The Value of Diversity

Debating Mike Pence’s amendment to defund Planned Parenthood, Rep Jackie Speier talked about her abortion (“For you to stand on this floor and suggest that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought, is preposterous”) and Rep Gwen Moore discussed her experience as a teen mother.

Dana Goldstein makes a smart point about this:

These two women serve as reminders of why we need many more women and people of color serving in public office. To suggest so much is often derided as playing “identity politics,” but really, it’s just an acknowledgement that people with identities that differ from the status quo of political life–old, white, affluent, and male–have experiences that add something to the public debate and decision-making process. They’ve been single mothers. They’ve endured the tragedy of losing a wanted pregnancy. They’ve been poor.

I think people would appreciate this point better if they understood the fact that public opinion and interest group politics only constrain politicians very loosely. Both of those factors matter, of course, but politicians actually have a fair amount of autonomy. What they think in their heart—and especially which priorities are dear to them—actually makes quite a bit of difference. People with different backgrounds and life experiences are likely to have different ideas about what matters, and that can really change political outcomes.