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With President Obama being a major disappointment in some corners, it was perhaps inevitable that Hillary Clinton loyalists would exercise their right to second-guess the inevitable nominee.  Anne Kornblut's column in The Washington Post entitled, "When young women don't vote for women" is but the latest effort to chastise young feminists and young women in general for not being more supportive of the first female candidate to make a serious run for the White House.  The column, regrettably, also invokes the counter-productive liberal guilt complex construct of the Oppression Olympics to make its point, which is something I thought we had recognized does nothing to unite and everything to divide.  Pitting women against African-Americans in some kind of twisted priority system has been the demise of many worthy organizations and the beginning of arguments that inevitably lead to raised blood pressure.

To emphasize her point, Kornblut relates an anecdote regarding a talk that former Vice-Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro had with her own daughter.  In particular, it centers around why the latter voted for Barack Obama instead of then-Candidate Clinton.

[Ferraro's] daughter struggled to explain, saying Obama just inspired her. "What does he inspire you to do, leave your husband and three kids and your practice and go work for Doctors Without Borders?" Ferraro snapped in response.

Ferraro was livid, and distraught. What more did Hillary Clinton have to do to prove herself? How could anyone -- least of all Ferraro's own daughter -- fail to grasp the historic significance of electing a woman president, in probably the only chance the country would have to do so for years to come? Ferraro hung up enraged, not so much at her daughter but at the world. Clinton was being unfairly cast aside, and, along with her, the dreams of a generation and a movement.

I often wish that we would not enshrine our heroes and our victories in concrete, granite, and bronze.  I like it even less when we enshrine them in the pages of history textbooks that peddle the myth while glossing over the reality.  Doing so often makes people believe that the cause is somehow fulfilled, the dream somehow firmly resolved rather than supremely deferred.  The battle may be won, but the war continues.  The Civil War might have concluded over a century ago, but we still deal with the consequences and the fallout.  The Civil Rights Movement did not end with the enactment of the Voting Rights Act, and as we have seen recently, the establishment of Medicaid and Medicare, successful as they are, did not mean that additional reform was unnecessary.  I am sure that the cause of women's rights would not draw to a neatly satisfactory coda if the Equal Rights Amendment were to be enacted, either.

Third-wave feminists in their twenties and thirties, like myself, contrary to what those who came before might think, do certainly appreciate the protests, the struggles, and the hard won concessions of our elders, but we also feel understandably slighted and devalued when our mothers (and some fathers) think that we must be ungrateful and unappreciative for their sacrifices.  At times this attitude reminds me of my childhood, particularly being upbraided by my mother as an spoiled ingrate for all of the things she did for me, denying her own desires in the process.  After all, my own mother was heavily indebted to Women's Liberation, though the label "Feminist" is one that she was reluctant to wear on her sleeve, though I'm sure she might identify as such if asked in conversation.  

Moreover, there is a very real temptation with age to run in place rather than forward and in so doing believe that the reward for a job well done is to rest on one's haunches and bask in the glory of a fading epoch.  Activism and activists ought not to expect nor be satisfied with retirement.  If sexism and misogyny were present in the same fashion as in, say, 1970, the second-wave pioneers might have a point.  But being that the only constant in life is change, so too is injustice and oppression.  Enemies reform, evil regenerates, and new problems require new solutions.  This is where we differ from our parents and this is where those of an earlier time fail to make the connection.  

To younger voters, Clinton was both a relic of that era and a victim of its success. She was the wrong woman at the wrong time; she was a Clinton; she hadn't gotten there on her own; a woman could be elected another year. After all, the reasoning went, it would be easy enough next time. Look how simple it had been for her.

 
This is not true one iota.  Younger voters didn't vote for Hillary Clinton for the same reason that voters for voters of every age cast their votes for the other guy.  To be blunt, she ran an awful campaign.  The prevailing strategy adopted by her inner circle was neither inspiring, nor particularly coherent.  The candidate herself did nothing to dispel public perception of her worst qualities, with the exception of one unguarded moment in New Hampshire when she shed tears.  The Clinton '08 bandwagon was indebted to inertia and entitlement, two qualities which almost always prove fatal in politics.  Running as though she had already won left her unguarded and utterly unable to keep the Obama campaign from running circles around the Clinton machine and in so doing energizing the base of the party and the natural human inclination to support the underdog.  In life, the best prepared team wins, as does the team who clearly desires victory the most.

There is, of course, a happy ending for those whose affections still lie with Hillary Clinton.  Now, more than a year later, away from the constant glare of reporters and cameras, Hillary Clinton has re-invented herself as a stateswoman, and her approval rating shows it.  She is now more popular than her primary opponent, which is partially due to the fact that she no longer is in the public eye on a constant basis, and also because she has shown a side of herself that was never adopted on any wholesale basis until the end of her run, at which point she trailed in pledged delegates to such a degree that she was unable to overtake her challenger.  There are many lessons to be learned in this, least of which is that conventional wisdom often shows itself to be neither conventional, nor especially wise.              

The generational divide would rip through families and the feminist movement, exposing a fault line that had been lurking under the surface for years. Daughters heard from mothers everywhere. When Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) decided to endorse Obama rather than Clinton, she got an earful from her mother back home. "I guess some people will do what some people have to do," her mother said in an acerbic voice mail message, adding: "but for some of us, this will be our last election." (Emphasis mine)

To me, this attitude is about as helpful to the cause as those who have vowed to defeat the Health Care Reform legislation because it doesn't contain the public option or include more Progressive measures.  It is this same sense of desperation that demands that if we don't have everything on our Christmas list, then we'll never see the bill we need in our lifetime.  It's understandable to think that way, but I counter this attitude is out of made of desperation and fear---reform and historical firsts of any sort ought to be indebted not just to our selves and to our own generation, but to generations to come.  Those who struggled for Independence from Great Britain were not fighting merely for the right to have their own nation for themselves.  They were thinking beyond the present into the future, which is, I recognize, a construct that promises nothing but speculation and no solid facts.  Still, unselfishness demands that we think beyond our own head space and contemplate life not just for those we have sired and who they might sire someday.  Reform is our gift to the future and it is our gift to those who are not our own kin, do not necessarily speak our own language, and do not necessarily believe exactly the way we do.  

I have slightly modified a lyric from a song that seems pertinent in this context.

You have many contacts
Among the lumberjacks
To get you facts
When someone attacks your imagination

But nobody has any respect
Anyway they already expect you
To just give a check
To tax-deductible charity organizations

Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Ms. Jones?

-Bob Dylan, "Ballad of a Thin Man"

Originally posted to cabaretic on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 07:03 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (6+ / 0-)

    I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I lead you in, some one else would lead you out. - Eugene Debs.

    by cabaretic on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 07:03:57 AM PST

  •  People Aren't Opposing Reform Because They (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TJ, dkmich, Kitsap River, arlene, voroki, HPrefugee

    didn't get every gift they wanted under the tree.

    They oppose it because for the few gifts they get, a lot of people have to take off some clothes or wrap up some fruit they already own and turn them over to Santa in the bargain.

    It's the fact that regression is demanded for progression that drives the complaining.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 07:10:53 AM PST

    •  I didn't realize that you opposed the House bill (0+ / 0-)

      I mean, you must: it did no more than the Senate bill does to reduce industry abuses or profiteering, while imposing a more stringent mandate on individuals (it requires a 70% actuarial value plan, not a 60% actuarial value plan, and has no catastrophic care provision at all.)  Meanwhile, it imposes a much higher tax burden on the poor in order to compensate for the tax exemptions of the lucky few who have absurdly over-valued plans.

      (Yes, of course, I'm being tendentious in my phrasing, but that's intentional.  Stripped of the rhetoric, what I'm saying is actually true: the House bill has the same subsidies as the Senate bill, yet requires all individuals buy more expensive plans.  Meanwhile, there's a strong case to be made that once you factor in the consequences of the income tax exemption for health plans, the biggest beneficiaries of Platinum plans aren't unionized workers who've struck for health care or wages, but rather the bosses who've got obscene health care plans as part of their "compensation packages". )

      •  What provision is there in the Senate bill (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Charles CurtisStanley

        for those of us who need catastrophic care year in and year out? I didn't realize that there was a reasonable (reasonable to a middle class patient, not "reasonable" to a wealthy Senator) cap on the expenses I can be required to shell out as an individual covered under a family plan and that I would have a chance to recover financially before being hit with another large expense, despite requiring ongoing catastrophic care to stay alive.

        You must have seen something I'd missed. Please let me know what it is. Thank you!

        Living kidney donor needed; type B, O, or incompatible (with paired donation). Drop me a note (see profile).

        by Kitsap River on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 02:47:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  There is nothing in either bill that is reform. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Kitsap River

        While the house bill is less punitive to the middle class, they both cede priority to the insurance industry.  

        They're asking for another four years -- in a just world, they'd get 10 to 20. ~~ Dennis Kucinich

        by dkmich on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 04:39:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  to add to your reasons Clinton didn't win... (4+ / 0-)

    a lot of people were turned off because she was the family member of a former president. I never see that mentioned in the media or the punditry but it was a real problem. I think about Americans 50 years in the future looking back and seeing Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton and then whatever would have come after that and wondering what what we were thinking when we turned our country over to two families.

    Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains.

    by gooners on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 07:12:34 AM PST

  •  As a second-wave feminist, I'm T&Ring you (7+ / 0-)

    The fact that we were able to judge Hillary on her ideas (and found them wanting) rather than blindly casting a "female vote" during the 2008 election indicates to me that we are truly entering a post-feminist world in which candidates are going to be viewed not according to which "group" they belong to but according to their ideas and their merits. That's what we all were fighting for to begin with, but we seem to have forgotten that.

    It reminds me of a moment about 25 years ago when my first daughter desperately wanted a Barbie doll and I didn't want to get one for her. My husband reminded me that feminism was about letting girls follow their own minds rather than programming them. I let her get not just one Barbie, but many. Today she has grown into a strong young woman who doesn't let anyone take her down--stronger than I was at her age, even stronger than I am now. She doesn't "do" Barbie anymore, because she recognized the deep cultural contradictions all by herself. Yes, I played a role in that by showing her an example. But she was able to see both sides of the issue and make her own judgments, and that's what makes her a person and not just a woman.

    --Free thinkers shouldn't go around thinking just anything. (Terry Pratchett)

    by HPrefugee on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 07:15:55 AM PST

    •  Although I think Clinton would have won the (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      trashablanca, arlene, HPrefugee

      the presidency had she won the primary, we are so far behind many other countries in terms of women in other elected positions, especially congress, its kind of a joke.

      Repent. The end is extremely f*cking nigh.--28 days later

      by voroki on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 07:34:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you voroki (0+ / 0-)

        It's incredibly pathetic how horrible the US is with women in elected positions.
        And women that are IN elected positions (the right wing ones anyway) use their child bearing status as some sort of bludgeon against other women and just about everyone despite their party uses women's health and choices as a political football.
        If women were in any way regarded as important in the decision making process we would have paid maternity leave as a given, rape and domestic violence wouldn't be shelved as they always are - hundreds of other day to day things that do not penalize women just for being women would not be made mountains out of so some right wing (inevitably) male could make hay from them. (This of course isn't counting Sarah Palin)
        I'm a bit tired of other women picking on women for their choices. We didn't have to vote for Hilary because she was female and I'm glad that didn't happen. We need to pick female candidates that reflect our values (and run great campaigns) - not just because they're female.  

  •  I am somewhat amused (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Charles CurtisStanley, dkmich

    to be considered a second-wave feminist. I would have considered my 75 year old mother to be a second-wave feminist and considered my 50 year old self to be a third-wave feminist. The reason? My mother's generation of feminists came long after those who fought to win us suffrage, long after the women who went to work in factories, long after women like Elizabeth Blackwell had pioneered women's way into medical school and practice, and the like. But my own mother was told, in Berkeley, in the mid-70s, that she would not be admitted to the UC Berkeley graduate program in clinical psychology because she was a woman over 40, despite the fact that she had the highest GRE scores of any applicant, male or female. We had a long way, baby. Wonder what UC would say now?

    Living kidney donor needed; type B, O, or incompatible (with paired donation). Drop me a note (see profile).

    by Kitsap River on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 02:53:58 AM PST

    •  Oh but, it's so yesterday. (0+ / 0-)

      No wonder ungrateful came up in the conversation. Those who don't learn from history are bound to repeat it.  

      They're asking for another four years -- in a just world, they'd get 10 to 20. ~~ Dennis Kucinich

      by dkmich on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 04:41:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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