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Archive for September, 2008

The Democratic Party Ladies’ Auxiliary

Posted by pocochina on September 8, 2008

Point the First:  Getting women into political power is a feminist issue.

The next time I hear “Sarah Palin does not SUPPORT WOMEN’S RIGHTS!  Booga booga stupid old ladies!”  Other variations, “John McCain thinks women are stupid,” “Women are not this dumb,” blah blah blah, I swear to God, I am going to lose it.  And it’s not the Bully Bloggerz making this claim, either, it’s feminists who support Barack Obama.  Getting women into positions of power, to be sure, is not the only feminist issue.  But to pretend it is not – that a woman loses her womanhood, shakes off all she has faced as a woman, because she is not a feminist – is ridiculous.  Until there is true parity of representation of women in government – we’ve had as many female as male presidents and vice presidents, the federal and all state legislatures are rougly equally distributed, men and women are equally balanced on state and federal courts, women voting for women will always be a feminist issue.  It’s not the only one, and for lots of us it’s not the most important one, but it is a women ‘s issue, and telling women who prioritize it that they are stupid is a great fucking way to alienate potential allies, which in turn is a great fucking way to lose an election.

And guess what?  Lots of women out there agree with Sarah Palin on some or many of her keynote issues.  I’m emphatically not one of those women – but guess what, those women get to vote, they get to support their candidate, they have every fucking reason in the world to be excited about her nomination.  Individualist feminists may see their feminism as the right not to be treated as interchangeable with every other person who shares their anatomy.

In fact, even those of us who disagree with her have a lot to celebrate here.  Dude.  Even the fucking GOP accepts that women are a political presence.  The Democrats, for the first time in decades – maybe ever, for fuck’s sake – might actually have to compete for women’s votes, rather than taking our enormous and diverse voting block for granted.  It will normalize her pro-contraceptive stance within the GOP.  Maybe this will energize moderate Republican women to agitate for women’s issues within their own party – a justly ironic effect for the archconservative Palin to have on her own party.

I’m pretty sure it was feminist Obama supporters, all along, screaming that NOT ALL WOMEN ARE THE SAME. And yet, now that some women have been given a truly viable reason to make a choice with which those feminst women disagree, they’re assuming that those women are STUPID.

I literally cannot believe I am defending the choice to vote for a Republican.  But there are ways to criticize a Republican vote, and then there are ways to criticize a Republican vote.  To criticize the McCain ticket, one only needs to look to John McCain.  (See how that works?  My powers of observation are STAGGERING!)  People who want Barack Obama to win should be treating Sarah Palin in much the same way the people who want John McCain to win are treating Joe Biden – by ignoring him and going after the candidate.

This is bait-taking at its most crushingly ridiculous, as well.  As long as the focus is on Palin, not McCain, McCain gets to continue to define himself as he sees fit (read:  NOT AT ALL how His McMaverickiness actually is), Palin gets airtime for her slams on Obama.  As the media continues to focus on her family life, McCain gets to look open-minded for choosing a working mother with a pregnant daughter on his ticket, even as he has no intention of systemically making things better for mothers of any age or stripe.  Should Biden not answer, he will look increasingly irrelevant to the Democratic ticket, increasing questions of why he was chosen, which necessarily brings up his experience in government, which inevitably reminds certain very loud people with radio and teevee shows that they don’t think Barack Obama has any.  However, when Biden does discuss Palin, he makes with the sexism, letting the Republicans defend her and look like they actually give a shit about women’s rights, in a year when the Democratic party has made it perfectly clear that they don’t.

Point the Second:  It is an absolute mistake for Barack Obama to send out Hillary Clinton to fight Palin for him.

Politics is all about perception, and personal definition.  Sarah Palin’s defining trait must not be that she is a woman. This is a net bad for Obama, and for down-ticket Democrats.  It must be that she is a Reaganite hand-picked archconservative successor to the Bush legacy, but simply one that reinforces McCain’s committment to those policies which have shredded the Constitution, and wildly increased federal spending while gambling with the futures of America’s children.  Only this, and nothing more.

Sending Senator Clinton out in front of the Palin nomination not only underscores the lack of judgment the campaign showed in not asking her to be on the ticket, and in the horrid sexism which contributed so heavily to Obama’s nomination, but it also allows the debate to be defined on Palin’s womanness.

Point the Third:  It is an absolute affront to women, feminists, and Clinton supporters to expect Senator Clinton to fight Governor Palin.

Senator Clinton is not a member of the Democratic Party Ladies’ Auxiliary.  She is among the most prominent Democrats in the country, and our most recognized political feminist.  Defining her as a woman who does the candidate’s dirty work, rather than the woman who put those eighteen million cracks in the celing (the one that doesn’t look so much like glass as concrete, any more) allows her to be defined as a woman and not a politically powerful feminist.  If she’s on 20/20 callling Palin names, she isn’t on the Senate floor doing her job brilliantly, most lately bringing visibility to the critical fight for birth control access.

More importantly, though, the press loved the primaries too much to let them go, and any time a story can contain the names “Clinton” and “Obama,” bad things happen.  One is that rank sexism ensues, further alienating feminist Clinton voters, whether or not they have jumped on the Obama wagon.  Another is that it allows Obama to continue the fight of the primaries, against the populist, pro-Constitution left, rather than against his general election enemy, the hard right.  As long as Obama supporters back off of true constructive criticism by backpedaling all discontent with “CLINTON WOULD’VE BEEN WORSE, THAT PSYCHO BITCH,” they’re letting Obama continue his sprint to the right, rather than holding him to his professed liberalism.

Point the Fourth:  This is why you do not alienate potential allies.

There’s one person who can speak openly about Sarah Palin.  Who can, with all respect for who she is, what she’s done, what it is to be a woman and a mother and an amibitious, successful political creature.  One person who can speak to American men and women and explain why Sarah Palin may deserve as much respect as any working mother, but does not deserve the vice presidency without coming off as – or, more to the point, being – a blustering, sexist bully.

That person is assuredly not Joe Biden.

It’s Geraldine Ferraro.

Geraldine Ferraro is the only person in the country, and probably the world, who has had an experience comparable to Sarah Palin’s.  She could have rallied women who believe in women, could have said, “My friend Walter Mondale selected me as his VP nominee as one of many ways to show his deep committment to women’s rights; John McCain and the conservative wing of the Republican Party have selected Sarah Palin to disguise their lack of committment to American women.”  And by the way, the people who are so angry at the Palin pick they perceive as having been just because she’s a woman – which is so far from the political reality – should know that Ferraro has, over and over, claimed that her gender was a critical part of Mondale’s selection of her as his running mate.  She may be the only person who can claim Palin was picked because she’s Sarah and not Samuel without looking immature and sexist.

Now, of course, I’m not condoning the remarks she was so deeply vilified for these many weeks ago – but I am pointing out that the extent of the vilification was not only cynically motivated, but was also sexist, ageist, and deeply stupid, and she knows it and so do the rest of us.  Compare, for example, with Joe Biden’s at least equally egrigious comment about Senator Obama and all the Black men and women who have previously sought the presidency – such comments merit the vice fucking presidency in a man, but Must Be Stamped Out in a woman, particularly an older woman.  Forgive and forget for Joe; put Geraldine out to pasture.  What could they have needed the old broad for, after all?  Well, as it turns out, for this.  The Obama campaign, in its haste to portray women who disagree with them as beneath contempt, seems to have forgotten that a woman’s vote is still just as good as a man’s vote – the McCain campaign never forgot that.

Not to mention, Ferraro as a resource for these reasons could have been particularly useful because she doesn’t need to run for office any more, could campaign and fundraise full-time, with no regard for her own career.  Unlike Senator Clinton, who has many years left as a powerful Senator and is likely to run for President again, Ferraro is retired, and appears politically because she wants to, not because there is anything in it for her.  Why should she want to help Obama, or his bully-boy campaign staff, now?  And even if she did, the Great Ferraro Contraversy would be a part of every appearance, allowing the McCain camp to further use their “Affirmative action bad!  Systemic oppression good!” chest-thumping to appeal to independent voters who want someone to blame for their economic troubles.

Point the Fifth:  The Democratic Party has been given a choice – whether it will recognize that a woman’s vote is as good as a man’s, and as necessary for victory, or whether it will found the Democratic Party Ladies’ Auxiliary, relegating us and our issues to the sideline.

It can criticize McCain, and leave Palin out of it.  It can expect Biden to shape up or ship out.  It can hold Obama to its primary promises.  It can do the impossible in politics – win by doing the right thing, namely, actively supporting feminst goals and the women who persue them.

Or, it can once again snatch defeat (or near-defeat) from the jaws of certain victory.

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