One idea from a right-wing group: To scare minority voters by telling them that Russ Feingold wants to wipe out their population. Yes, really.
In Wisconsin, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is in serious danger this year in his rematch against Democratic former Sen. Russ Feingold, whom he had defeated in the Tea Party wave of 2010. At this time of writing, the RealClearPolitics poll average shows Feingold ahead with 50.7 percent, to 40.0 percent for Johnson.
As reported in The Capital Times of Madison, a group called America’s PAC (And who could ever argue with a name like that?) is running a Spanish-language radio ad, telling voters that Feingold is targeting them through abortion.
The ad opens with a man asking: “Is it important to Russ Feingold that Hispanic babies are twice as likely to be aborted as white babies?”
Then, a woman asks rhetorically: “I have a question for Feingold: Why should you have my vote if you don’t want our babies?”
“We don’t need to kill our future, we need to have hope for our future and know that opportunities will triumph and grow,” the man says. “Ron Johnson constructed business and created more than 100 jobs. We need jobs, not abortions.”
A Feingold campaign spokeswoman told The Capital Times that the ad is an “insult to Wisconsin’s women,” calling upon Johnson to disavow the “racist, inflammatory and exploitative insults being used on his behalf.”
(Ironically for a conservative group that purports to reach out to minority groups, one of their wealthy donors is Mary Kohler, who in the 1980s publicly defended Apartheid-era South Africa on the grounds that blacks there were “still in the Stone Age,” and that it would be “a total disaster” to let them vote.)
Now, let’s look at the actual facts.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank dedicated to promoting reproductive and sexual freedom, “White patients accounted for 39% of abortion procedures in 2014, blacks for 28%, Hispanics for 25% and patients of other races and ethnicities for 9%.” By contrast, according to the latest estimates from the US Census Bureau, the country’s general population is 62 percent whites (non-Hispanics), 18 percent Latino, and 13 percent African American, and 7 percent other categories.
This disparity is often seized upon by anti-abortion activists, to paint a conspiracy theory that abortion providers are seeking to wipe out minority populations.
But there is another very important detail here: Poverty and overall economic deprivation. Here, Guttmacher also shows that a whopping 49 percent of women getting abortions had incomes below the poverty line — defined at only $11,670 for a single adult with no children, in the year 2014 — while an additional 26 percent of abortion patients had incomes at less than double that income. That adds up to 75 percent — the overwhelming majority of the women who get abortions, and which can be linked clearly to economic inequality.
Minority communities are also adversely affected by other factors that increase their rates of unintended pregnancies (and as a result, abortions) including less access to birth control and quality sex education, which affect them even after adjusting simply for income.
Now, ask this question: Of the two candidates, Feingold or Johnson, which one is more likely to help the disadvantaged to get the economic opportunities they need?
To name just two examples, Johnson has proposed gutting health care reform, which Feingold had voted to pass into law in 2010. He also opposes the existence of the minimum wage, while Feingold supports raising it to $15 per hour.
Feingold also supports debt-free college, while Johnson has opposed proposals for free two-year community college.
Somewhat ironically, Johnson has said that “Young people don’t necessarily understand finance,” when it comes to student loans,” and that he worked and spent his own money to pay for college. But he went to the public university in his original home state of Minnesota, where he would’ve benefited from the public subsidies on in-state tuition, which were a lot more generous in those days — an element of finance that apparently he doesn’t necessarily understand.
And just in case you still thought Johnson was too compassionate, he recently proposed a legislative amendment to exempt private schools that take public voucher money from being subjected to the Americans with Disabilities Act — a proposal that would further shut out the vulnerable from mainstream society.