Do you ever have one of those moments where the world doesn't change in an instant, but rather you change your perspective 180 degrees and see things from a totally new angle? I had one of those radical moments today, coming after weeks studying the Obama-Clinton matchup. I've been supporting Obama since John Edwards dropped out of the race, and my enthusiasm for Obama has kept growing. Today I could see why Obama is literally "the change we have been waiting for," and why Clinton's campaign is failing to catch fire with young people.
Obama is creating a movement toward participatory government, one that will require much more of its citizens. It's crazy that this has not already happened. We waged war against a major oil-producing country, and yet we have not been asked to conserve in any meaningful way. In the face of environmental crisis, war, and poverty, our main civic duties have been to keep spending like greedy little consumers, and not ask too many questions.
That's been about Bush. Obama or Clinton would mark a significant change from Bush, and don't disagree that much on policy issues. So what is the difference between them? Boomer women see Hillary as the change they have been working toward for years. 1970's Feminists get angry with younger women
who support Obama, and question whether we have ignored the lessons of Feminism. Don't we get it that our hard-fought rights are still under fire? How could we turn our back on the opportunity to elect a female President? Are we gender traitors, ungrateful, ignorant, or suffering from false consciousness?
I vote for None of the Above. As of today, for the first time I feel like Feminism is no longer the movement we need to drive social change. This is hard for me to even write. Although I majored in neuroscience rather than women's studies, I have always proudly called myself a Feminist. I still believe in the core values and and principles of Feminism, but here's the switch in perspective: I pulled my friend Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner's book The F-Word: Feminism in Jeopardy
off the shelf this morning. Kristin writes about young women being active in their communities, informed about issues, and yet turning out to vote at very low levels. Only about one third of women ages 18 to 24 voted in 2000, compared to 65% of women over age 44. I have read her book before, and in the past, I have always interpreted that to mean that there was something wrong with young women, and we should try to find new ways to bring them in to the Feminist movement. But now I am have come to believe that the Second Wave, 1070's Feminist movement was an effort rooted in a particular place and time in American history, and that it is the movement that needs to change, and politics that needs to change, to resonate with young people.
Hillary Clinton is the logical culmination of Boomer Feminists' march toward success. I can understand why they are frustrated that just as they think their/her moment has come, the younger generations are not getting on board. But growing up in the aftermath of the battles of the 1970's is very different than being on the front lines. We do take some of our rights for granted. Is this a success or failure of Feminism? I call it a success, though I realize the absolute danger of complacency.
There are many tough challenges ahead, but I don't think we need a new "wave" of Feminism to tackle them. I would like to see women and men working toward gender justice, and people of all races working toward racial justice. This is what I see in Obama's campaign. Of course Clinton cares about these issues, but Boomer Feminists have alienated us by insisting that we draw political lines based on gender.
Clinton is qualified to be President, but in my opinion she is not the best choice because of the Dynasty issue (20 years of Bushes and Clintons, do we really want it to be 24 or 28?). Politics as usual is fueled by loyalty above all
and we have created loyalty gridlock by handing the Presidency back and forth between these two families for twenty years. In addition, there is residual resentment toward Bill and his shenanigans, even among Democrats, and every time he shows up in the campaign it's a 1990's flashback. Clinton surrogates struck dischord every time they acted like she was entitled to win. A co-chair of Clinton's campaign in Michigan said,
"Superdelegates are not second-class delegates," says Joel Ferguson, who will be a superdelegate if Michigan is seated. "The real second-class delegates are the delegates that are picked in red-state caucuses that are never going to vote Democratic." Way to give up on and practically disenfranchise those of us in the so-called "Red" states. (Guess the Clinton campaign didn't learn from Howard Dean's successful 50-state strategy
in 2006.) I know that Obama will be competing for North Carolina in the general election, should he become the nominee.
It would be a huge milestone to have a women fill the role of President, but Hillary is ultimately an insider, not the change candidate. Obama is poised to reach the benchmark of a million people
contributing to his campaign, many small donors
who chip in $10 or $25. At the same time, a pro-Hillary 527 group is trying to raise $10 million
--$100,000 each from 100 donors. Which campaign, and resulting Presidency, would be "owned" by the people?
These thoughts are a work in progress, and I am sure my Feminist elders would not be pleased by my change of heart. My bottom line is that it is not us who needs to change to conform to a movement, but it is the movement--Feminism, Humanism, Participatory Democracy, Grassroots Wildfire--that needs to change to draw us in.
I am working to support Obama, MomsRising.org, Lillian's List of North Carolina,
and Women for Women International,
among other causes. If my worldview doesn't make sense to older Feminists, maybe they should try looking at things from a new perspective.
Labels: Barack Obama, election 2008, feminism, Hillary Clinton, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner