Posted by: iam0nly1 | June 22, 2008

It’s Time for a Trial Separation

The relationship between women and the Democratic Party started out as a fairy tale. Women have always made up the overwhelming majority of grassroots organizers and volunteers, and in return the Party courted our votes by supporting the battle for the Equal Rights Amendment and pledging to protect our right to choose. In 1984, after significant lobbying from women’s groups in pursuit of a Vice Presidential nod, Geraldine Ferraro was tapped as the nation’s first female Vice Presidential nominee. Women and the Democratic Party were wed.

 But upon that commitment, things suddenly began to change.

 In 1987, the New York Times reported:

But the election ended with a sound defeat of the Democratic ticket and a round of recriminations within the party, much of it directed at such organized interest groups as labor and feminists that played a key role in Mr. Mondale’s nomination. Many women countered that Ms. Ferraro and her feminist supporters had been scapegoats for a defeat that was inevitable.

 Needless to say, the marriage became strained and women began to feel ignored.

 

Three years into the post-Ferraro era of Democratic politics, the party’s Presidential candidates are campaigning for women’s votes in a manner that has aroused debate and complaints from some women that feminism is being neglected.

The approach of the 1988 Democratic candidates in seeking women’s votes is markedly different from that of the candidates of 1984, according to a number of Democratic strategists, politicians and feminists.

The shift in approach has prompted charges from many women that the Democratic candidates are neglecting their votes and their issues, a point made forcefully this week by Eleanor C. Smeal, the departing president of the National Organization for Women. Representative Patricia Schroeder, the Colorado Democrat who is pondering her own race for the Presidential nomination, agrees: ”There seems to be Washington-Potomac wisdom that they did women last time.”

But many women at the time were willing to give the party the benefit of the doubt, arguing that the party was “demonstrating a new subtlety and sophistication, recognizing that voting women are neither monolithic nor solely concerned with a narrowly defined range of ”women’s issues,” like abortion rights or pay equity.”

 

However, with this new strategy it became clear that now that the party “had us” it didn’t feel the need to be as vocal about choice or equal pay, preferring instead to discuss non-controversial issues like childcare.

Issues like day care are significantly less divisive than abortion rights and the equal rights amendment, in the view of many political professionals. The perception that such issues have taken a back seat outrages some feminists, like Ms. Smeal, who noted in her speech to the National Press Club this week that a recent 1988 agenda produced by the Democratic Leadership Council contained not a word on abortion.

Further, at the time, there was a belief that Congresswoman Pat Schroeder was gaining support for a run for the Presidency precisely because the party was taking a detour from women’s concerns.

This dissatisfaction is building support among many feminists for a Schroeder candidacy. ”I don’t think Schroeder’s candidacy is a result of this,” Ms. Lewis said. ”But she has been greatly encouraged by the response she’s gotten. And one big reason is that there’s a kind of unsatisfied yearning by women to have a champion in the field.”

 Well, the party lost the presidency in 1988, and they also began to lose women.

In 1991, with the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas and the Anita Hill testimony, party lines took a backseat to the blatant sexism in politics and a lack of female representation to usher in the Year of the Woman in 1992.

By and large, the ‘90s represented a better time in the marriage of women and the Democratic Party.  Bill Clinton, as President, appointed more women to his cabinet than any other President in history or since, and nominated Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg to the Supreme Court. It could be said that policy wise, this was a honeymoon period for women and the Democratic Party.

Then came 2000. Al Gore, while he had a stellar record on women’s issues such as abortion and equal pay, had a mixed record when it came to his campaign. He needed the female vote and fought hard for it, so hard some viewed it as blatant pandering, but he had to be forced to put more women on his campaign. (insert links) 

When it came to being vocal about his support of choice, he had no troubles mentioning it in private events with mostly women, but, Martha Burke, a political psychologist and author of Cult of Power: Sex Discrimination in Corporate America and What Can Be Done About It noted back in 2005:

Every time George Bush said to Al Gore, “I don’t trust the government, I trust the people,” Gore had the perfect opportunity to counter with “except for women in making their own decisions about their own bodies.”  He never once took that opportunity.

Then things took a turn for the worst in 2004. 

In 2004, the Dems avoided “women’s issues” at every turn, even taking the Equal Rights Amendment out of the platform for the first time in 40 years.  When their own internal polling showed the pay gap as one of the top concerns for women, the candidate didn’t want to talk about it publicly. 

 Kerry won the female vote by 3 percentage points, the smallest margin for a Democrat since the 80s. Why?

 

…the erosion of women’s support for Democrats was also a result of the Kerry campaign strategy. The Kerry campaign shied away from talking to women at all, choosing instead to go for the white male warrior vote. Women’s advocates were alarmed about this from the beginning, when the Democrats refused to fund a strategy to get women to the polls, while the Bush team had a person in every precinct who was responsible for turning out the female “W” vote.

~snip~

According to the Votes for Women 2004 project, Republican women’s events were about how much the campaign valued women, while Democratic women’s events were about extracting money from female donors to use on general campaign themes. Significantly, among women who stayed away from the polls, homeland security ranked third behind the top concerns of jobs and economic security and health care security.

 Sadly, instead of realizing their mistakes and trying to fine-tune their message for women, or even have a  message at all, Howard Dean blamed the loss on “being forced into the idea of defending the idea of abortion,” expressing his desire to “strike the words ‘choice’ and ‘abortion’ from the Democrat’s lexicon.”

Quickly, the Democratic Party was abandoning women, taking our votes for granted, and worse, effectively blaming us for their losses.

But in 2008, when Hillary Clinton announced her bid, it seemed as though things would change. This time it was going to be different. We had a candidate, and the most qualified and electable one to boot. We finally had a voice, and rejoiced at our sudden importance on the national stage. It seems as though everyone was vying for our votes.

As Hillary Clinton said at one of the CNN debates:

“I think it is terrific: We’re up here arguing about who’s going to be better for women, because isn’t that a nice change for everybody to hear…”

But then it began: the steady undercurrent of sexism rose up. Hillary Clinton began to be ridiculed because of her seeming unbridled ambition (something always unseemly in females), her laugh or “cackle” was discussed ad nauseum, she was called “Shrillary,” a “she-devil,” her “fat ankles” even made news, Hillary “Nutcrackers” were manufactured and sold online and even in airport “News” stores, she was called a “white bitch” and when some protested they were assured the characterization was accurate, she was characterized as “everyone’s first wife standing outside of a probate court,” she, along with Geraldine Ferraro, was called a “big fucking whore” by a “liberal” radio host. In short, this happened:

And if that weren’t enough, the powers that be, Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and a host of Obama’s surrogates tried to forcibly remove Hillary from the race; something that never would have been propagated against a male candidate. Women were shocked, offended and angered.

We had always been there for the Democratic Party, and when the media and even some of Democratic candidates started throwing sexist barbs at her, we thought for sure the Democratic Party would stand for equality and protest.

The silence was deafening.

In accordance our protests became louder. We protested the media bias and demanded that every vote be counted, but still we were ignored and the deafening drumbeat of sexism was allowed to continue unabated. But like faithful spouses, we waited diligently, hoping that the superdelegates and powers that be would come to their senses and confirm Hillary Clinton’s claim to the nomination.

Then came March 31st, the Day Democracy Died. We were sure that, finally, justice would prevail. Surely the Rules and Bylaws Committee would adhere to their rules and properly seat the Michigan and Florida delegations in a manner that fairly reflected the will of the voters. Again, our faith was misplaced. What we witnessed was a two-faced, public hijacking of the nomination. In scene one, Howard Dean emerges, and reluctantly, and begrudgingly names the elephant in the room: sexism. However, he does not dwell on it, nor acknowledge the DNC’s complicity in the misogynistic attacks on a fellow Democrat, dedicated Senator and former First Lady. Instead he immediately plugs the election buzzword of racism, and is quick to deliver a foreshadowing anecdote about forgiving the party after everything it’s done to you. We should have known then what was coming. It was going to be swift, brutal, and worst of all, public. But still, many of us watched with hope that the party we had committed ourselves to for years would uphold the principles of Democracy and fairness. And then, it became clear, the fix was in. The RBC arbitrarily handed “The Chosen One” 55 delegates that did not belong to him and then stole 4 delegates from Senator Clinton, effectively stealing the nomination from Hillary Clinton and handing it to the “selectee.”

That was the last straw.  There could not and would not be unity. The abuse and betrayal had become too much. Women and men everywhere vowed to treat the DNC the same way they treated us. But the powers that be and media punditry assumed that once Senator Clinton suspended her campaign and endorsed Obama that we would follow along with her. How wrong they were.

Then, the second round of abuse began and continues to this day. The DNC and Obama’s supporters began behaving like an abusive husband who had just come home to see his wife and kid’s luggage sitting beside the door. We’re leaving, and they’re having none of it. A mix of half-hearted apologies, verbal abuse and intimidation begun. PUMA voters were  called “bitter bitches,” “immature babies,” “whores,” “racists,” etc. You can find a more complete list here.

We’re told to stop being selfish and stay for the kids (SCOTUS!!!). We’re told we were “cutting off our noses to spite our faces.”

 And yet, possibly the worst insult, is that after all of this, they assume we’ll come back. Why? Not because they’re sorry, not because they are promising to do better, not because they offer us anything substantive, but because “there’s nowhere else to go.”

In just one glaring example, Keith Olbermann’s boss, Phil Griffin while summing up the exact feelings of women and men everywhere who are fed up with the media and the DNC, adds his assessment that we’ll come back:

But, just as Obama must work to win Clinton supporters for the fall campaign, Phil Griffin has to repair a fractured audience base, a portion of which saw sexism in his network’s Clinton coverage and vowed to boycott MSNBC. Griffin knows that some of that anger is aimed at his star anchor. “It was, like, you meet a guy and you fall in love with him, and he’s funny and he’s clever and he’s witty, and he’s all these great things,” Griffin said of the relationship between Olbermann and the Clinton supporters among his viewers. “And then you commit yourself to him, and he turns out to be a jerk and difficult and brutal. And that is how the Hillary viewers see him. It’s true. But I do think they’re going to come back. There’s nowhere else to go.”

Perhaps, because they assume we’re all “angry women” they hold to the stereotype that women are self-sacrificing, that we’ll let the abuse go and accept the hollow apologies.

News Flash: We’re through sacrificing for the party only to be abused and ignored.

If they think we’re going to come back, like battered wives forced to return because they have run out job prospects and couches to sleep on, they’re terribly mistaken. 

If women and men “fall in line” behind Obama they sanction the actions of the DNC and the media and give them free reign to do it again.

I am a firm believer that you teach people how to treat you, and the DNC needs a new lesson. 

As Susan B. Anthony said, “No self respecting woman should wish or work for the success of a party that ignores her sex.” 

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Responses

  1. […] between women and the Democratic party started out as a fairy tale.. but things have changed.http://donedems.com/2008/06/22/its-time-for-a-trial-separation/Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the High Court of … – Google Books Resultby Francis […]

  2. iam0nly1 – Please post about it. The more we can get out there for people to learn from, the better off we are. The Party leadership is a disgrace from top to bottom. Spread the word as loud and often as we can.

    ITS OUR PARTY…WE MUST TAKE IT BACK!

  3. I feel we must elect John McCain in order to show the DNC that we are outraged at the dishonest maneuvering to rob Hillary of the nomination. The next four years can be used by her supporters to put together a winning campaign in 2012; we cannot lose the opportunity to elect this capable, knowledge, dedicated woman to the presidency in 2012.

  4. Me too Virginia! Divorce all the way. But sometimes you have to say “Trial Separation” so the b*stard will let you out of the house and people will stop pestering you about “making it work.”

    I’m sorry, but as much I love Tim Gun and Project Runway, I can’t make this work. I am D.O.N.E.!

    If this election has taught me anything, it’s that political parties no longer matter. It’s about who’s the most qualified and the best for the country.


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