The Senate seat of Democrat Mary Landrieu is hanging by a thread. Unable to win an outright majority on November 5, Louisiana’s Southern-fried election laws have forced her into a December 7 runoff with the top Republican vote getter, Suzanne Haik Terrell.
It’s a close race and nobody’s taking it for granted. Right after the election, planeloads of Republican and Democratic activists parachuted into Louisiana to duke it out.
But one major left-wing group isn’t weighing in: Emily’s List.
The 17-year-old feminist PAC devoted to electing pro-choice Democratic women once supported Landrieu. No longer. Landrieu, you see, once voted to ban partial birth abortions. As far as Emily’s List is concerned, that is unforgivable.
The fact that Landrieu’s record is otherwise pro-choice and Terrell is pro-life doesn’t move it. Nor does the fact that Terrell could add one more vote to the new GOP Senate majority.
“I don’t think we are interested in electing anybody who is going to weaken abortion laws,” said Janet Harris, the PAC’s communications director. They wrote off Landrieu a long time ago, she adds.
That’s only the latest in a pattern of activity that is driving liberals and Democrats alike up the wall. A growing number are beginning to wonder if the PAC’s abortion rights absolutism is undermining the Democratic Party’s efforts to control Congress.
“Don’t get me started about them,” one liberal woman activist recently told me. “They’re such purists, it’s infuriating.”
Former Clinton aide Paul Begala used his platform on CNN’s “Crossfire” earlier this year to tear into Emily’s List. “Wasn’t it Santayana who said fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts after you’ve lost sight of your aim?” he asked.
You didn’t used to hear such griping.
For years, the women behind Emily’s List were left-wing folk heroines. Formed by 35 feminist activists in a basement in 1985, the PAC has gone on to raise tens of millions for candidates.
That includes over $20 million for the 2002 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Most of that is in the form of bundled “hard money” contributions. It lays claim to electing 53 house members and 11 senators, all pro-choice Democratic women.
But in recent years, Emily’s List has been instrumental in turning a number of Democratic primaries into brutal intra-party slugfests in an effort to get pro-choice women elected.
Meanwhile, moderate Democrats who could use the cash, like Landrieu, have been scorned.
“The question is, how are you picking your fights?” one frustrated Democratic strategist told Roll Call. “Are you picking the right fights?”
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