The Stupak-Pitts Amendment is the health-care straw that broke the camel's back. After close to two years of compromising and waiting, progressive, pro-choice women are outraged - but for completely different reasons. Amy Siskind and Kate Harding square off post-jump.
Contender: Amy Siskind
Outlet: The Daily Beast
Known Biases: Patron Saint of the PUMAs
Best Known for: Being Pro-Palin post-HRC
Can't Stand Stupak-Pitts because:
She feels like Obama has been selling out women since the campaign trail.
Women's love affair with Obama started in 2007. Some loved the idea of him-while not questioning his ideas. So when some women leaders heard the candidate say things like "sweetie" or "you're likable enough," or saw Obama's speechwriter Jon Favreau groping the breast of a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton on Facebook (no comment), these leaders ignored the signs of subtle misogyny. The National Organization for Women (under its former leader) endorsed its first all-male ticket. And NARAL endorsed Obama over Sen. Clinton, even though she had a proven track record on reproductive rights. In January 2009, Ms. Magazine's cover featured a now-infamous image of Obama in a superman pose sporting a t-shirt that reads: This is What a Feminist Looks Like.
With these women leaders behind him, President Obama felt he could be himself. He appointed fewer women into his cabinet than President Bill Clinton. He surrounded himself with czars, more than 90% of whom are male. He appointed Larry Summers, of "girls are inferior in math and science" fame, to a key economic post. He played basketball, golfed and fished with men and men only. He had beers with Skip Gates, but ignored it when Rihanna was almost strangled to death. And so on.
The love affair started to fade with Obama's off-handed response during an MSNBC interview questioning his all-male outings: "I think this is bunk." That remark gave women a reason to take a closer look at the inner workings of Obama and his ideas. And just as Betty Friedan described the subtlety of sexism as "the problem that has no name," "bunk" revealed that the boys club was still alive and well at the White House.
The sleeping giant-America's majority constituency-is awakening. Note how few men are speaking out about the fact that a major issue for women was thrown under the bus to get a deal done: That women were not valued. It is the women leaders doing the talking and the typing.
Wants to take action by:
Lesson one-we need more women in leadership roles. Women's organizations need to drop partisanship and work together to get more women into public office for both parties. Sisters, we cannot count on either party to represent our interests; we can only count on ourselves. (And when our women leaders do, on occasion, get it wrong-as Speaker Pelosi did this past weekend-we need an ample bench of women politicians surrounding her, and strong advocacy groups to steer her right).
Lesson two-with this awakening, there will be a quest to get a woman into the White House in 2012. Find us a woman leader who might have her personal beliefs, but will agree to keep them as just that, and you might just have a deal!
Contender: Kate Harding
Outlet: Salon's Broadsheet
Known Biases: Fat activism, unapologetic feminism
Best Known for:
Baby flavored donuts All around awesomeness.
Our supposed allies who still keep trying to convince us that one more nibble won't amount to anything much. Only this time, we're not buying it. We are ready to go there. As Smeal told Goldstein, "We didn't want to make a fuss, we agreed to a compromise that was already over-generous. And then, bango! These guys go in there like gangbusters. Pelosi was held up, like by bandits. Now the women are saying, 'That's it, it's enough.'" And it's not just the women — or just the staunchest pro-choicers — who are fed up with Democrats who act exactly like Republicans did before their party moved so far right it landed on a different planet. Kos himself (who's taken plenty of criticism over the years, including some from me quite recently, for exhorting women to ignore the nibbles for the greater good), is reminding people today that donations to the DCCC will support Democrats who "voted for the Stupak-Pitts coathanger amendment," as well as anti-healthcare reform ones. Moveon.org is also going after Democrats who voted against the bill. And gay rights activists have launched a "Don't Ask, Don't Give" campaign, encouraging progressives "to no longer donate to the DNC, Organizing for America, or the Obama campaign until the President and the Democratic party keep their promises to the gay community, our families, and our friends." Suddenly, for a host of different reasons, progressives are sending the message that we will not support these people if they keep breaking their promises and acting against our interests.
It's an exciting moment, and there's a chance to make a real difference if this latest swell of righteous indignation doesn't lead directly to the same old shit: Some of us panic about losing a Democratic majority and start hollering at others to quit being so picky and oversensitive about our "single issues" and take one for the team. (Again. Still. Always.) If we can work together as a bona fide progressive movement, rather than a bunch of competing groups who will all ultimately settle for holding our noses and blocking the worst Republicans, we might actually force the Democrats to give us more than empty shout-outs on the campaign trail. But if some of us will sacrifice gay rights for a chance at advancing our own agendas, and others will sacrifice reproductive rights for a chance at advancing theirs, and a ludicrous number of self-identified progressives will sacrifice pretty much everything they claim to believe in, just because the words "Democratic majority" sound so much better than the alternative, then nothing will change.
Can't Stand Stupak Pitts because:
Since the healthcare reform bill passed the House with the Stupak-Pitts amendment intact on Saturday night, feminists have been up in arms about the latest assault on access to abortion, and so-called progressive men have been telling us to calm down and look at the big picture. In other words: same old, same old.
Wants to take action by:
Really, when those are the options, there's only one logical conclusion: This is not our party. We've known that for too long, and yet the Democrats have known too well that they could bank on our money and our votes as long as the GOP remained even more not our party. But something's changed. Sixty-four Democrats voted to block women's access to legal medical services. That may not be quite as repulsive as some Republican shenanigans, but the difference is only one of degree. If the point of women voting for "moderate" Democrats is to avoid a majority that's actively hostile to women, then those who voted for the Stupak-Pitts amendment just proved that there's no point at all. And progressive women have finally had enough. We are ready to go there. Are Democrats ready to try getting elected without us?
Judge's Call: Siskind goes for body blows, but has no artistic savoir faire. All her moves are recycled. Harding plows in with passion, wearing down her opponent before trying for the TKO.
Winner: Kate Harding, for taking the long view of both problem and solution.
Loser: The Democratic Party - because when two different factions of women are calling for blood, there's going to be some drama at election time.