Friday, July 11, 2008

Stop Family Squabbles and Build the Nonviolent Revoluton

I have 4 daughters and 5 brothers. I have witnessed a surfeit of sibling squabbles. I had hoped Obama's becoming the presumptive nominee would have modulated the bickering. People, John McCain doesn't understand how Social Security works. in my era in Catholic schools, you couldn't graduate from 8th grade that ignorant. We have had 8 years of a stupid, invincibly ignorant president. Bloggers are presumably intelligent, articulate, knowledgeable people. Don't you value Obama's intelligence, no matter what you think of his politics?

I am one day older than the atom bomb, born the day after Trinity (I expect birthday greetings very soon if you know your history:) I was a 1960s radical nonviolent pacifist and am a card-carrying member of the War Resister's League. I can go spectacularly limp if you try to drag me from the demonstration. I have not changed as I raised 4 daughters, took care of my dying parents, worked as a public librarian and social worker.

We need a nonviolent revolution to transform America into a children-friendly, family-friendly, elder-friendly, human-being-friendly society that is not the disgrace of most of the world. If you want to have children or take care of your aging parents, you would be better off moving almost anywhere in the world.

I supported Hillary and I am now supporting Obama by holding his clay feet to my progressive fires. I am a million percent sure the US will be better off with him as president than McCain as president. But I have no illusions he is a liberal or a progressive. He will only be as liberal as the country forces him to be. I have known that from the beginning, so I don't feel betrayed.

Since Obama became the presumptive nominee, I became very active in mybarackobama , and in a month have amassed 867 points and am in 7416 place. Joining lots of groups, making sure my blog posts land on their group page, then leaving if I get no response are the keys to my point total. I didn't do that deliberately; most of the groups sound interesting but are inactive. I feel like a first grader bragging about the gold stars on my forehead. I have been asked to leave two groups, but I started 3 groups of my own, which I control absolutely. My blogs posts can be sent to 10 groups at once. Mybarackobama seems remarkably open to Obama criticism. I hope it continues after he wins the election. I feel I am having a much more positive impact than if I was feeding my resentments on Puma blogs.

Let's stop squandering the ideas, energy, passion needed for the revolution on destructive family squabbles. I thought the feminists of my generation would change things so that our kids could combine careers and children and elder care. I intend to dedicate the rest of my life to making sure my grandchildren can. I have a 14-month old grandson with a granddaughter due in August and another one due in December.

If you think managing careers and child care is difficult, wait until a phone call in the middle of the night plunges you into the nightmare of combining elder care and your career. And no, Medicare or Health Insurance does not pay for custodial care and help with the activities of daily life for failing or demented elders who are going to die of their illness. Medicare or Health Insurance might spend hundreds of thousands on death bed heroics. but they won't pay for an aide willing to change adult diapers. I hope you all are practicing. I suggest wrapping the use diaper in a plastic bag and tossing it out the bathroom window to a garbage can outside the window. But you need to live in a house for that.

I have been a feminist since my brother was born when I was 18 months old. Having 4 more younger brothers reinforced it. The culminating moment was when I was preparing for First Communion and the nun informed me that boys went up first because they could be priests and were closer to God. !6 years of misogynistic Catholic education guarantees radical feminism for life.

I was the only girl in my political science classes at Fordham and I especially love to argue with men. I don't do tact. So when is my birthday and why do I call myself Redstocking Grandma? If you can't answer those two questions, you undoubtedly need to read more history and do less blogging and commenting. Ask me for a reading list. I give lots of homework.

Time will tell if I moderate my blogs, censoring people who can't pass my history test:) This is a joke guys.But I do want intelligent discussion and debate, not the reversion to a middle school cafeteria that too many blogs became during the primary. In 1987, equally digrunted with my shrink and my first husband, I ordered a red sweatshirt that proclaimed: "Never love a man who doesn't love Jane Austen, Doris Lessing, and Margaret Drabble." More homework . After 14 years, that shirt got me an English husband. Jane Austen introduced us; we met on a Jane Austen online listserv.. A nonviolent revolutionary who loves Jane Austen, what's not to love?

Obama to Working Women

Cross-Posted at Feminism in 2008 Election and Beyond

I am pleased that Obama is reaching out to women and advocating family-friendly policies:

During a town hall in Fairfax, Virginia today, Obama said:

Growing up, I saw my mother, a young single mom, put herself through school, and follow her passion for helping others while raising me and my sister. But I also saw how she struggled to provide for us, worrying sometimes about how she'd pay the bills.

I saw my grandmother, who helped raise me, work her way up from a secretary at a bank to become one of the first women bank vice presidents in the state. But I also saw how she ultimately hit a glass ceiling - how men no more qualified than she was kept moving up the corporate ladder ahead of her.

And I've seen my wife, Michelle, the rock of the Obama family, juggle jobs and parenting with more skill and grace than anyone I know. But I've also seen how it tears at her. How sometimes, when she's with the girls, she's worrying about work - and when she's at work, she's worrying about the girls. It's a feeling I share every day - especially these days, when I'm away so much on the campaign trail.

It's something I hear all the time from working parents, especially working women - many of whom are working more than one job to make ends meet.
This morning the campaign rolled out a report on the impact of the Obama economic plan for America's working women nationwide. Barack's plan will provide a tax cut to 71 million working women, guarantee seven days of paid sick leave for 22 million additional women, and make childcare more affordable for 7.5 million working mothers. His plan is designed to give working women the opportunity to not just get by, but to get ahead in our economy – to build a nest egg, save for retirement, start a business and provide a better life for their children.

Obama and Family Issues

I agree that Obama's heart is in the right place on family-friendly issues. I love it that his daughters are young and he and Michelle struggle with these problems everyday. Fortunately Michelle's mother is available to help care for their kids. That solution is available to fewer and fewer families since grandparents still work and often live too far away. (I am lucky enough to be able to care for my 1-year-old grandson three days a week.)

Hillary wasn't really better on these issues, but I hoped that as an older woman with so many woman advisors, she would understand. She might be more sensitive to the dilemmas of caring for aging parents since her mother lives with her.

But we need a mass movement to pressure Congress to address these issues. Sadly most young parents and most caregivers of elders do not have the time or energy to lead this crusade. That is why I am encouraging baby boomer grandparents to dedicate themselves to winning battles for their grandchildren that we failed to win for our children.

I am taking advantage of Obama's enlightened invitation to local platform meetings to host one on Building a Truly Family-Friendly America. Here is my invitation:
Let's discuss and develop family friendly policies that would make it possible for all Americans to lead balanced lives. The US lags shamefully behind most of the developed world in child-friendly policies. We all need time for love, work, family, friendship, children, elders, political and community activism. We all know the challenges of child care. Most health care discussions neglect long-term health care of chronically ill elders. People don't realize until the crisis is upon them that Medicare and regular health insurance does not pay for chronic custodial care. We need maternity and paternity leave, child care, credits for parents who stay home to care for children, free preschool education, extension of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Improving conditions for nannies, child care workers, and home health aides is an important issue. Figuring out how to prevent businesses from penalizing and discriminating against workers who do take some time off for child care or elder care is another challenge.

Stoller: "Why It's Important to Note That Obama Is Not Liberal or Progressive"

Cross-posted at Clintonistas for Obama.

Matt Stoller at Open Left gets it right. Read the whole post.

So work for Obama, help him get elected, but realize that he doesn't and will never share our values. And we shouldn't try to pretend that he is the progressive we wish he were, since he's a politician, and politicians go where power is. And he's decided that power is not with the liberals. That's fine. But it's important, as people who believe that liberal ideas work, that Obama be understood as who he is, not as who we wish he were. I have tried to broadcast this message over the past few days, but first, I'll make a caveat most of us on this site will recognize.

Caveat: We want to make it very clear that criticism or analysis of Obama is not intended as a repudiation of support for Obama. He's a far superior candidate to McCain, a better person, and will be a much better President....We support him, even though we disagree with his political outlook and policy positions.
I could find countless emails between me and my Obama-supporting 4 daughters where I argue that Obama is even more centrist than Clinton, that she offers a more progressive health care plan. Paul Krugman in the New York Times wrote numerous columns on this and was repudiated by too many progressive blogs then in the throes of their Obama love affair.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"Hillary Wasn't Exactly Running as a Dove or a Marxist"

Cross-posted at Clintonistas for Obama.

I need to keep reminding myself that I was not a passionate, absolutely committed Clinton supporter. The tidal waves of misogyny gradually convinced me that electing a woman president was supremely important, that it would be the bigget change of all. But I wavered, because I thought Clinton and Obama were similar, that neither was the progressive crusader I longed for. At my age, I knew better than to be deceived by the illusion that Obama wasn't a pol. I was uneasy that he was an unknown. My most political daughter described him as "high risk, high gain," and most of the campaign I didn't want to take the risk.

Lance Mannion made excellent sense today. His remarks helped me get a grip:

Vote for him or don't vote for him. That's your choice. Criticize him as much as you want. He needs it.But don't expect people to pay a lot of attention when you act shocked that Obama has turned out to be running a campaign that is very much like...the one Hillary was already running.

In case you didn't notice, Clinton was not exactly running as a dove or as a Marxist.

Several times throughout the primaries I said that I didn't really care who won, Clinton or Obama, because there wasn't much difference between them. My reasons for preferring Hillary were matters of emphasis. But, I pointed out, neither one was the second coming of FDR. They were both just politicians on the make. The job of cleaning up after thirty years of Republican vandalism is too big for one President to handle in one or even two terms. We're in this for the long haul. President Hillary Clinton would have started the clean up over here. Obama's going to start it over there. She would have gotten and he will get to only as many rooms as the Congress and other political realities let them. One of the things that annoyed me about many of the Obama bloggers is the ways they found to ignore or deny the obvious fact that Obama was just another politician on the make. I'm supposed to be shocked and outraged now that I was right?

Obama is a smart, skilled, savvy, talented, compromised and compromising man. He's a politician. A good one. He's a Democrat. He's not a Progressive, a word that I've decided at last means in blogland "As morally and politically pure as I am." Hillary has skills and talents and passions and interests that he doesn't have, but she's a Democrat too. He has skills and talents and passions and interests that she doesn't. One of those talents is public speaking. One of those skills is inspiring a crowd. If Al Gore or John Kerry had had either of those, Barack Obama would not be running for President right now.

Letter to Progressive Bloggers

I could never satisfactorily explain to my family of Obama supporters why I was supporting Clinton because my political views were so much more similar to Obama's. I had some difficulty understanding it myself. I did think Hillary would make an excellent president; I greatly admired her brains, hard work, and indomitable spirit. Electing a qualified women president was tremendously important to me. I was convinced it would benefit women around the world in ways we might not be able to predict. I would not have supported any Republican woman for president. Obama seemed too much of an unknown. I preferred Clinton's health platform.

I want to share with you a letter I posted to several progressive blogs I have been avoiding for 6 months. To be a feminist for Hillary in the progressive blogosphere has been a bruising, lonely experience. Here is what I wrote:

"Hillary supporters are more likely to come around and work for Obama if they swear off reading progressive blogs for a month or two. They would be far better off joining Barack Obama's online community. Many of us perceived that too many progressive blogs became almost as hurtful and sexist as the mass media, albeit unconsciously in some instances. Saying it was unconscious is being very conciliatory, but I am a 62-year-old social worker and can afford to be kind.

Too many Hillary supporters stopped reading and commenting on their previous favorite blogs. We stopped trying to explain what sexism was and why it was so hurtful. Fewer women seem to love intellectual combat. I am ashamed to admit that I did too. Fancying myself as a member of the new creative class, I had suddenly become a low-information gullible. What a dismal fate for a reference librarian!

An ambivalent Hillary supporter, I tried rather stridently to discuss feminism and the election on several blogs in January. I then disappeared for five months and only reappeared when I had become an Obama supporter. I love to argue and debate. And yet I slunk away, muzzling myself. I even shut down my political blog.

The progressive blogosphere is bleeding and needs healing. To quote Digby:
"Clinton's campaign ripped open a hole in our culture and forced us to look inside. And what we found was a simmering cauldron of crude, sophomoric sexism and ugly misogyny that a lot of us knew existed but didn't realize was still so socially acceptable that it could be broadcast on national television and garner nary a complaint from anybody but a few internet scolds like me. "

Hillary feminists do need to take some responsibility for what happened in the netroots. If we had stayed to debate and educate, the wounds might not have been as deep. Most of us lacked Hillary's indomitable fighting spirit. Need I say that I am working my heart out for Obama. But the most helpful thing I can do right now is help Obama supporters understand the bitterness and pain of women HIllary supporters."

I shared this letter on my Obama blog, adding: "I realize that I was still a stranger in a strange land at mybarackobama. I have resolved to bite my tongue even if smoke is coming out of my ears and try to help Obama and Hillary supporters listen to and understand each other so they can unite to defeat John McCain. This time I won't slunk away or muzzle my blog. It is far easier to support a Democratic candidate against McCain than a Democratic candidate against another Democratic candidate when their positions are similar. I would prefer not to start a debate on whether their positions were that similar:)

Duck and Cover, McCarthy, Assassinations, and Vietnam

I was born July 17, 1945, the day after Trinity, the first atomic bomb test. My first specific political memory centered around the duck-and - cover, hide-under-our-desks, exercises that were a regular feature of my grade school life from age 5 on. I knew enough about nuclear war to be terrified. We lived one mile away from an air force base, and I used to go out to the backyard, look up at the planes, and try to determine if they were American or Russian. I remember getting a book out of the library on aircraft identification. (I don't remember what I planned to do if I spotted a Russian plane.)

When I heard Joseph Stalin died, I remember asking if that meant no one would drop atom bombs on us. This terror continued; I recall my best friend and I fully expected to die during the Cuban Missile Crisis. That fear motivated my intense involvement in the Nuclear Freeze Movement of the early 80s.

In 1954 I had a severe case of the measles and my grandma came to help nurse me. She was listening to the Joseph McCarthy army hearings. Hatred of McCarthy's voice might have shaped my entire political development. To my fevered mind, he seemed to personify absolute evil. In 1956, just turning eleven, I fell madly in love with Jack Kennedy as he made an unsuccessful bid for the vice presidential nomination. A good catholic school girl, I was initially attracted by his Catholicism; ten minutes later I was smitten by his intelligence, wit, and charm. I was luckier than his other women. Loving Jack Kennedy was good for me. At age 11, I complusively read zealously read the newspapers, news magazines, everything I could find about Kennedy and American politics. When I was 15 in 1960,I did volunteer work for his presidential campaign, handing out flyers and making phone calls.

In high school we had political debates to imitate the famous Kennedy/ Nixon debates and I represented Kennedy. What he believed in, I believed in. Gradually I moved to the left of his pragmatic liberalism. Certainly Kennedy was responsible for my decision to major in political science in college. Kennedy's assassination, occurring in the fall of my freshman year in college in Rochester, devastated me. I felt like there had been a death in my immediate family. I quickly transferred my political allegiance to Bobby Kennedy.

I cannot precisely date my interest in and commitment to civil rights. My home town (Uniondale) was very gradually become an African American middle-class community.When I was a freshman, I joined my college's Interracial Understanding Group. I was envious of those college students who could afford to spend the summer down south registering voters and didn't have to worry about money to pay their tuition. I would have gone if my family could have afforded to give up my summer earnings.

Gradually during college I became a pacifist. Opposition to the Vietnam War right from the beginning was the catalyst. My husband to be, Chris, applied for conscientious objector status and was willing to face jail rather than be inducted. We became very active in the Catholic Peace Fellowship, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the War Resister's League, all pacifist organizations. We went on many anti-war demonstrations both in New York and Washington. I have seen Washington DC mostly behind a picket sign. I briefly attended Stanford University where resistance to the war was at its height. Almost every afternoon, David Harris, Joan Baez's future husband who did go to jail, spoke out eloquently against the war. Meanwhile, my political science professors were intent on turning political science into a quantifiable discipline.

After I returned from Stanford, I had rented a room from an elderly women on the Upper West Side, who supported herself by taking in borders. I spent most of my time with my fiance and didn't want my Catholic parents to know (I didn't fool them.) I had gone to bed very late; I had stayed up to hear the results of the California primary. I was ecstatic that Bobby had won. I always woke up to a clock radio. As I groggily came to consciousness a few hours later, it took minutes for my befuddled, sleep-deprived brain to understand what they were saying. At first I told myself they were talking about someone else. When the horror sunk in, II crept into the hall and used the telephone that I had no privileges to use to call Chris, crying so hysterically that he couldn't understand me and thought something had happened to my parents or brothers.

My first job after Stanford was as an assistant to Victor Riesel, a labor columnist, who had been blinded by acid thrown in his face by the mob who controlled the waterfront he was exposing. M Living and breathing politics was my job. Riesel had never learned Braille, so he always hired bright young political women to be his eyes. My job was to scan 7 daily newspapers and about 40 labor papers, clip, and read to him anything that might provide ideas for his daily column. The internet equivalent of the internet was a constantly running ticker tape. All day and all week I had to read him about the assassination, the train procession, the funeral; I could hardly read, blinded by my tears. I had reacted the same way to Martin Luther King's assassination two months previously. The world was shattered, and it was my job to read about it and think about it all day, everyday.
The next day I had to get fitted for my wedding dress, and I wept throughout the fitting, not caring if tears spotted my dress..

My husband escaped jailed by getting a high number in the 1969 Draft Lottery. I will never forget that night. I arrived home from work when they had reached 50. As time when on and they didn't call out Chris's birthday, I was convinced he had been in the first five and I was frightened by how I would cope with his imprisonment. His number was 339. For the first time in two years, we could plan our lives together without worrying about a jail sentence.

How Can I Support Obama When I Supported Hillary?

Senator Clinton says it best:

I entered this race because I have an old-fashioned conviction that public service is about helping people solve their problems and live their dreams. I've had every opportunity and blessing in my own life, and I want the same for all Americans.

And until that day comes, you'll always find me on the front lines of democracy, fighting for the future.

The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand is to take our energy, our passion, our strength, and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States.


You know, I've been involved in politics and public life in one way or another for four decades. And during those ... during those 40 years our country has voted 10 times for president. Democrats won only three of those times, and the man who won two of those elections is with us today.

We made tremendous progress during the '90s under a Democratic president, with a flourishing economy and our leadership for peace and security respected around the world.

Just think how much more progress we could have made over the past 40 years if we'd had a Democratic president. Think about the lost opportunities of these past seven years on the environment and the economy, on health care and civil rights, on education, foreign policy and the Supreme Court.

Imagine how far ... we could have come, how much we could have achieved if we had just had a Democrat in the White House.

We cannot let this moment slip away. We have come too far and accomplished too much.


So I want to say to my supporters: When you hear people saying or think to yourself, If only, or, What if, I say, please, don't go there. Every moment wasted looking back keeps us from moving forward.

Life is too short, time is too precious, and the stakes are too high to dwell on what might have been. We have to work together for what still can be. And that is why I will work my heart out to make sure that Senator Obama is our next president.

Fallacy of Moving to the Center to Win Elections

Glenn Greenwald is a superb progressive blogger, who needs to be on your daily must-read list. In today's post, he analyzes "The Baseless, and Failed, "Move to the Center" Cliche."

[W]hat . . . is the basis for the almost-unanimously held Beltway conventional view that Democrats generally, and Barack Obama particularly, will be politically endangered unless they adopt the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism and National Security, which -- for some reason -- is called "moving to the Center"? There doesn't appear to be any basis for that view. It's just an unexamined relic from past times, the immovable, uncritical assumption of Beltway strategists and pundits who can't accept that it isn't 1972 anymore -- or even 2002.

. . . One could argue that national security plays a larger role in presidential elections than in Congressional races, and that very well may be. But was John Kerry's narrow 2004 loss to George Bush due to the perception that Kerry -- who ran as fast as he could towards the mythical Center -- was Soft on Terrorism? Or was it due to the understandable belief that his rush to the Center meant that he stood for nothing, that he was afraid of his own views -- the real hallmark, the very definition, of weakness?

. . . For that reason, isn't the perception that Obama is abandoning his own core beliefs -- or, worse, that he has none -- a much greater political danger than a failure to move to the so-called "Center" by suddenly adopting Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies? As a result of Obama's reversal on FISA, his very noticeable change in approach regarding Israel, his conspicuous embrace of the Scalia/Thomas view in recent Supreme Court cases, and a general shift in tone, a very strong media narrative is arising that Obama is abandoning his core beliefs for political gain. That narrative -- that he's afraid to stand by his own beliefs -- appears far more likely to result in a perception that Obama is "Weak" than a refusal to embrace Bush/Cheney national security positions.

What's most amazing about the unexamined premise that Democrats must "move to the Center" (i.e., adopt GOP views) is that this is the same advice Democrats have been following over and over and which keeps leading to their abject failure. It's the advice Kerry followed in 2004. It's why Democrats rejected Howard Dean and chose John Kerry instead...

A Washington Post article last week on Obama's move to the center included this insight:
"American voters tend to reward politicians who take clear stands," said David Sirota, a former Democratic aide on Capitol Hill and author of the new populist-themed book "The Uprising." "When Obama takes these mushy positions, it could speak to a character issue. Voters that don't pay a lot of attention look at one thing: 'Does the guy believe in something?' They may be saying the guy is afraid of his own shadow."

Fight for the Issues, Not the Pols

Big Tent Democrat of Talk Left expresses an important truth for supporters of any candidate:

Pols are pols and do what they do. That's why as citizens and activists we must act for issues, not pols:

As citizens and activists, our allegiances have to be to the issues we believe in. I am a partisan Democrat it is true. But the reason I am is because I know who we can pressure to do the right thing some of the times. Republicans aren't them. But that does not mean we accept the failings of our Democrats. There is nothing more important that we can do, as citizens, activists or bloggers than fight to pressure DEMOCRATS to do the right thing on OUR issues.

And this is true in every context I think. Be it pressing the Speaker or the Senate majority leader, or the new hope running for President. There is nothing more important we can do. Nothing. It's more important BY FAR than "fighting" for your favorite pol because your favorite pol will ALWAYS, I mean ALWAYS, disappoint you.

In the middle of primary fights, citizens, activists and bloggers like to think their guy or woman is different. They are going to change the way politics works. They are going to not disappoint. In short, they are not going to be pols. That is, in a word, idiotic.

Yes, they are all pols. And they do what they do. Do not fight for pols. Fight for the issues you care about. That often means fighting for a pol of course. But remember, you are fighting for the issues. Not the pols.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Obama Should Campaign As a Feminist

I wrote this originally on January 11, 2008, and it is still valid today.

My generation of feminists won some significant battles, and so brilliant younger women need not make feminism their absolute priority. I was 18 when the Feminine Mystique was published, 23 when the second feminist movement began. Belatedly, I have realized this week that feminism is my make- or -break issue. But my absolute commitment to feminist issues would not necessarily make me a Clinton supporter.

Please struggle to understand this. Men and women can be feminists. Clinton, although the target of hundreds of thousands of vituperative misogynist attacks, has not committed herself to a feminist platform. If Obama campaigned as a feminist, spoke out against the sexist attacks against Clinton, and made family issues an essential part of his platform, I would work for him in a heartbeat. I am sure Michelle Obama could write eloquent speeches for him. That he doesn't seem to be considering a potentially winning strategy indicates how thoroughly feminist and family issues have fallen beneath the political radar. I can't figure out why.

I might even prefer to vote for feminist Obama than a beleaguered Clinton. Voters would find it much more possible to understand feminist issues if a younger candidate was explicating them. Even as I type, I am struggling whether I should add "a younger male" candidate.

I was flabbergasted when Obama's aide Jesse Jackson jr. seemed to be competing with Chris Matthews for woman hater of the day in his accusation that Hillary didn't cry over Katrina victims.
Obama's failure to repudiate or fire Jackson offers me no security he even understands feminism, never mind supports it. Perhaps his daughters need to educate him.