control and to retain your right to decide whether or not one group of individuals is superior to another and how our children are being educated about these issues.
Historically, less than 40 percent of registered voters turn out for midterm elections, and given the disgust most voters have towards American politics and politicians, it isn’t surprising that so many of us will stay home on the first Tuesday of November.
Each year more and more voters refuse to proclaim a party affiliation and an even smaller number refuse to participate in the political process. Most of those who abstain claim they don’t believe their votes count, or that their non-voting is an act of protest against the current political system.
That’s all well and good as far as philosophical debates go, but the reality is that not voting is giving your implied consent for all of the above pieces of legislation. Staying out of the debate and staying home on Election Day means you relinquish your political power to those who want to use it to control the thoughts, relationships and sexuality of us all.
by Michael Snodgrass
Three years ago, I happened upon WIBC’s morning talk-jock Greg Garrison for the first time. His beef then was one he returns to frequently: the sudden influx of illegal immigrants deep into the American heartland. His solution struck me as extremist at the time: Let’s build a wall across the border to keep them out. Extremism has now entered the mainstream thanks to an upsurge of anti-immigrant nativism not seen since the earlier 20th century.
The causes of the new nativism and its arrival in the heartland are clear enough. It’s not just that 13 percent of America’s population is now foreign-born. Or that the newcomers are predominantly Latino. It’s also their geographic dispersal into rural and suburban communities in the South and Midwest. The newcomers’ sudden arrival to the Crossroads of America seems even more striking. In the last five years, the 34 percent increase in Indiana’s foreign-born population doubled the national average. Indianapolis now has the fifth-fastest growing Latino population in urban America. On one level, such sensational figures mask reality. Immigrants still account for only 4 percent of the state’s population. But the census figures don’t include the tens of thousands of undocumented migrants who call Indiana home. Listen to Garrison’s callers and one thing becomes clear. It is this predominantly Mexican influx that arouses their ire, not the scientists at Lilly and Roche, or the merchants who revitalized run-down retail corridors along Washington Street and Lafayette Road.
The new nativists wear many masks, some for patriotic effect and others meant for fright. At the national level, the Minutemen Project is “doing the job that Congress won’t do” by sending citizen volunteers to help secure our southern border. Here in the Hoosier state, the torch is carried by the Indiana Federation of Immigration Reform and Enforcement (IFIRE). IFIRE takes on the immigrants’ erstwhile allies. They recently demonstrated outside a Munster bank offering mortgages to undocumented homebuyers. Here in Indianapolis, they protested last February at the Mexican Consulate. Why? Because Mexican Consul Sergio Aguilera testified before the Indiana House in support of his government’s efforts to secure driver’s licenses for undocumented migrants. IFIRE insists that “it’s time that foreign governments stop meddling in America’s affairs.” When queried, immigrants dining at a neighborhood taco house shrugged and chuckled at this nativist irony. Yet few local Latinos laughed when flyers appeared recently on storefront doors on the near Westside’s Little Mexico neighborhood. “Wanted!” they declared. “Citizens with firearms to hunt down illegal aliens, and do the justice the government refuses to do.” Who are these mystery recruiters? “The American Militia.”
Fortunately, the movement’s mainstream actors, like CNN’s Lou Dobbs, astutely frame their nativism in the populist and patriotic terms of economic cost and national security. They don’t opposed immigrants or Latinos, of course; only illegal aliens. Undocumented workers take jobs and burden our social service and welfare systems. The consensus among economists is that immigrants give more in taxes than they take from public coffers. But no issue angers Garrison and his listeners more. Meanwhile, Sept. 11 helped transform immigration into a national security issue. Consider this: The U.S. Immigration Service, once housed in the Department of Labor, is now part of Homeland Security.
On the political front, Republicans have tapped into the new nativism to galvanize their base of support. In Washington, Congress waged a summer-long battle to define a new immigration policy. A Senate proposal supported by President Bush combined tougher border enforcement with a guest worker program and legalized status for the undocumented migrants already here. Hardliners in the House called this amnesty for criminals. They proposed mass deportations of illegal migrants and punitive measures against social workers who assist them. The two sides only agreed to tighten border security, even though last decade’s tripling of Border Patrol staffing produced no decline in illegal crossings. What, then, did we get? A compromise bill to build a 700-mile fence that the Border Patrol union leader labels “a false promise” and therefore “a waste of money.” Should Democrats wrest control of Congress in November, we can we can expect renewed consideration of the Senate’s guest worker and earned citizenship programs.
Hoosier voters might play a key role in determining that electoral outcome and Republican strategists have tapped into their nativist concerns. The one-sided immigration “forums” staged this summer in Evansville and South Bend clearly tried to boost the electoral hopes of those districts’ embattled Republican incumbents. Meanwhile, on Oct. 10, state Republicans announced renewed efforts to tackle immigration at home. “We are at a critical crossroads in the history of our nation and our state,” Rep. Jackie Walorski has claimed. “With the ever-increasing threat of terrorism, we must redouble our effort to protect Hoosiers.” Republicans want the state police to enforce federal immigration law and would deny taxpayer-financed state benefits to illegal immigrants. One Kokomo Republican believes that this will prevent Indiana from becoming “the welcoming state for illegal immigrants across the Midwest.”
Will such get-tough measures really galvanize Hoosier voters? A similar bill suffered a resounding bipartisan defeat last session. Marion County GOP leader Mike Murphy decried the proposal’s denial of protective rights to immigrant children. Other Republicans opposed it due to a Democrat amendment meant to penalize employers. State Democrats have hardly been immune to nativist appeals. But party leaders astutely sidetrack the issue by blaming illegal immigration on the failure of Republican leaders in Washington to enforce federal law. Perhaps that’s because Democratic strategists realize that efforts to exploit nativist fears may have faltered. Polls show that less than a quarter of Americans support hardline nativism, while the rest sympathize with efforts to combine tougher enforcement (in both the workplace and the border) with some means of earned citizenship for those immigrants who already work and raise families amongst us.
Michael Snodgrass is associate professor of Latin American history at IUPUI.