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Why don’t more women ask the Democrats “What’s in it for us?”

Melissa McKewn at Shakesville wrote a brilliant post four years ago that is even more relevant today.  At the time, the Clintonistas and other deeply concerned feminists were troubled by the use of misogyny by both political parties but particularly the Democrats and even more particularly, the Obama campaign.  Oh, you thought it was only the PUMAs that got poo flung at them?  No, indeedy.  It was any woman that had the temerity to speak up.  Anyone who threatened to harsh Obama’s mellow was accused of being traitors, whiners, insignificant, stupid, and bringing catastrophe on the whole country.

We’re going through the same thing again this year.  The past four years have been a disaster for women.  It hasn’t been Christmas and Easter and New Years for women under this version of Democrats.  It’s been more like Halloween.  If you weren’t paying attention last time to the myriad ways that Obama bowed and scraped at the feet of evangelicals to get their votes, then the Bart Stupak amendment might have been your wake up call.  Or maybe it was the retention of the Bush Administration’s conscience rule.  Or maybe Rick Warren’s sexist, homophobic version of prosperity based Christianity pissed you off during the inauguration.  Whatever it was, you figured out you had been screwed after it was too late to do anything about it.

But now that you know, what are your options going forward?  Well, read Melissa’s post from four years ago that she republished a couple of days ago.  It’s basically the same thing I’ve been saying for four years.  You have the option to walk away.  Also, Roe is dead, ladies.  We didn’t fight for equality first and now, we’re back to the pre-Roe days where states could make their own rules.  Pretty soon, abortions will only be available in a handful of coastal states, just like it was in the years immediately preceding Roe.  And there are already 5 votes on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe.  Kennedy will vote to eliminate it when the time comes.  So, there is really no compelling reason to pay any attention to the Democrats’ argument about Roe and the court.  They might get more traction if they focused on the rights of workers or inequality in general or voting rights but, you know, that’s just not this version of the Democratic party’s thing.

One thing is for sure: if you don’t wring some concessions and explicit promises and sincere preliminary steps from the Democrats, and Obama in particular, BEFORE the election, you’re sure as hell going to get the shaft afterwards because the Democrats’ concern with your welfare extends only as far as getting your vote.  Once they have that and get the power they want, you’re history to them.  Don’t make it so easy.

Oh, sure, the party will start to incite panic.  “What are you dooooooing?!?  Don’t you know that there is an election this year?  Why are you bringing up your rights now?  You’re being selfish, stupid, old, unpleasant, unattractive.  You’re collaborating with the Republicans, you’re a Tea Partier, you like that dunce Sarah Palin.  If we don’t win it will be all your fault.”  That is a guilt trip, my friends.  That’s the sound of people who suddenly realize that the urgency on their part does not constitute an emergency on yours.  Oh my god! You might actually *believe* in that stuff about bodily autonomy and agency and complete equality under the law.  It will be very inconvenient for them to stop what they are doing to either pacify you or cater to you.  I recommend that you make the Democrats kiss your asses.  Forget about Republicans.  They’re a lost cause.

Here’s how Melissa puts it (but go read the whole thing):

Forward movement for women can happen even in dictatorships, and can be reversed even in democracies—because women’s equality is inextricably linked to so many other cultural variables, like religiosity. To presume that greater democracy will de facto mean increased equality for women is to tacitly buy into Bush’s line about freedom magically emanating from any country deemed a functional democracy. It just doesn’t work that way. A democratically-elected conservative American theocracy would, for example, be anathema to feminism/womanism.

I have many good and important and personal reasons for not wanting the US to become any less democratic than it is now—not least of which is because those agitating for increased authoritarian control of government are simultaneously agitating for increased control of women’s bodies. I also have many good and important and personal reasons for fighting for my equality. Some of those good and important and personal reasons overlap. Some of them don’t. 

The important point here is that, while most USian FWs are undoubtedly interested in voting for the most democratic candidate, it is wrong to reflexively conflate “more democratic” with “more feminist” (even though that’s historically a safe bet). FWs may, in fact, for reasons outlines above, have to votecounter to feminist/womanist principles to vote for the most democratic candidate of the two major parties. That is not a small thing, and it should not be treated as though it is.

I would remind Democrats that what happened to Jon Corzine in NJ could very well happen to Obama.  Corzine as a governor was meh.  He did nothing to reform the highly regressive property tax system here.  He conducted a study and basically threw up his hands and said, “Well, what do you want me to do about it?”  Then he gave away our delegate votes to Obama at the convention.  Um, Obama didn’t win NJ.  Not even close.  Hillary won it by 10 points.  In general, Corzine looked like a Wall Street banker and governed pretty much the same way.  Democrats here are still smarting from his loss to Chris Christie.  It really shouldn’t come as a surprise though.  NJ has a history of electing Republican governors.  But that election should have been Corzine’s because, let’s face it, Christie isn’t a moderate Republican that would suit New Jersey’s tastes otherwise.  He’s  kind of crude, loud, a bully, a sexist asshole and definitely out to please his rich friends.  There’s no expectation that he will reform the property tax system, only that he will strangle local governments from growing.  And voters knew that going in.  He’s been a disaster for New Jersey.

But Corzine lost anyway even though he was the favored Democrat in 2009 in a year when Democrats should have had an easy run.  The local Democrats think it was a Christie revolution.  I disagree.  There was a third party candidate on the ballot that year.  His name was Chris Daggett, an independent, and judging from his debate performances, one of which I was able to attend in person, he was the best candidate we had.  Of course, the two major parties have a strangle hold on the ballots and every ballot in every county is different, so Daggett’s name wasn’t easy to locate.  You want to know how it turned out.  Here are the results?

Candidate Chris Christie Jon Corzine Chris Daggett
Party Republican Democratic Independent
Running mate Kim Guadagno Loretta Weinberg Frank Esposito
Popular vote 1,174,445 1,087,731 139,579
Percentage 48.5% 44.9% 5.8%

You’d think the Democrats would have learned their lesson but apparently they haven’t.  It doesn’t take much of a defection to flip a race to your opponent.  And right now, there are a lot of women who are angry enough at the passivity of the Democrats and their arrogant attitude towards the voters that it might be better for US to take our votes elsewhere or split our ticket or not vote at all.

So, you gotta ask yourselves, Democrats, will November 6, 2012 be your lucky day?


Wednesday: Family and Medical Leave Act already compromised

I don’t know how I missed this.  It didn’t seem to get the attention that Slutgate got.  On March 21, 2012, the US Supreme Court voided part of the Family and Medical Leave Act, one of the jewels of the Clinton Administration from 1993.  In a 5-4 decision, the Court has decided that states can not be sued for violations of the leave act.  It’s an ugly ruling. From the NYTimes article on the decision:

In a 2003 decision, the court allowed suits against state employers under a part of the law that concerned leaves taken to care for family members. The case decided Tuesday concerned a part of the law that entitled eligible employees to take leaves to tend to their own serious medical conditions.

Like other parts of the law, what the court called the “self-care provision” was drafted in gender-neutral terms. The question that divided the justices was whether the law nonetheless meant to address sex discrimination.

The case was brought by a man, Daniel Coleman, who had worked for the Maryland Court of Appeals. Mr. Coleman said the state had violated law by denying him sick leave.

Maryland argued that the federal law did not apply to it because states, as sovereigns, are generally immune from lawsuits for money. In the 2003 decision, Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, the Supreme Court rejected a similar objection from Nevada to a suit under a family leave provision.

[...]

Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, said the entire Family and Medical Leave Act, or F.M.L.A. “is directed at sex discrimination.”

“Indeed,” she wrote, “the F.M.L.A. was originally envisioned as a way to guarantee — without singling out women or pregnancy — that pregnant women would not lose their jobs when they gave birth. The self-care provision achieves that aim.”

The whole law, she said, was “an appropriate response to pervasive discriminatory treatment of pregnant women.” It avoided singling out pregnancy leaves, she added, to avoid discouraging employers from hiring women.

“It would make scant sense to provide job-protected leave for a woman to care for a newborn,” Justice Ginsburg added, “but not for her recovery from delivery, a miscarriage, or the birth of a stillborn baby.”

Justice Ginsburg wrote that Tuesday’s decision was narrow or, as she put it from the bench, “at least the damage is contained.” Suits for money under the self-care provision are still allowed against private employers, she wrote, and other kinds of actions remain available against state employers.

Sooooo, you can take leave, unpaid, to care for your newborn but not to take care of yourself?  Plus, if you work for the state and you get fired for taking care of yourself (let’s say you had a complicated delivery or a stillbirth) you can’t sue the state for damages.  Theoretically, they could just fire you for not leaving the wee tot in the care of some baby nurse and getting back to work immediately, right?  You still have the right to take unpaid maternity leave but not to recover from it, have I got that right?

It should be clear by now that the worst offender on the Supreme Court is not Antonin Scalia.  It’s Anthony Kennedy.  I think Jeffrey Toobin was pretty accurate when he described Kennedy in The Nine.  He said that it took Sandra Day O’Connor to knock some sense into him.  He isn’t really a swing vote.  O’Connor, being a conservative herself, was able to talk him out of what could have been a disaster on a previous abortion bill.  But without a conservative woman on the court, Kennedy has no reason to listen to a single thing the other female justices say.  He’s into pompousness.  He loves flattery and he’s a narcissist who revels in the very idea that his one vote could mean joy or misery for millions of Americans.  He’s the Supreme Court version of He-Man standing on his desk shouting, “I have the power!”.  He’s the Joe Lieberman of justices.  Not the brightest crayon in the box but probably a bit more qualified than Thomas.  The more liberal justices will never have a chance as long as Kennedy is around.  You’ll always know where the four uber conservatives stand but as long as there’s a fleeting hope that you will be able to appeal to Kennedy’s 1950’s view of the world, that’s who all of the arguments before the court need to be pitched and we have seen time and time again that he just doesn’t think women are fully human or something.

So, here’s where we are in 2012:

1.) We have one party that is full of screaming maniacs who are definitely appealing to the white male vote and doing all they can to get women out of the workplace during tough economic times.

2.) We have another party that is also appealing to the white male vote.  Ohhoo!  You thought they were going after female voters?  No, no, no, nooooo.  See, once women got scared by Republicans acting like the Taliban, the Democrats assumed that women would come flocking to them.  So, now that they have females in their “done” pile (or so they think), they can cross women off their list of voters to get.  THAT’S why their response to the Republicans off the charts misogynism has been so tepid.  They don’t want to scare the men away.  Ladies, when are we ever going to learn to make them put their money where their mouths are before we sign on?  As long as they think you are going to their side out of fear of the Republicans, they don’t have to do anything for you.  They’ll just sit back and call Republicans meanies on your behalf and let the decimation of your rights continue with little interference.

3.) If you want to keep your job, don’t get pregnant.  Ever.

4.) If you don’t want to get pregnant, emigrate.

QED, women are fucked under both parties.

Recently, I was over at Violet’s place reading her comments section and I think her commenters, some of them may be readers here, are onto something.  Basically, the reason why women’s rights are getting eroded under Obama and why Hillary Clinton faced so much opposition among party activists is because there is this little cadre of guys in the Democratic party for whom war is THE issue.  There is no other issue that gets their attention quite so much.  Just because the hopes and dreams and civil rights of 53% of the American public are under attack does not mean that they will be deflected one iota from concentrating all of their attention on war and torture.  Now, that is not to say that war and torture are not important but I think we have given this tiny group of latent sexist assholes enough of a platform to express their views.  It’s  time they stopped bogarting the mic and realized that they are undermining their own causes when they depress and demotivate their female sympathizers.  It’s not all about them.

They are our Anthony Kennedys.

Wednesday: The Roe Ruse

From Jeffrey Toobin’s book, The Nine, in the chapter on the Casey decision (Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs. Gov. Robert P. Casey) we learn about the melodramatic stylings of Justice Anthony Kennedy and an omen about the pragmatic Sandra Day O’Connor’s replacement on the court, Sam Alito.  But first, there was Webster:

…even as O’Connor criticized Roe, she never called for its outright rejection.  In 1989, the court came close to overturning Roe when it approved a Missouri law prohibiting abortions in public hospitals.  In Webster v Reproductive Health Services, Rehnquist, joined by White, Scalia, and for the most part, Kennedy, all but called for the end of Roe.  But O’Connor characteristically held back writing, “When the constitutional validity of a State’s abortion statute actually turns upon the constitutional validity of Roe, there will be time to reexamine Roe, and do so carefully.”…

Then came Casey:

Something else was bothering O’Connor too.  She was appalled by the provision in the Pennsylvania law that required married women who were seeking an abortion to inform their husbands.  The court of appeals had struck down this provision but Rehnquist proposed to uphold the view of the dissenting judge from the lower court.  But that opinion- the one by Judge Samuel Alito- outraged O’Connor.  She saw this provision as paternalism at best and sexism at worst.  O’Connor had a finely tuned radar for discrimination against women (something she sometimes lacked for bias against, say, African Americans), and she couldn’t abide the notion that the court would uphold such a law.

So Souter and O’Connor were aligned on the idea that the Court should uphold what they came to call the “essence” of Roe and they agreed that they should try to strike down the spousal notification provision.  But they only had four votes- their own, plus those of Blackmun and Stevens, who were ready to reject the whole Pennsylvania law.  They knew there was only one place to go for a possible fifth vote- the chambers of Tony Kennedy.

Kennedy’s peculiar combination of traits- his earnestness and his ambition, his naivete and his grandiosity his reverence for the law and his regard for his own talents- made him receptive to Souter’s appeal.  Kennedy thought there was nobility in judging; saving Roe would show the world that the justices were something more than mere pols.  A statesmanlike compromise suited both Kennedy’s politics and his conception of the role of the judge.

So, Kennedy signed on with Sourter and O’Connor.  His was the most dramatic switch of the three because it had been only three years since he voted with Rehnquist in Webster, an opinion that advocated overturning Roe.  Even more dramatically, Kennedy had clearly supported Rehnquist at the conference in Casey.  No vote is ever final on the Court until the opinion is announced, but changes from conference votes are still unusual, especially when, as in Casey, it was Kennedy’s vote that allowed Rehnquist to start drafting his majority opinion.

Now, fast forward to 2007. From a NYTimes article on the incorrectly named Partial Birth Abortion Ruling (it’s actually Intact Dilation and Extraction), we find the following passage lifted directly from Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion:

“While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained,” Justice Kennedy wrote, alluding to the brief. “Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow.”

Given those stakes, the justice argued, “The state has an interest in ensuring so grave a choice is well informed.”

Thank you, Justice Kennedy for that nostalgic piece of paternalistic Americana.  That will be quite enough.  If O’connor were dead, she’d be rolling in her grave right now.  It must be *killing* her to see this pompous ass making statements like this while her worst nightmare of Sam Alito is now occupying her spot on the bench.

Friends, this nonsense that the Obama camp is spewing about abortion rights is moot.  If the court wanted to outlaw Roe tomorrow, they already have the votes to do it.  Kennedy just needs to have his ego flattered into believing he is doing the noble, just and protective thing for American women and their psyches and, poof!, it’s over.  He already came close to overturning it in Webster, he was just barely persuaded to join the majority in Casey and he’s on record now in the Partial Birth Ruling (actually, Intact Dliation and Extraction) in 2007.  If the court is going to do it, it can do it.  The death or resignation of a more moderate or liberal justice can not change the balance.  You’d have to be able to replace Thomas, Alito, Scalia or Roberts as well,  And they’re still pretty young by SCOTUS standards.  Until one of them leaves, Roe is not safe and no Democratic president is going to be able to change that.

But the Republican dominance of SCOTUS appointees never really was about Roe.  Roe was a way for the GOP to get candidates elected.  It was all about triggering an emotional response in the older generation of voters who romanticized the fetus and heaped guilt and shame on young women.  It was remarkably effective but it will lose it’s charm if Roe is ever overturned.  The strict moralists will be satisfied when abortion becomes the dirty, illegal, dangerous procedure it used to be and young ladies learn to keep their legs together. Their job will be done and their impetus to turn out in droves for the anti-abortion candidate will diminish.  Well, there’s always gay marriage but it’s a state by state issue and there’s no Roe to get all incensed over.

No, the GOP has used Roe as a red herring. The anti-abortion justice is also an anti New Deal justice.  It’s really all about overturning all of the laws that FDR and earlier progressives managed to slip through.  Oh, and segregation.  Musn’t forget that.  With the uptick of towns incorporating themselves and being run by managers, there is a real danger that the poorer African- American sections of a township will be left without a tax base and money to fund schools in their neighborhoods but we can cover that issue at another time.

And now we have a presumptuous nominee who we can’t quite pin down when it comes to policy on much of anything.  But we know who is championing him: libertarian Democrats, former moderate Republicans, young college aged students from affluent backgrounds and a bunch of academic liberals wo don’t like to get their hands dirty.  The part of the party that is being purged consists of working class, elderly, latino, women, GLBT.  Just the kind of people who benefit from New Deal programs and the Great Society.

Now, I don’t know about you guys but the candidate that just got to where he is by capitalizing on the overt sexism of the media and the hidden currents of the culture at large, has a lot of nerve trying to capitalize on the fears of young women regarding their reproductive rights, especially when he is actively courting the evangelical constituency.  It’s cynical at best and I sure as hell am not falling for it.  No, I am looking behind the curtain at what he might be planning regarding overturning the law that allowed for Social Security.  That’s not a stretch at all to me and in this regard, he may be indistinguishable from John McCain when it comes to SCOTUS.

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