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July 03, 2008

A Truly Feminist Obama Campaign

Make a Point at Current.com

While I like the point that Rebecca Traister makes in this video---that a feminist campaign wouldn't look that different, only women would be addressed directly as adults---I don't think she goes far enough.

This isn't just any potentially feminist campaign. This is a potentially feminist campaign that needs to win over heartbroken and angry Hillary Clinton supporters who have not only, as is usual, not been dealt with as adults themselves, but have also gotten to watch their candidate of choice being dealt with like a recalcitrant child, or a monstrous creature, rather than an adult human being.

I want to address one particular issue which is essential to the Obama campaign: that of the emotional involvement Clinton's supporters felt and feel for her. The emotion with which Clinton's campaign was greeted by her female supporters should be instructive, and not--as it has been--an item of mockery and contempt. Instructive because when was the last time you saw women voters get that emotionally invested in a campaign, rather than just rationally involved? Women are not, as has been hinted over and over again this year, emotional voters. We have never seen such a public spectacle of respected women leaders getting upset (and often saying stupid things about race) around an election. Women public figures have always behaved with rationality around elections heretofore ... elections of white men.

And the fact that everyone feels so comfortable dismissing the emotion of Clinton supporters (because women always come back to the party fold even when their candidate loses) is a testament to how reliable, valuable, and non-emotional women voters are. So the rage seen in the aftermath of the Clinton campaign must be respected because this is the time when women Clinton supporters' emotions have genuinely been tapped, and the party really could lose supporters if they don't reach out.

And how is the Obama campaign to respect that emotion? Let me point out that the Obama campaign is hands down the most deliberately emotionally engaging campaign I've ever seen. The "Yes We Can" speech? Was there anything rational or wonky in that speech at all? And the sight of will.i.am and his Hollywood buddies getting literally ecstatic while singing along to Obama's words is far and away the most mockable, vulnerable, emotional political spectacle I've ever seen. And that includes Howard Dean's campaign-ending screech and Eminem's "Mosh."

From start to finish, Obama's campaign has been an appeal to emotions: hope, power to the powerless, triumph, unity, healing, peace, justice, renewal, passing of the torch. And he's proven to be a knockout at managing this process of appealing to emotions ... to people's better emotions, instead of the fear, anger, and selfishness that Republican campaigns always appeal to. In fact, this is why he beat Hillary. Because Hillary's advantage, which was also largely emotional (nostalgia for the nineties, attachment to the Clintons, desire for a woman president, etc.) was squandered in her campaign's attempt to sell her as serious, rational, and wonky.

So why isn't the Obama campaign drowning Clinton supporters in emotion the way they've been drowning men, young people, and people of color in hope, etc? Why doesn't Obama get his ass out there and give a rousing "Yes She Can" speech? Why do the particularities of over half the population as a group get short, or no, shrift with Obama? The longer his passion goes on being silent on women's issues, the more sexist, uncaring, and disrespectful of Clinton supporters he looks. And there will be a point at which he can't come back from this.

To be more specific: The "issues" page on Obama's website  doesn't have a "women" section. You have to go into the issues menu to find the page on women. And the page that deals with women's issues is the driest, wonkiest page on his whole website. It's thorough, sure, but completely uninspiring. We've been hearing progressive candidates mentioning all this stuff within our hearing, for our benefit, for decades now, and seen no movement on these issues. Spouting the standard issues is the prerequisite. What we really need is for the candidate who most benefited from the misogyny directed at Hillary to show passion about women's issues specifically, and to engage our passions.

And this is pretty fuckin' weak stuff. What, you couldn't spare more than two sentences, one of them run-on, to woo 18 million voters?

I'm still insulted, and the longer this crap goes on, the more insulted by Obama's campaign I'll be. If you can't be bothered to treat with me and 18 million others when it matters this much, why should I trust that you'll represent my interests when the campaign is over? I'm waiting.

I'm still fucking waiting.

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Comments

Well said.

Even though I voted for HRC in the primary, I set out just as determined to vote for Obama in November if he got the nomination. Between the un-addressed sexism, the FISA vote, and the expanding of faith based initiatives together with the lack of outreach to the LGBTQ community, I've been losing that determination; the temptation to vote my conscience and go with McKinney instead of the right-of-center Democrat is growing.

The FISA vote and the faith thing really upset me too. I was an Obama supporter, but I never considered myself a Hillary hater. I had hoped Obama would be slightly less likely to pander to the religious authoritarian right than Hillary would. Looks like I was wrong.

HRC isn't a progressive, but it's corporately and militaristicly that she makes her bids to the right. Despite the Capital Hill religious group she's part of, she's never been one to get into the God talk, like Obama. And she certainly wouldn't be doing the panders to the religious right over abortion like Obama has been doing, or suggesting women get abortions because they are "feeling blue" and furthering anti-choice rhetoric by questioning mental illness as a health condition.

yeah, i'm starting to question obama's savvy again. i really don't think he had anything to lose with the moderates and centrists by taking a no-surveillance line on FISA.

our entire citizenry has a powerful libertarian streak and he could easily have appealed to that.

and alienating the majority of voters who are pro-choice seems like the most suicidal of moves. is he angling for mckinney to become as powerful a concept as nader was in 2000?

he may genuinely be a unity guy, but he's not going to get any right-ish votes, so he has nothing to gain by trying to woo his political opponents during the campaign. he can do that after he wins.

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