Friday, May 23, 2008

Misogyny and the democratic party

For a long time, I've been at times proud to be a member of the Democratic party, at times embarrassed, and sometimes quite frustrated. But in the last couple of years I've actually become ashamed. The feelings of shame started with Reid and Pelosi's supine passivity with a narrow congressional majority, but the hostility against Hillary Clinton — an expression of pure misogyny and Republican-style groupthink — has sealed the deal.

The overt, outrageous and inexcusable misogyny against Clinton has been amply documented, especially in the feminist blogosphere, at least that part that still considers feminism to be about the rights and status of women, and not a vehicle for excusing patriarchal religions and demands that women support every cause except women's rights.

I have no doubt in my mind that were misogyny as socially unacceptable as racism, Clinton would have won handily. And it's not just the Republican party or the conservative-dominated media. Any number of liberal bloggers, pundits and cartoonists have jumped on the misogynist bandwagon, including, to my astonishment and disgust, Barbara Ehrenreich.

Hillary Clinton is not "dividing" the Democratic party. The Democratic party was and has been divided, long before Clinton sought the nomination. As Will Rogers noted, "I'm not a member of an organized political party: I'm a Democrat." Deep divisions already exist — progressives vs. centrists, Republican appeasers vs. confrontationalists, socialists vs. classical liberals — and none of these divisions have anything whatsoever to do with the differences between Obama and Clinton. The only "difference" that Clinton is "exacerbating" is between those who believe a popular and viable candidate should take her candidacy to the convention, and those who think that the woman should shut the fuck up and get back in the kitchen — or at least take a back seat to some man.

To say that Clinton is dividing the party is to tell millions of her supporters not only are they outvoted, but that merely preferring a different candidate is positively evil. Fuck that. We Democrats aren't Republicans, i.e. sheep. At least we didn't used to be sheep.

Pundits, bloggers and the general public all seem to be under a major misapprehension about the Democratic presidential nomination process. The Democratic nominee for president is not decided by popular vote. It is decided by the party leadership at the convention. The rank and file party membership has a considerable voice in this process, as well they should, but their voice is the final voice only in the general election. Any candidate with even a single plausible delegate's vote is entitled to go to the convention. This decision is up to the candidate, not the press, the blogosphere, the punditry or even the voters. The convention itself is the process that the party employs to resolve differences within the party, as represented by the various candidates for the nomination.

If it's your opinion that Clinton should drop out of the race, of course you should voice that opinion. If you have an argument, of course you should make it. But to portray Clinton as a monster for not doing so is beyond the pale. This bullshit shows that even after almost 40 years of experience, the left still falls for conservative propaganda.

I've always been a member of the Democratic party first and foremost because they have supported the rights of women. Not perfectly, but they were feminists even when the going was tough, even when coldly calculated short-term interests would have argued that ending support for women's reproductive and economic rights might have won them an election or two. But no more. The Democratic party no longer stands for anything positive I believe in.

So congratulations, pundits: You will have your unified Democratic party. A party purged of progressives and feminists; a party united under the banner of Republican appeasement, conservative government; a party tolerant of sexism, imperialism, economic elitism and corporatism. In other words, Republicans without the batshit craziness... but still making sure that the batshit crazies are included.

No thank you. I'll take my business elsewhere, and if you're the only game in town, I'm not going to play at all.

8 comments:

  1. You know something? I've been ashamed of the Democrats in the past few years, too. I've been a registered Democrat since I reached voting age, and since the Republicans took congress in the 1990s, the Democrats have moved farther and farther to the right, conceding just about every cause which matters to me. Since 2000, this process has accelerated, and the Democratic Party has become a cruel joke. As of three years ago, I decided not to vote for any Democratic candidates, ever again, although I have been too lazy to alter my registration.

    I can't claim to be a feminist. I am one of the futile linguistic holdouts who feel that "feminist" means "a person who seeks female ascendancy over males". I claim, rather, to be an egalitarian: women and men should be treated equally. And so Hillary Clinton deserves to be considered just as a man would be considered.

    If you ignore Hillary Clinton's gender and merely consider her record, she is not at all an appealing candidate. She is one of the people who has made the Democratic party into such a sham.

    She helped set up the Democratic Leadership Committee (which has been instrumental in moving the party to the right), she voted for the war in Iraq without even bothering to read the intelligence estimate which accompanied it (and has never apologized), she voted for the PATRIOT Act, she voted for the Kyl-Lieberman saber-rattling bill, and she's voted to fund the war in Iraq repeatedly, and without spoken reservation.

    Then there's her campaign: she failed to plan for contingencies and was caught flatfooted when she didn't win on Super Tuesday, she has promised the well-connected workers on her staff (such as Mark Penn, who is still working for her) vast sums of money, she is paying her rich campaign staff before she pays the (many!) small businesses who have provided services to her campaign, and she keeps saying things which, charitably, turn out not to be true, like claiming she had $10 million in donations back in April. She has claimed to be for the common man, in contrast to Obama being an elitist, but she is personally wealthy and comes from a wealthy family, where Obama grew up poor, went to school on a scholarship, and doesn't even approach the Clintons in terms of property. I doubt Clinton has ever had to worry about missing a meal or paying the rent, or had to make a pair of shoes last because she couldn't afford to replace them. She has less in common with me than Obama, and I'm well-off and white.

    Is Clinton better on issues female equality than Obama? Probably; almost certainly. (With people like Phyllis Schlafly around as counterexamples, gender and political stance clearly do not follow as the night the day, hence the "almost".) But by how much? Do you think Obama will try to have Roe vs. Wade overturned by appointing conservative Supreme Court judges? I seriously doubt that. And I doubt he'd veto any laws improving female equality, because the consequences would be dire. He'd probably be no worse on female equality than Clinton would be on race. I'm leaving it to you, the "hard-working white voter" Clinton supporter, to decide whether that's good or bad.

    Should Clinton remain in the race? Well, forcing her out would be wrong. And Obama has not attempted to do so, although some (not all) of his supporters have urged this. But I don't think any of the other candidates would stay in, were they substituted for Clinton. And as for "count every vote" -- it is Clinton's own party which was originally strongest in the calls to disenfranchise Florida and Michigan, casting 12 (of a possible 12) of their votes for doing so. To suddenly reverse their position now, and demand that ballots on which only Clinton's name was listed be counted, is disingenuous at best.

    I reject your claim that "progressives" have been purged from the Democratic party in the backlash against Hillary Clinton. If you think that starting an illegal war, which has been a large part of an economic meltdown destroying the lives of millions, should take a back seat to sexism, you aren't a progressive, and you certainly aren't an egalitarian. You are a callous and, yes, immoral person. And if the war takes a front seat, Clinton is not an appropriate person to hold office.

    Furthermore, I hold that Clinton's behavior is actually contrary to your stated goal of equal treatment, because she has behaved in ways which conform to nearly every stereotype of women, except that of passivity. She has failed to plan, she has managed money poorly, she has repeatedly altered her conditions for leaving the race (each time she lost a contest, it was suddenly the next contest which would decide for her), and now she wants to change the rules near the end of a game she is losing. She also refused to divorce her husband, who has proven to be a serial philanderer, which is hardly doing anything for the cause of equal rights either.

    (And all of that is leaving aside the fact that, should Clinton win the nomination, the media will suddenly "remember" all the Clinton scandals of the 1990s which they have, so far, ignored. I'm always astonished when Clinton supporters claim that the media is anti-Clinton, when, as far as I know, we have yet to hear a peep out of the mainstream media about any of the overblown scandals of the Clinton presidency. I am told that the Republicans have been counting on a Clinton nomination, and already have a 2-hour partisan documentary on the Clintons ready for repeated, endless broadcast.)

    Obama is no peach. When the race began, I was anti-all-the-candidates. But the more Clinton has done to try and damage Obama's reputation, the more respect I have had for him. He proved over the gas tax holiday flap that he's willing to treat the public as though we have some intelligence and are able to make decisions on a basis other than short-term benefit. He may turn out to be all talk -- in fact, I suspect that he is -- but if I was willing to vote for the all-talk Bill Clinton (who started the whole "cave in to Republicans" trend) and the all-talk Gore and Kerry, who rolled over and conceded, then I can hold my nose and vote for Obama as well.

    Why couldn't you "feminism above all else" Clinton supporters have run Barbara Lee or Barbara Boxer? Then you really would be able to claim to be progressives. I, for one, would be happy to support a Boxer/Lee or Lee/Boxer ticket, and was even planning to write one in until Obama overcame my cynicism. Instead, you chose a deeply flawed woman who I can't support in good conscience.

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  2. Anon:

    Instead, you chose a deeply flawed woman who I can't support in good conscience.

    You know what, I cannot stand fucking retards who have absolutely no reading comprehension.

    I DO NOT SUPPORT HILLARY CLINTON. I voted for her, but I've never strongly advocated her candidacy.

    I am opposed to the misogyny she has suffered, which is completely and thoroughly unjustified. I have made this point time and again on the blog. I would be just as opposed to the misogyny if she were a Margaret Thatcher-style conservative, just as I would oppose actual racism directed against fucktards Clarence Thomas and Thomas Sowell.

    I have never ever said that a vote for Obama was a vote against feminism. There are perfectly good reasons to prefer Obama to Clinton.

    The point I'm making is that Clinton is going to lose not because Obama is the better candidate, but because she herself is a woman.

    I can't claim to be a feminist. I am one of the futile linguistic holdouts who feel that "feminist" means "a person who seeks female ascendancy over males".

    You're not a "holdout", you're being perversely idiosyncratic. Feminism has never meant "a person who seeks female ascendancy over males" in any popular sense. The meaning of words is dictated by usage, not morphology.

    If you ignore Hillary Clinton's gender and merely consider her record, she is not at all an appealing candidate.

    Let me repeat: My point is not that an otherwise wonderful candidate has been suppressed, it's that Clinton's candidacy has been suppressed because she's a woman, not because her politics are bad. The proof of this interpretation is that Obama is no better, and in some ways (Republicans in the cabinet? WTF?) worse.

    Then there's her campaign...

    All candidates make mistakes, serious mistakes. You're just making specious excuses. Even despite all her mishaps, she has maintained popular support in the party.

    Is Clinton better on issues female equality than Obama?

    This observation is irrelevant to my point. I do not assert that Clinton's candidacy has suffered because she is strong on women's rights. I assert her campaign has suffered because she herself is a woman. This result is completely unacceptable in a party dedicated to the equality of women.

    Should Clinton remain in the race? Well, forcing her out would be wrong.

    Which is precisely what liberal and progressive voices are doing by demonizing her as a "monster" just because she won't quit until the end of the game.

    I reject your claim that "progressives" have been purged from the Democratic party in the backlash against Hillary Clinton.

    The feminists (in the ordinary sense of the word) have been purged from the party by the Hillary Clinton backlash.

    The purging of progressives precedes Hillary Clinton, and it goes back to the Bill Clinton candidacy and presidency. Hillary Clinton shares much of the blame for this purge.

    Again, my point is not to defend Clinton's candidacy on its merits, but to observe that her rejection has not been on her merits (or lack thereof) but on her sex.

    If you think that starting an illegal war, which has been a large part of an economic meltdown destroying the lives of millions, should take a back seat to sexism, you aren't a progressive, and you certainly aren't an egalitarian.

    First, there's absolutely no reason whatsoever to rank the war in Iraq, the economy, and feminism. There is nothing at all about any of these items that makes any other more difficult.

    Second, and pay close attention because I'm getting very tired of repeating myself...

    BARACK OBAMA IS NOT GOING TO END THE WAR IN IRAQ OR FIX THE ECONOMY.

    We're in Iraq because of the Republicans. Our economy is in terrible shape because of conservative economic policies pushed by the Republicans. Obama wants to work with the Republicans. Obama is just as much a part of the problem as is Clinton.

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  3. (Same anonymous, having taken my laptop elsewhere.)

    I DO NOT SUPPORT HILLARY CLINTON.

    Well, BB, something comes to mind about how if it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck and it sounds like a duck, it's probably a duck.

    Your argument comes down to "the media and some people in Obama's campaign (but not Obama himself) are putting forth misogynist statements, therefore the Democratic party is misogynist and I can't work with them any more."

    Obama himself has not been involved in this, yet you plan to act out against him by withholding your vote. Whether or not you intend to embrace guilt by association, your behavior is indistinguishable by any practical measure.

    You have, additionally, stated that Clinton is losing because she is a woman. My point is that no, this is not true, or is at least an insufficient explanation. She is certainly facing misogynist opposition. But Obama is definitely facing racist opposition, which is arguably stronger in this country -- when was the last time you heard of women being singled out for disenfranchisement by voter fraud? -- and he's still winning.

    I'll let you in on an open secret, one which people like you seem to have missed: a lot of liberals are more tired of the Clintons and their cast of supporters than of the Democratic party itself. We're tired of hearing jokes about Bill's sex life, we're tired of hearing about their tired old scandals, we're tired of hearing of their financial shenanigans, and we can still remember the way they sold us out to the Republicans over and over and over again. We noticed that they were largely behind the Democratic shift to the right (a.k.a. "triangulation," a word particularly associated with Hillary Clinton). Even if the alternatives are no better, we are unwilling to support the Clintons any longer. This is the end of the road for the Clintons as far as we are concerned. If Obama were not running, we would support someone else, other than Hillary Clinton.

    Obama may be no better. He certainly won't fix the economy -- the U.S. economy is not going to improve significantly for at least a decade, if then, and whoever gets in office is going to be unable to do anything to speed it up. The only thing anyone can do is to stop actively making things worse.

    The most important action, towards that end, is to stop the war in Iraq. It's a money pit which has proved to have absolutely no benefit to the U.S. It's not keeping gas prices low or causing technological innovation we can use, but it is weakening the dollar dramatically and driving us into debt while alienating the entire world.

    Obama may or may not stop the war in Iraq. I incline towards no. Then again, I never believed that he would refrain from personally slinging mud at the Clintons, and he has managed that trick. I never would have thought he would try to treat the public like intelligent, decent people, and yet he has -- his speech on race and the gas tax holiday come to mind. He keeps surprising me in ways that are pleasant, which means he has earned the benefit of the doubt. And so far, at least, he is not seriously beholden to many corporate donors -- his money comes mostly from small donors.

    Hillary Clinton, though, will definitely not stop the war. She has accepted a lot of money from people who want the war to go on, either because they make a profit from the war or because they are AIPAC-style "Israel before America" hawks. (In the latter category, for example, she has accepted money from Haim Saban, who apparently tried to bribe the Young Democrats of America into declaring both their superdelegate votes for Clinton.)

    I also question whether the comments are really misogynist, although since I don't watch TV I can't claim to know. Clinton is a public figure running for office, and therefore it is legitimate to question her motives, just as it is to question any other candidate's, including Obama. Her campaign has been mismanaged, she's in debt (causing significant financial problems for a lot of small businesses who have provided services for her campaign, incidentally), she makes unrealistic estimations and misstatements which are more probably outright lies, and her campaign keeps making nasty little cracks about assassination. And, to top it all off, she's losing. If Hillary were a man and not married to a former president, she would probably be the subject of a lot of lawsuits, if not actually in prison. This deserves to be brought up, and if you're seriously claiming that Hillary should not be mocked for it, you apparently live in some parallel world.

    Two other comments:

    Who cares whether Obama might put "Republicans" in the cabinet? Are you worried he might put "Muslims" in the cabinet, too? Or "black people"? Lurking on the periphery, and certainly not in positions of power within the party, there are some competent, intelligent Republicans, mostly feeling alienated and wondering whether they should stay with their party. Are you suggesting that their political party affiliation is more important than their competence? We call that "patronage", and it's an ugly word with ugly consequences. We're going to need all the intelligence and talent we can muster to dig ourselves out of the hole into which the Bush administration, with Clinton's complicity, has dug us.

    And as for "feminist" versus "egalitarian": the debate over terminology is long over, and I admit that "feminist" won. But I hold that the term is not useful in the present situation because it leaves no convenient term for female supremacists, of whom many of Hillary Clinton's supporters seem to be -- they think Clinton should win, regardless of her qualification, because she is a woman. That's foolishness. We can't afford another bad president, and Hillary Clinton would be one.

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  4. Anon:

    Well, BB, something comes to mind about how if it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck and it sounds like a duck, it's probably a duck.

    I suppose if you squint real hard, an objection to pervasive misogyny might be construed as uncritical adulation.

    Your argument comes down to "the media and some people in Obama's campaign (but not Obama himself) are putting forth misogynist statements, therefore the Democratic party is misogynist and I can't work with them any more."

    Democratic and progressive pundits, Democratic party leaders, and a considerable proportion of the rank and file are saying misogynist things, so no, I don't want to work with them any more.

    Obama himself has not been involved in this, yet you plan to act out against him by withholding your vote.

    No person is ever entitled to my vote under any circumstances. I have absolutely no ethical obligations to vote other than as my conscience dictates. By definition, I do no reprehensible injury to anyone by withholding my vote.

    And, frankly, if there were any positive reason to vote for Obama, I would vote for him, regardless of any misogyny, since he has not been much of an active participant. But since the Democratic party has lost my loyalty, I'm not going to vote for him out of nothing but party loyalty.

    You have, additionally, stated that Clinton is losing because she is a woman. My point is that no, this is not true, or is at least an insufficient explanation.

    The race is close; sexism is certainly a significant contributing factor. I do not assert that she is otherwise perfect. But the misogyny is definitely there, and it deserves condemnation.

    [A] lot of liberals are more tired of the Clintons and their cast of supporters than of the Democratic party itself.

    That's fine. If you don't like Clinton, don't vote for her. Vote for Obama. You can give all the substantive reasons for not liking Clinton, and I'll agree with them all.

    I happen to disagree with your opinion that Obama would do any better, but that's not the point.

    My point is that we don't have to portray Clinton as a monster simply because she's acting as any respectable male politician would act, i.e. by actually — gasp! — campaigning for president, and trying to go to the convention with as much power as she can muster. That's how we've set up the political system, and Clinton deserves to use that system just as much as any man.

    I also question whether the comments are really misogynist...

    I don't.

    Who cares whether Obama might put "Republicans" in the cabinet? Are you worried he might put "Muslims" in the cabinet, too? Or "black people"?

    That's a completely retarded question.

    Lurking on the periphery, and certainly not in positions of power within the party, there are some competent, intelligent Republicans...

    That's another completely retarded comment.

    And as for "feminist" versus "egalitarian": the debate over terminology is long over, and I admit that "feminist" won.

    There never was a debate.

    But I hold that the term is not useful in the present situation because it leaves no convenient term for female supremacists, of whom many of Hillary Clinton's supporters seem to be...

    That's yet another completely retarded statement.

    Three strikes and you're out, moron.

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  5. Oh, get over yourself, anon.

    Why you're using Hillary Clinton as a whipping boy, as it were, when you should be saving your vitriol for Bush/Cheney, escapes me.

    More on why the heads of you and your ilk are totaly up your bums at my place. Come on over.

    don't make me barf with your "appealing candidate" crap. US Presidents need to be "appealing"? Feh

    Don't try to bludgeon me and mine into submission with Roe v. Wade. It won't work. I've had enough. We've had enough.

    Or hadn't you noticed?

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  6. Thanks you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I guess I'm one of the many people who never had one good word to say about bill clinton who's now watching bemused at this spectacle unfolds before me. I feel like I've gone through the looking glass.

    I don't know how many times I swore I'd never vote for Hillary clinton because she was too far to the right for me. Still is. unfortunately, obama seems to be as bad or worse in virtually ever area. so how she became the screaming harpy from the pit of hell and he became the progressive champion of the ages was never clear to me. oh, sure, when I asked friends why h. clinton seemed to engage their ire worse than Bill, worse than anyone else in the DLC, worse than anyone ever, and why obama was so much better, they'd make a sexist crack, but I ignored it. i ignored that when talking about her they veered from actual substantive criticism to Limbaugh's 1992 talking points about vince foster and Ron Brown. I ignored how they couldn't provide any substantive examples of what made Obama so appealing, because after all, clinton was 'Nixon...in a dress.' he just had to be perferable to legendary evil.

    Then I read an eirenreich piece that was as logic-free as anything from the American Spectator and included speculation on Clinton's possible instability because she changed her hairstyle frequently. The penny dropped, and ever since then I've been standing with my mouth slghtly open watching this party rip one of its own to shreds in an unprescedented way simply because she happens to be the wrong gender. It's been an interesting ride to say the least.

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  7. I take exception to the comments about the passivity of Congressional Democrats.

    "President Bush's success rating in the Democratic-controlled House has fallen this year to a half-century low, and he prevailed on only 14 percent of the 76 roll call votes on which he took a clear position.

    "So far this year, Democrats have backed the majority position of their caucus 91 percent of the time on average on such votes. That marks the highest Democratic unity score in 51 years."
    http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=show_mesg&forum=389&topic_id=1728952&mesg_id=1728952
    http://public.cq.com/docs/cqt/news110-000002576765.html

    If the Democrats in Congress have the highest unity score in over 50 years, it makes no sense to accuse them of passivity or complicity with the Republicans.

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  8. Perry: It's too little, too late.

    As the Republicans have shown us, there is much effect that a minority party can do in government. The Democratic party has to bear the blame for its inaction on the War in Iraq, civil liberties, torture, domestic surveillance, no-bid contracts and a host of other abuses.

    Secondly, even with a (narrow) majority, there is much that could have been done that has not been done: notably impeachment and funding on the Iraq war.

    Third, my criticism does not specifically address "disunity". A Democratic party united on a conservative "Republican-lite" agenda is not going to earn my admiration.

    ReplyDelete

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