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Last week the National Organization for Women PAC along with other feminist organizations announced that they were endorsing Obama for President. Normally feminist endorsements don’t make many waves as the media ignores feminism. When NOW PAC endorsed Hillary Clinton in spring 2007 you had to know to look for the story. Believe me, I wanted to blog it and link to a media piece. But this endorsement got some media attention and not for the right reasons.
I’m not thrilled. Any male running mate McCain could have selected would have condoned anti-choice and anti-woman policies as deeply mired in retrofuckery as Palin’s are; that NOW is only explicitly rejecting the ticket because of Palin whiffs strongly of a double standard.
The New Agenda questioned why this is the first all-men ticket that NOW has endorsed:
The New Agenda is concerned that NOW’s recent endorsement of Barack Obama leaves many women in this country out in the cold.
This precedent-setting move marks the first time in NOW’s 42-year history that it has endorsed an all-male ticket.
As someone who has served on the National Board of NOW and continues to keep my finger on leadership conversations, I am constantly educating people on the puzzle that is NOW. Plain and simple, it is a democratic organization. The leaders of NOW are voted in by members at the national level – both the executive officers and those on the board (I was a mid-term appointment). Local leaders are sometimes voted by the whole membership and some are voted by the membership after the current local board selects the slate, as Chicago does. While there are economic flaws to this democracy – to vote you have to travel to the national conference – it is still a democracy. The politics of being a NOW leader is just as tough as being an elected official almost anywhere. The phrase “feminist credentials” is bandied about in many discussions in person and online. Once on the board there are debates that rival anything you ever see on CSPAN.
I wasn’t able to be in the room during the debate over this endorsement, but I was in the room when NOW PAC was discussing whether or not to endorse Obama for the US Senate in 2004. I won’t reveal too many details, but suffice it to say that his record and statements on reproductive justice and lesbian rights were points of contention. In the end we didn’t endorse him, but it showed me the power members have in NOW. Some think that President Kim Gandy should be able to dictate what chapters and leaders say and do, but the organization is not set up to allow for that. Thus I have total faith in the fact that the decision to endorse Obama for President was not one that was forced or made lightly. NOW leaders are passionate people and take their role and responsibility to the movement seriously. We definitely do not agree on the “best” way to bring about the revolution we work so hard for day in and day out.
All of this is to say that the fact that it took NOW PAC and the others almost two months to decide to endorse Obama very believable. Did the introduction of Sarah Palin to the debate make a difference? I am sure of it. I assume that a few people who didn’t want to endorse Obama due to his imperfect feminist credentials saw the media and other women start to believe that any and every woman is a feminist and reacted. I believe Gandy when she says that Palin was the straw that broke our feminist back or rather as I see it, that Palin was that splash of reality cold water on the faces of hold outs. This election is far too important and critical to the future of not just our feminist agenda, but to the health of our national democracy for this country’s oldest feminist organization to sit on the sidelines.
Women will be the deciding factor in this election. If Obama loses white women will take the fall, sorry my white sisters, but you will. If he wins, we can hold his feet to the fire and push him on marriage equality and reproductive justice.
So when people say this endorsement was about Palin, don’t believe them. This endorsement is a wake-up call to all the feminists out there about how important this election is for all of us. It is a call to action for swing voters to stop listening to the ads, the pundits (except me!) and start reading the position papers on each and every side of this election. Go to Project Vote Smart and see who represents your ethics, morals, and stances. Don’t vote for a woman, a black man, a cutie, or a war hero. Vote for yourself.
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