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That Ms. Cover

I’m listening to the latest episode of The Ezra Klein Show featuring Michelle Goldberg. They’re talking about what happens to feminism in the wake of the Dobbs decision. It’s a long episode worth listening to. They make a lot of good points. But not once in 1 hour and 16 minutes did they mention the profoundly negative effect that the Obama phenomenon had on feminism and women’s equality. In fact, I don’t think I’ve heard them mention Obama’s name at all during the entire episode. So even though I spent the entire Obama campaign and administration railing against the guy and am thoroughly sick of him, I’m going to do it one more time because I don’t think anyone was paying attention for the past 14 years. The rare exception who kind of gets it and is still prominent in the blogosphere is Atrios at Eschaton and he’s a bit coy with his condemnation and focussed more on the economic fallout and failures. I’m going to try to finally get ahold of what has been nagging at me relentlessly since 2008 and how it lead to the shitty feeling that many women and liberals are experiencing now that we are stuck in a very backwards country spinning our wheels.

We on the left need to come to grips with this. I see way too many commentators and opinion makers who avoid touching the Obama era because the minute you go there, it’s like proclaiming that you have some kind of regard for social issues other than race and that is definitely not allowed. It’s a huge problem on the left that more than half of the country’s population is less important than any other demographic. It’s why I say that a fully raw cannibal will become a Democratic president with the full backing of the party before any woman or futuristic liberal will. There will always be a demographic whose situation is more compelling to it.

Many people don’t know the history of how Obama won the primary in 2008. I’m not going to go over that year in this post. If you want to dive into that check out the archives of this blog for 2008. A lot of what the Democrats did to its own electorate has been copied by Republicans with great success.

What I will touch on though is the very strong feeling I got when I was still writing at DailyKos that some aggressive entity had taken over the left of center net roots, it wanted Obama, and it wasn’t above scorching the earth to get him. I called it a jihad, which lead me to leave DailyKos and land here. The weird thing is that at the time I wrote that, I didn’t have any animosity towards Obama. It was these mysterious followers on DailyKos who took over the site that concerned me. They conducted a purge. The choice was get on the Obama train or get out. They were specifically targeting Hillary Clinton supporters and it was brutal.

I don’t know who those people were but something about them reminded me of “the smartest guys in the room” from the Enron scandal and their bro culture emails about how they were going to stick it to grannies with their rolling blackouts in California. They had the whiff of men in suits in office buildings, wired on whatever all day, ruthlessly crawling over the corpses of the temporarily unlucky on the way to the bigger bonuses and corner offices. It was distinctly male and dismissive of any wimmins’ problems. Who gave a f]#% about Hillary? You must be a racist and even if you’re not, we’re going to call you one because look at how this giant online focus group reacts when we do it.

You can blame Republicans all you want for their patriarchy and stodgy traditionalism that leaves no breathing room for women’s aspirations. But if you want to see how feminism was stomped into a bloody pulp and left to die without any assistance at all, go no further than the 2008 Democratic primary and the callous, cynical, humiliating treatment of women and Hillary Clinton by the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party itself. I de-registered and became an independent specifically because of it. That didn’t make me a racist. That made me wise about my own self-preservation. I wasn’t going to participate in slitting my own throat just because there was a frenzied madness to elect a cipher who had almost no political experience but sure could razzle dazzle the donors with huge pockets.

The worst part of that year was the roll call vote at the convention in Denver when Hillary was denied her own delegates. California and Pennsylvania never got an opportunity to cast their ballots for her and my state, NJ, just handed all of its delegates to Obama even though he lost the state by 10 points. By the time New York cast all of its votes for Obama, a state Hillary had won in a landslide, it brought her on the floor to denounce herself like some kind of political prisoner and then the party metaphorically gang raped her.

That’s what it looked like to some of us. It was the exact same feeling we got the day after Trump “won” the election in 2016 and when Dobbs overturned Roe.

But it didn’t stop there. The general campaign was all about forcing women who were Clinton voters to shut up and vote for Obama because, well, where else were you going to go? All the feminist hopes and dreams were now in the hands of Obama who would take care of us. You’re welcome.

Then came the Ms. Magazine cover. It came out roughly at the same time that that cringey picture of Jon Favreau groping a cardboard cut out of Hillary’s breast while drinking a beer. In fact, that whole period of time after the election was like a big f{#^ you to women. The Ms. Magazine cover was the thing that broke the feminist movement. Here it is:

That’s right. The dude bro who just steamrolled over a woman who had exponentially more experience, a political coalition of her own, savvy acquired from working on healthcare issues from the West Wing, and proclaimed “women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights”, well, THAT man was a feminist. He who had only a single X-chromosome and zero experience being a woman, HE was more of a feminist than Hillary Clinton.

It was so unbelievably cynical, smug and cruel that Ms. Magazine jumped the shark at that very second. No one I knew would ever take it seriously again. Ms. Magazine, does it even exist anymore and if it does, why??

We could see the rest coming. The relentless Propaganda on the passage of the toothless Lily Ledbetter bill as some kind of monumental achievement while completely abandoning the Paycheck Fairness bill, the patronizing restrictions placed on Plan B, the deprioritization of legislating abortion and reproductive rights for women, these were all part of the Obama years.

No one held him accountable for these failings. No one wanted to be called a racist for criticizing anything he did or mostly didn’t do.

But it didn’t stop there. The Obama years were bad from an optics point of view as well. He took more of an active role in directing the State department, as if he had to keep an eye on Hillary, he played golf and shirtless basketball with a little group of guys, and his wife, a well educated lawyer who once had a high profile job, threw all of that away so she could stay home and garden and be a full time mom to two kids who were already in school. I suppose it was to make sure the Sally Quinns of the Washington social set didn’t start picking on her for being smart, accomplished and ambitious. Better to be the good little wifey who if she still wasn’t going to do tea and cookies looked completely fulfilled transplanting tomatos and cultivating kale. Nothing too taxing for our First Lady. Nothing that would provoke attention or envy. Indeed, any well educated woman with a law degree should consider mommy tracking herself because she sure as f[{# wasn’t going to get her need for paid maternity leave or child care addressed by the Obamas.

That’s what the Obama years mean to me. It was the swan song of feminism, a Madama Butterfly sacrifice for the Pinkerton who came back to rob her of her last shred of dignity. Here you go, take it. We eviscerate ourselves for you, oh cool dude. Over and over again, we were satisfied if he remembered us at all. “I gave you Lily Ledbetter, didn’t I?? You should be grateful.” The feminist movement went along with it and completely debased itself.

There was nothing benign about how Obama handled feminism or the genuine concerns of women. Putting birth control in the ACA was the least he could do and he did the least. What about everything else?

By the time Trump started to run in 2016, the ground work was already prepared. Obama and his dude bros had shown him how it was done. Oh sure, he had some of his own tricks. But at the bottom of it all was Obama and the Democratic Party that sold women out.

Truth and reconciliation start there.

13 Responses

  1. As a male, you have insights into this that I don’t, but this is why I read The Confluence. I cannot disagree with a word you wrote. The fools in the DNC had no idea what they were unleashing on the country. Had they backed Hillary, we likely could have avoided Trump entirely, and now been in our 14th year of Democratic control of the Presidency, with a Supreme court that is more deliberative and NOT fully bought by the Federalist Society.

  2. That is how it was done. Not only was Hillary poised to provide true health care, but she was planning to call a moratorium on foreclosures, which would have averted the shockingly unspoken tragedies that befell so many families and fostered a grave distrust of the workings of society. I was there throughout the 2008 year of frustration and disgust. Through the heroic defense of Hillary by Ickes. Through the intimidation and ignorance of the public at large. Yes, the ignorance and intimidation continues, in perhaps different machinations, but still.

    • Ah yes Ickes “you bet your ass it was flawed” & it was! There was a pretty large march and protest outside of that meeting but the media didn’t cover it much. Now a day’s 3 counter protesting Trumpers will get a half day’s worth of coverage.

  3. What an amazingly awful magazine cover. Contemptuous, arrogant, and attempting to tell everyone else how to think. Which pretty much summed up the Obama movement.

    There was, and still is, this large group of Democrats who basically hated all the Democratic candidates. I would read “Kos” sometimes back then, and the day after the election, Markos wrote that “I don’t ever want to hear another word from Kerry again.” He always wanted Dean. And so after all these literal and figurative defeats, even when they had to live with, but didn’t want, Bill Clinton, they were virtually frenzied about wanting “their guy” to finally win. They picked Obama, and they would do anything to get he “W,” and they also got to take out their dislike of the Clintons, who had rescued the party from perennial defeats/

    Of course the derogation of women was a very large part of it, as you eloquently express. To this day, I cannot in some sense understand their adulation of Obama, except because of race, and the fact that they picked him as their hero, and that they didn’t want the woman to win. To this day, they will not criticize him, even while they have virtually ostracized Bill Clinton, who left office with a 62% favorability rating, from the party. And like with so-called “coaching trees” in college sports, Biden is part of the “Obama tree,” and of course each of them always validates the other. Hillary would absolutely have won in 2008, and whatever happened after that, we would not be looking at a majority of statehouses owned by Republicans, plus the most awful Supreme Court conceivable. And no one can ever tell me that some of the men who hated Hillary, did not pop up again as the “Bernie Bros,” who did a great deal to get Trump elected, just through their continued hatred of her.

  4. Ah yes, 2008! The year that rehabilitated misogyny! The year where criticizing an accomplished US Senator for wearing pantsuits and having “cankles” and using the C-word to refer to a (pretty unaccomplished and kind of goofy) sitting governor was considered the height of sophisticated political discourse. I’ve been trying to blot that out of my tiny brain for over a decade now.

    • 2008 was worse than 2016 in some ways for misogyny. We were stripped of our support system in 2008.

  5. I can’t believe you wrote this. I was just thinking about this yesterday. Nancy Pelosi behaved like we were 38 year old women who’s biological clocks were ticking out and Obama was our last chance and we’d better snatch him up! Quick! He was tall and gave a great speech and we were expected to swoon. It was so ridiculous.

    I don’t think the Obama movement had much staying power. It just seems over. I remember Hillary trying to enlist the Obama tech bros in 2016 and talking about how she wanted the same team that helped beat her in 2008 to help her out in that election. I guess they were older or too burnt out on Entourage reruns to give a shit about anything post Obama.

    Anyway, I hope you’ll write a book about the step by step history of 2008 and it’s lingering effects, Riverdaughter. This story has to be written because it keeps getting hijacked or watered down. If one of us don’t write it, some idiot surely will.

    • Yeah, but would anyone buy it??

      • Sign me up for the first 20 copies!

        Of course people will buy it, it’s the biggest story of the last decade that people keep tiptoeing around. We are going to keep paying for 08 unless we all wise up.

  6. Hmmmm, interesting. I definitely share your fear that a female President is the last thing we will ever see in this country. I was a die-hard Hillary fan in 2016, and got my share of punishment over that from the Bernie gang.

    And that is really disappointing to hear about Favreau, since I love listening to Pod Save America these days. Grumble.

  7. I remember all this well and am still angry for the BS of the women’s groups endorsing him. I quit Buzzflash over this…after 8 years of writing and columns, the editor, from Chicago, started running a lot of negative stuff about Clinton…it was Obama all the way. I finally had it and quit. I resented the bias. Haven’t been to DU for years, either! The Bernie gang there finally just made me quit and not look back. Now I see Biden’s comms director mouthing off about abortion rights activists not being in the “mainstream” of the party…Frankly, this is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. And, there was no plan before the SC decision?? As for the women’s groups and the Dems here is my advice: stop using the word abortion! Yes, stop! It’s a trigger that doesn’t help us. Focus on the 10 year old rape victims and doctors hesitant to treat a miscarriage until the last moment a woman can die…because they may be charged for doing an abortion. And include the men! I remember the huge ads in the NYTimes asking about if you wanted the GOP in your bedrooms? Call the GOP what they are: ABUSERS! For god’s sake…message, for once!

  8. As a state delegate, for HRC, in 2008, I recall many of the Obama delegates behaving in condescending, or downright aggressive ways, toward those of us representing her.

    In fact, the first time I became aware of the phrase “bros before hos” was when I saw a group of his delegates, proudly wearing this slogan on their shirts, at the state convention.

    And, the DNC RBC meeting… I am still livid with Donna Brazille about it.

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