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Letter to the Editor: An Open Letter to Jay Hughes from an Oxford Constituent

By Don Manning-Miller
Oxford, MS

Since I have been a human and civil rights activist all my adult life, there have been all too few votes that I was proud to cast and even fewer that I remained proud of after the person had been in office a while. That was not the case with Jay Hughes.

Although, I never thought that education was THE answer. It was such an important part of the answer I gladly voted Jay Hughes when you were elected. I became even prouder when it appeared that in office you were prepared to challenge the entrenched reactionary power structures and call things by their right name. Finally, a courageous progressive. That is why your recent vote for what has been rightly called the toughest anti-abortion law in the nation brought such a sense of treachery and betrayal.

Gov. Phil Bryant, who has built his entire political career on doing everything he possibly can to diminish the quality of life for all ordinary Mississippians, clearly stated his intent to deny women in Mississippi their constitutionally protected right to choose an abortion. With this vote you have joined the reactionary airhead contingent with their agenda that has bankrupted our state morally and practically, including public education and spurned the hard struggle by the women’s movement and its allies to establish the right to choose.

Your vote for this legislation is the equivalent at your level of a vote to overturn Roe V. Wade and 46 years of democratic freedom for women to make ultimate decisions about their own bodies.

In response to initial criticism, you didn’t say that this was a vote from your sincere personal conviction but that you did it because you want to be elected and were concerned about having too many black and too few white Democrats in the legislature. Pure expediency.

I understand practical politics, but this was not just a minor or incidental nod in the direction of the reactionary component of the constituency, but a fundamental sellout of your own supporting constituency. You are either with women and with progressives or you are not. This vote puts you clearly in the ‘not’ category.

Those of us who want to rebuild the Democratic Party along the lines of traditional democratic values and policy priorities that prevailed before the “we’re almost republicans too” era are committed to a progressive economic and developmental agenda that really benefits all ordinary citizens but without sacrificing the all too meager social and moral gains we’ve made in the areas of race, gender, sexual orientation and LGBTQIA rights.

If we can’t do that, we have no moral imperative or principled reason to seek power.

We cannot merely turn our backs on this vote and pretend it’s just a minor aberration on an otherwise progressive intent. This directly involves the rights and safety of women, half the population, and is another attack on the social fabric of a decent society.

You say John Edwards won seats in Louisiana on an anti-abortion platform and put himself in the position to “address the real needs of real people.” As if women in search of control of their bodies, not to mention those who will suffer from back-alley abortions, are not real people with real needs.

You ask whether we would rather vote for someone we agree with 95 percent of the time or see someone elected we disagree with 95 percent of the time. But, to those of us in the human rights struggle, this is not a 5 percent issue but a 55 percent to 100 percent issue.

We will likely end up compromising our principles and voting for you. But it will be business as usual voting for the lesser of evils because it is the only choice we have — not a proud vote for someone we believe can be trusted even on fundamental issues of humanistic imperatives and basic values. Sad.

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