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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
13 Feb 2016
Make America Great Again -- at Torture!

The undisputed front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination who, like every other remaining … Read More.

6 Feb 2016
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"Do you ever get the feeling," asked humorist Robert Orben, "that the only reason we have elections is to … Read More.

30 Jan 2016
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Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

Heretics or Converts: Democrats Better Decide


What follows is a fail-safe test on whether membership in a political party is growing or shrinking: Is that party spending time, energy and effort courting and welcoming converts, or is the party hunting down heretics within its ranks to banish them for lack of purity?

In 1980, make no mistake about it: Republican Ronald Reagan was openly — and successfully — seeking converts who even got their own designation as "Reagan Democrats." More recently, Barack Obama did exactly the same as he told the nation: "There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America."

But the smashing campaign victories both Reagan and Obama won have not inhibited today's "purists" in either party from equating dissent with disloyalty and demanding that these infidels be purged from elected office. The Republicans brand the heretic who deviates from the Party line a "RINO," for a Republican in Name Only. You almost expect some conservative court martial cross-examination of an allegedly independent Republican politician with the damning indictment: Are you now or have you ever been — — a maverick?

Make way for the new guys in town, the DINOs — the Democrats in Name Only. Ignoring that the Democrats largely by backing moderate (often pro-life and pro-gun) nominees captured 52 House seats from the Republicans in the last two elections, the witch-hunters forget the first rule of elections: Politics is a matter of addition, not subtraction.

Consider this real-life House Democrat whose culturally conservative, blue-collar district George W. Bush twice handily carried. This Democrat voted in the House against the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, against the Bush tax-cuts, against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, against a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. He earned the enmity and the campaign opposition of the National Rifle Association by voting for tighter background checks on weapons buyers at gun shows.

He was for dropping the economic embargo against Cuba and providing debt relief for beleaguered Third World countries, and against the Patriot Act and warrantless wiretapping.

Yes, he voted with his party over the past decade, according to the authoritative Congressional Quarterly, 90 percent of the time.

But Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., also voted to outlaw the late-term procedure he and other opponents called "partial birth abortion" and which the late New York liberal Daniel Patrick Moynihan called "infanticide."

But the heresy that brought down upon him the all-out opposition of Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America (formerly the National Abortion Rights Action League) and the National Organization for Women (NOW) was Stupak's successful sponsorship of the amendment to the health care bill in the House that reinforced the prohibition of government funds to pay for abortions.

What the unequivocally pro-choice House Speaker Nancy Pelosi understood was that without the Stupak amendment (which won the votes of 64 House Democrats), health care reform would never have passed the House.

Bart Stupak committed the sin of crafting a legislative compromise that eventually enabled the U.S. Congress to extend health coverage to 32 million fellow Americans. But he departed from the Democratic orthodoxy.

The purist Democrats have gotten their wish. Bart Stupak will not run for a 10th House term. The chances are good that the Democratic nominee in the enormous First District of Michigan, which includes the Upper Peninsula (the UP) and almost half the land area of the state, will be a Connie Saltonstall, a pro-choice former county commissioner. Republicans are openly giddy about "flipping the seat " to the GOP.

Stupak's predecessor in the House was a seven-term Republican. If Republicans do win the UP seat in 2010, then the House Democratic caucus will have lost a dependable and effective ally. But the Democratic purists will have proved their purity and that hunting down heretics can be more emotionally satisfying than seeking converts.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




4 Comments | Post Comment
I saw Mark Shields give a speech at the AFL-CIO meeting. In closing he said something to the effect that no man had never received benefits that others had provided. I think that's a neat summary of community. That we receive numerous benefits from the efforts of other and, in turn, each person should contribute to society by providing for others including those yet to come.

It is a fitting and sobering comment to those so called self made men who believe that they are entitled to their riches. The truth is that very few prominent people fully earn their own wealth. Some possible exceptions are writers who actually write their own books or painters that paint their own pictures but for most people of wealth their wealth is achieved through the efforts of others and you can have reasonable debates on the fair distribution of the wealth created. Recently in the US salaries of CEOs have gone through the roof and I've seen statistics that in the 1950s average CEO salaries was 25 times the wage of average workers. In 1980 this increased to 40 times, in 1990 to 100 times, and in 2007 to 350 times. I doubt that there are any principles of fairness or even economics that justify this increase.

It is reasonable to me that when people realize that their benefits are largely due to others that it should follow for them to have some sense of humility in their own greatness and an increased sense of responsibility to others and their obligation to contribute to the welfare of others.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Alvin Enns
Tue Apr 20, 2010 3:12 AM
Your recent column (Heretics or converts: Democratics better decide) was more than a little simplistic in it's analysis of the factors leading to Rep. Bart Stupak's decision not to run for a 10th term in Michigan's First District. As a resident of the district, a liberal Democrat and a supporter of Rep. Stupak despite his anti-abortion rights and pro-NRA positions, I take exception to your thesis. What outraged his more liberal constituents and prompted Ms. Saltonstall's decision to enter the Democratic primary was Rep. Stupak's apparent willingness to vote against his party's landmark health care reform bill to enhance his credibility as leader of the Democratic anti-abortion faction. Rep. Stupak has gone unchallenged from the left for his entire nine term tenure to my recollection. He undoubtedly could have regained at least begrudging liberal support with minimal effort, especially given the animus exhibited toward him by his anti-abortion "allies" on the right. By trying to tightrope between the pro-extremes (choice and life) Rep. Stupak misjudged the willingness of the right to savage anyone who deviates from their orthodoxy in the least as witness by the editorials, cartoons, bloggers, letters to the editor, and even death threats. I would suggest that the currently bizarre state passing for political discourse in this country where "tea baggers" scream meaningless slogans of dissatisfaction based on the rantings of semi-sane tv commentators is a more likely explanation of Rep. Stupak's decision not to seek reelection than any liberal challenge. As for future representation for the First District, Republicans may be openly "giddy" about "flipping the seat", but the election is a long 6+ months away and a careful examination of the candidates and their relative attributes is hopefully yet to come.
Comment: #2
Posted by: P. J. Gallagher
Tue Apr 20, 2010 9:12 AM
What we favor, we designate "pro" and what we oppose we designate "anti." Would "pro-life" supporters designate opposed supporters "pro-choice" and themselves "anti-choice?" Would "pro-choice" supporters designate opposed supporters "pro-life" and themselves "anti-life?"
Comment: #3
Posted by: Louis Axeman
Tue May 4, 2010 10:52 PM
Abortion is not good for babies, siblings, aunties, uncles, mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, society, democrats, republicans. It is inhumane torture, physically for the child in the womb and emotionally (read spiritually) for the mother and all relatives and society.
It is sad that so many of the women's groups claim they are for women's rights but fail to realize the abomination of pushing for abortion rights. Abortion is a decision that cannot be reversed and has immensely negative ramifications. How can "progressive" women think that abortion is good for women? It is a LIE.
Come On, Speak Out all you Pro-Life Dems. And, all you Pro-Life Repubs, get real. You can't be honestly Pro-life and continue to support big business. Most big businesses could care less about life in the womb. They just care about today's profits. We buy so much from China and they abort so many babies, mostly female.

Thank you for reading.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Laura
Thu Aug 19, 2010 6:05 AM
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