Columnist Lindsay Sabadosa: All politics are local

  • Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa talks with Chris Palames, of Northampton, prior to a town hall discussion held by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey at the Northampton Elks Lodge on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Published: 5/17/2019 8:34:19 AM
Modified: 5/17/2019 8:34:07 AM

For the last five months, I have become a person who drives over a thousand miles a week. As someone who has spent years thinking about how my family can reduce our carbon footprint, it is a hard reality to have to drive that much, although it is tempered by my deep love of my work and adds yet another reason why I am such a strong supporter of public bus and rail service. 

Generally, I start my mornings by putting on news radio, and I have become adept at learning the different call numbers as my trip across the state weaves in and out of various media markets. Despite that early morning dose, I have found that working in the State House has made it harder for me to follow both national and international news to the extent I would like. Sure, I get the headlines, but the meat of any story is in the details, and I find that I don’t always have the time to delve into stories. State and local news are, appropriately, my focus and often my morning sprinkle of news from beyond Massachusetts has to suffice. 

In the past week, though, the national news has caused me to catch my breath more than once and to reaffirm the old adage that all politics are local.

The first was the Sandra Bland cellphone video.

How does this relate to Massachusetts politics? Last month, the Transportation Committee, of which I am a member, heard testimony on Gov. Baker’s distracted driving bill. The hearing quickly turned into a discussion about racial bias and how to best pass a distracted driving law while working to ensure that it didn’t lead to increased profiling. When the bill left the Transportation Committee, it had no provision to address profiling, and I reserved my rights when asked to vote, stipulating that I would only support the bill if such a provision were added. 

Late Wednesday evening, we passed that bill, and it included provisions on data tracking as recommended by the ACLU of Massachusetts. Members of the Black and Latino Caucus, with the support of Progressive Caucus members, worked tirelessly to amend that legislation because, as that cellphone footage shows us so clearly, we need to think about racial bias in every single piece of legislation we pass; the issues are inextricably linked. 

The second time my heart sank this week was Alabama … and Georgia … and Ohio … and Rhode Island … and Missouri refusing to stand up for choice. 

I knew from the moment a presidential candidate intentionally confused a C-section with an abortion during a campaign debate that the right to bodily autonomy in this country was on shaky ground. It has long been a political tactic to retain control and power by withholding information, or, as is too often the case, providing inflammatory, inaccurate information.

Even in Massachusetts, we have not been able to pass the Healthy Youth Act, a bill that would provide age-appropriate, medically accurate, LGBTQIA+ friendly, consent-based sex ed in our schools. Pop culture, the media and pornography have sadly become the primary source of information about sex for many of our children, and the perpetuation of misogyny, white supremacy and homophobia are the results. The message these anti-choice laws send is that people with uteruses have rights from conception until menstruation, but after that their legislators are wiser than they are. Are we at all surprised that sexual assault, harassment and domestic violence are so prevalent when that is the message our government keeps sending? 

Personally, I am channeling my rage at this blatant sexism into my support for a bill that has been filed in Massachusetts this session, aptly called the ROE Act. It seeks to remove judicial bypass, leaves decisions about care to a physician and patient, provides equitable access and cleans up archaic language about choice. However, the same forces that are working to hurt the poorest, most vulnerable people in other states are hard at work in Massachusetts, too. Ads have been taken out accusing those of us who have sponsored the bill of supporting infanticide. Opponents have been visiting churches, asking them to tell their parishioners to contact their representatives to oppose the bill as if somehow caring for those in need were antithetical to their beliefs. 

The tactics used by those who want to retain power and influence by keeping others down take on many forms, confusing people along the way. For example, those opposing ROE have also stood against fully funding our schools, lifting the welfare cap and banning conversion therapy — and that’s in Massachusetts.

The line that connects those dots is keeping the current power structure in place, with a minority having all of the wealth and the control. The good news is that that means most of us are — or at least should be — on the same side of these fights, but we need to realize we are on the same team so we can move forward more strategically. 

Lindsay Sabadosa is a Northampton resident and the state representative for the 1st Hampshire District: Northampton, Southampton, Westhampton, Hatfield and Montgomery. Her column runs the third Friday of every month. She can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com.




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