Monday, January 14, 2008

Race and gender in the Democratic presidential primary

Your blogstress has spent the better part of a week examining the fascinating phenomenon of alpha-feminist participation in the top Democratic campaigns for the presidency. In fact, the campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards each feature a leader in reproductive rights movement as senior advisers; in Clinton campaign, Ann Lewis, who once served communications chief for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, is a top strategist. The Edwards campaign is graced by the presence of Kate Michelman, who ran NARAL for more than 20 years, and her predecessor at NARAL, Karen Mulhauser, is Barack Obama's senior advisor on women's issues.

This is truly amazing -- that each of the campaigns has taken up a feminist agenda, not just on reproductive rights, but an a range issues, including family leave and Social Security. But with a woman in the race, there is also a risk of division within the feminist movement between those who believe that the only true feminist choice is to vote for the woman in the race, and those who focus on the policy papers and specific programs. Throw race in to the mix -- unavoidable with the equally unprecedented candidacy of Barack Obama, and you have something volatile. It's a pivotal moment, for sure. From your écrivaine's piece today on the Women's Media Center site:

For liberals and progressives, the presidential primary season of 2008 is a breathtaking moment. Historic "firsts" are represented by the candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama; add in John Edwards and you have a race contested by three figures, each of whom depicts in an iconic way one of three core ideals that define the traditional liberal coalition in the Democratic Party: women's rights, civil rights and economic populism. Each of these candidates, of course, represents a far wider range of policy positions than that suggested by her or his iconographic status. Consequently, in a moment of great opportunity and challenge for the women's movement, all have drawn high-visibility feminists to their campaigns.
As a result of Gloria Steinem's provocative op-ed, which appeared in last Monday's New York Times on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, a major discussion has been taking place about the impact of race and gender on the Democratic contest. Today, Steinem appeared on Amy Goodman's show, debating Melissa Harris Lacewell of Princeton. Mandatory listening, mes amis.

On the front page today of today's Times, Adam Nagourney takes on the topic.

The success of the liberal/progressive agenda will rise or fall on how progressives deal with, along racial and gender lines, the fallout from the primary race.

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