The Democratic party establishment has announced a crackdown on insurgent candidates challenging incumbents in primaries, warning that any vendors who support such candidates will be blacklisted by the party. It is clear that they are so scared of the energy of the new young progressives that they will go to any lengths to support neoliberal and even conservative incumbents. An excellent test case of this is Illinois congressman Dan Lipinksi. If you did not see the (D) after his name, you could be excused for thinking of him as a Republican based on his views and voting record.
Lipinski opposes a $15 minimum wage, is one of less than a handful of Democrats left in Congress who didn’t vote for the ACA, and breaks from the party when it comes to LGBTQ rights. According to Roll Call, Lipinski “said last year that while he remains personally opposed to gay marriage, he will no longer allow that position to affect his votes because it is ‘the law of the land.’” The Illinois lawmaker earned a 57 on the Human Rights Campaign’s congressional scorecard in 2016, giving him, according to the organization, “the dubious distinction of being the worst scoring Democratic in the House and Senate. The average score for Democratic representatives is 96.” (The Human Rights Campaign endorsed Newman in the 2018 race.)
Lipinski has been a vocal opponent of abortion rights. He co-chaired the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, serves as an advisor for the anti-choice group Democrats for Life, and has repeatedly spoken at the annual March for Life rally in Washington, D.C. As one of the few anti-choice Democrats in Congress, Lipinski has often been one of the members of his party to sign onto anti-choice legislation. Those include a bill to ban abortion at 20 weeks past fertilization, and more recently, a GOP discharge petition that attempted to force a floor vote on an anti-choice measure. He has also co-sponsored measures to codify the Hyde Amendment, an anti-choice budget rider passed annually by Congress that bans federal funding for abortion care.
In 2018, during an event for Law of Life, Lipinski said that “science tells us life begins at conception”—language in line with so-called personhood rhetoric, which could classify fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos, and fetuses as legal “persons” and lead to the criminalization of abortion and some forms of contraception. Lipinski argues his votes in favor of funding the Title X family-planning program are evidence of his support for birth control, but “under Trump, he voted with Republicans to shred the program’s safeguards,” as Rewire.News reported. Lipinski also opposed the ACA’s birth control benefit, which mandates that insurers provide contraception coverage without copays.
And in a letter to the Trump administration in 2018, Lipinski called for Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to put in place restrictions on Title X through a policy referred to by pro-choice advocates at the domestic “gag rule.” The policy, since finalized by the administration, would effectively force Planned Parenthood—which serves 41 percent of Title X patients—out of the federal family planning program.
He barely won his last primary against a spirited challenge from Marie Newman. But Newman has just announced that she will challenge Lipinski again. This is excellent news.
Contrast her record with Lipinski’s.
On her website, Newman describes herself as the granddaughter of labor union members who worked her way through college at Marquette University with a work-study job cleaning up after Food Services. She has since founded a national nonprofit to address bullying, and, according to her bio, has “also served as a state and national advocate for health care rights, income equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and common-sense gun safety.”
Newman’s position on reproductive rights stands in stark contrast to Lipinski’s. “I am pro-choice and I trust women, and it’s just really stark and basic,” she said. “I believe that women should have complete jurisdiction over their own bodies.” When it comes to the Hyde Amendment, Newman said she believes “reproductive care is health care,” adding that “I believe that if you cannot afford your own abortion…the government should pay for it.”
The seat Lipinski holds is a safe Democratic one which means that whoever wins the primary will win the seat. That means that the so-called pragmatic reasons for supporting an incumbent, that otherwise the party risks losing the seat, does not hold. There is absolutely no reason for the party to support Lipinski over Newman other than to slow down the progressive tide.
It is important that progressives back Newman and defeat Lipinski to send a strong message to the Democratic leadership that the days of conservative neoliberal incumbents are over.