Rambling Thoughts on Feminism and Politics

Not to make this a “pile on Hillary” kind of weekend, but a quote I saw a week or so ago has been nagging at me.

To feminist writer Linda Hirshman, Clinton’s likely defeat signals a harsh reality that future female candidates will need to consider.

“It shows how fragile the loyalty and commitment of women to a female candidate is. That’s a pretty scary thing,” says Hirshman. “She can count on the female electorate to divide badly and not be reliable.”

That’s a definition of feminism that I don’t understand. In act, it sounds a lot more like essentialism. As a woman who has spent a good portion of her life making her way in male-dominated fields – and as a Jew, to boot – I have an extreme distaste for any ideology that assumes that group characteristics are identical and unalterable.

And yet …. it would make me happy to see a woman elected President, I can’t lie. It would also make me happy to see a Jewish President, although frankly I think that’s even less likely to happen in my lifetime. Still, that doesn’t mean I’m going to put gender or religious characteristics ahead of everything else on the table. Especially when it comes to something as important as a Presidential election.

I’m one of the first generation of American women to be born and raised in a world where women actually had the option to escape the constraints they’d previously been limited to. Is that why I do not feel the pull of identity politics? I consider myself a feminist. Does being a “good” feminist mean that I must vote for a woman candidate solely because of her gender? I don’t think so, but clearly some other women do.

How did things get to this place? And more important, can we fix it?

Super Tuesday: PM Edition

It’s closing in on 10 PM and I’ve been watching the returns for almost 5 hours now. As I write this, Obama took 13 states to Clinton’s 8 (New Mexico has not yet been declared), and MSNBC has the two of them within 20 delegates of each other.

Of course, I would have liked to see Obama take California and/or New York in a resounding victory, but all in all, tonight was a good night. This race isn’t even close to being over.

Why I'm for Obama

I think I’ve mentioned in passing that Obama is my candidate, but with Super Tuesday approaching, it’s time I came out and said so in no uncertain terms. There’s a lot of reasons why, but essentially it boils down to something Obama himself said in a speech today:

It’s not enough to say you’ll be ready from Day One — you have to be right from Day One.

I support Barack Obama for President, and if you’re voting in one of the upcoming Democratic primaries, I strongly urge you to vote for him as well.

Frankly, Hillary Clinton and Obama do not differ all that much in many aspects of their platforms and their voting records — except for one glaring difference. Obama was right about the disastrous war Bush got us into, and Hillary was not. All the experience in the world will not help you if you make the wrong choices on key issues like whether or not to go to war, and Hillary got it wrong.

And even more than that, Obama is one of those uniquely gifted leaders who can, despite how rough the last 8 years have been, make people feel good about being an America, make us feel confident about our future, and make us feel that yes, we can get this ship of state back on course.

An America with Barack Obama as its President is an America I’d very much like to see. Whether we’ll get there, I don’t know, but I’ll be doing my part next Tuesday to try to bring it about.

Clinton: A Legacy of Trauma?

I don’t read Andrew Sullivan regularly, but Ezra called this piece on Clinton and Obama to my attention today, and it’s quite interesting, especially this bit:

Clinton has internalized to her bones the 1990s sense that conservatism is ascendant, that what she really believes is unpopular, that the Republicans have structural, latent power of having a majority of Americans on their side. Hence the fact that she reeks of fear, of calculation, of focus groups, of triangulation. She might once have had ideals keenly felt; she might once have actually relished fighting for them and arguing in their defense. But she has not been like that for a very long time. She has political post-traumatic stress disorder. She saw her view of feminism gutted in the 1992 campaign; she saw her healthcare plan destroyed by what she saw as a VRWC; she remains among the most risk-averse of Democrats on foreign policy and in the culture wars.

It’s an insightful take on Clinton and who know, Sullivan might even be right. He goes on to compare her with Obama:

The traumatized Democrats fear the majority of Americans are bigoted, know-nothing, racist rubes from whom they need to conceal their true feelings and views. The non-traumatized Democrats are able to say what they think, make their case to potential supporters and act, well, like Republicans acted in the 1980s and 1990s. The choice between Clinton and Obama is the choice between a defensive crouch and a confident engagement. It is the choice between someone who lost their beliefs in a welter of fear; and someone who has faith that his worldview can persuade a majority.

Traumatic events will have an impact, that’s a given. The real question is, what lessons do you learn from the past, and how do you choose to respond to it as you move on in life? I understand Clinton’s risk-aversion, but given that significant repair job that the next President is going to have on their hands, I’m not sure that someone whose impulse response is to be cautious is necessarily the right person for the job at this point in time.

About that Obama v Clinton Debate Issue

Kevin Drum has a good post up today about the difference between a potential Obama foreign policy as compared to a Clinton foreign policy. I agree with his take, and even better, he has a nice summation of why all this actually matters:

It’s rare to have a discussion about foreign policy that actually revolves around a concrete point, and by foreign policy standards this one counts as at least a mud brick point. Basically, do you think the United States should, as a routine part of its foreign policy, say that it’s willing to talk to any country that’s willing to talk to us? That the mere act of talking isn’t a tacit capitulation to a rogue regime’s demands?

I sure think so, and not just for the obvious reason that talking can sometimes lead to actual results. The bigger reason is that if you talk routinely, then the mere act of talking isn’t a tacit capitulation to a rogue regime’s demands and can’t possibly be spun that way. It’s just something we do.

Emphasis added. Good one, Kevin.