Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Feminine Turn

Desde ma anunsia na Si Sarah Palin inayek as John McCain para u VP gi i banda Republican, hu gof nanangga para i ineppe i Campaign Obama. Taimanu para u ma chonnek tatte kontra i dinagin McCain yan i inayek Palin? Put fin gi este na simana, ma na'publiko hafa iyo-niha strategy. Pau ma na'dana' gi i mensahi-niha, manasunto Famalao'an yan Ikonomia.

Ya bei sangani hamyo, ti desganao yu'. Ti nina'desganao yu'. Put ma ayek este na tactic, ma apreba nu Guahu na magahet i fino' Obama yan Biden. I inetnon Democratic, ma ofrefresi "ideas" yan "policies" gi este na botashon, yan i inetnon Republicans, ma ofrefresi "personalities." Pau ma kena'hasso i taotao Amerika hayi mismo umofrefresi "solutions" para i prubleman-niha, ya hayi umofrefresi "tinaya'." Manmiresi i taotao Amerika gi maseha manu na ma bota.

In recent weeks, given the glowing coverage that the Republicans have received as Sarah Palin shows a magically ability to "connect" to voters, and more uncannily, has the ability to make John McCain as President an exciting prospect, alot of Democrats have become frustrated over what the reponse of their candidate will be, and how they will deal with all the "energy" that Palin seems to be helping create. The momentum has all seemed to be on the Republican side, with the media and the country not challenging Palin enough, and John McCain's campaign becoming more and more negative and ugly.

Well, in the past few days they've unveiled their plan, and I personally like it, because its attacking what is now the perceived strength of the Republican party, a newly forged intimate tie with people, in particular women who are dealing with tough economically hard times. This new connection is vibrant and is being written about and reported on from all different angles, but it is far from strong, far from firm, primarily because its not based on very much. Its based on the fact that people "like" Palin, that they think she's "nice" or "strong" or "determined." Obama's campaign is attacking hard on this front, trying to break this connection which has only been in existence for a few weeks, not with spin, not with lies, not with hate, but instead with actual plans. The Obama campaign's new tactic for bursting the Palin bubble is to argue very forcefully, using very real issues that the Democrats have more and better solutions to the host of problems that are affecting America's working women.

In just the past few days I have been hearing discussions and Democratic talking points which are very on point in terms of talking about continuing gender inequality and sexism in the United States. They may not be using the word "sexism," but as they are outlining the differences between the two camps, they are ultimately talking about structural inequalities that disproportionately affect women, and in fact women of color more so, and in their plans for dealing with these problems, they are taking a far more critical and progressive view of American society that I thought possible this election. It may all be talk at this point, but it is far better than the gender and race neutral campaigns that we've had so far.

If John McCain wants to cheat and pretend that he is making history and being progressive with his choice of Sarah Palin, and that the party who is far more anti-women and anti-women's issues than Democrats are really the ones who are interested in breaking the glass ceilings of America, then it is up to Democrats to dispel that myth and offer up some real ideas instead. Of course, the effectiveness of this strategy all depends on whether or not McCain's Campaign manager Rick Davis is right, and if people will vote this year based on issues or personality?

Hearing the townhall meetings, speeches and interviews from both campaigns in recent days, the scathing rhetoric of the Obama campaign has come true. McCain and Palin don't have very much to offer in terms of new ideas. They don't seem to have any solutions to America's problems with the exception of drilling in Alaska. What they are offering instead is the chance to help them fight evil. Vote for them, join with them and fight not for America, but against its enemies. Fight the biased and sexist media and their Democratic allies. Raze Washington D.C. and its culture of earmarks and excess. Their rallying cry is as Mitt Romney shrieked during the RNC, replace that liberal Washington with a conservative one! The Republican party and others swept in by this message, are like a hastily thrown together, rag-tag Army, which isn't promised anything should they go to battle, aren't even promised food along the way, but seem to be caught up in the message, and seem happy enough to fight the battle, without any thoughts for whether or not they will get anything out of this war.

Its almost surreal for me to see so much mounting evidence that the Democrats are actually the more serious party this year and that they are providing far more detailed and concrete proposals for how they will improve the lives of Americans, and deal with some of the recent disasters that are besetting the country economically. Are they pandering to regular people? Absolutely, there can't be any doubt about that. But the benefit of Democrats in power is that they tend to economically pander to a wider tent, to a larger section of the population, whereas Republicans seem to be faithful in their pandering only to the richest and the least in need of just about everything.

The Obama campaign released this video today, of a discussion between Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden discussing women's issues and the policy and philosophical differences between the two campaigns on thing such as birth control, right to sue based on discrimination, domestic violence and women's rights in general. Although the two political parties may appear to be very similar from certain perspectives, in this video, although it can be boring at points, since it is very policy-based, we can see that even small differences in terms of what laws will be passed, proposed, and how they will be shaped can have massive effects across the landscape of the country.

Earlier today as well, female Democrats in the House held a press conference to discuss further the differences between McCain and Obama's plans for America in terms of health care, retirement and equal pay for equal work. The conference was titled "Need, Expect And Deserve." Below is audio and video excerpts:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
on the Change America's Women:
"In the weeks ahead, we will be all over the country bringing a message of positive change, a new direction in America that addresses the economic concerns of the American people, in particular the economic concerns of America' working families and America's women. And in recent weeks, we have seen the consequences of the mismanagement of the Bush Administration on our economy. Yet, John McCain says the fundamentals of our economy are strong. American women know better. We are here today to focus on the change in America's economy. Barack Obama is the chance America's women need, expect and deserve."

Colorado Representative Diana DeGette
Senator McCain's Radical Health Care Plan:
"Under Senator McCain's health care plan more than 59 million women who receive health insurance through their job or spouse's job risk losing that insurance. More than 30 million women with employer sponsored health insurance who have a chronic condition could lose their health insurance and some of the requirements that some of us have fought so hard for at the state level--requiring maternity coverage and cancer screening and other coverages--would be wiped away under this plan. The bottom line: Senator McCain's radical health care plan is risky and dangerous for American women.

Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro
Equal Pay for Equal Work:
"Equal pay is at the heart of our debate for president and it has the power to make this a transformational election. Today, women are getting paid less than men, but John McCain opposes equal pay for equal work. He says, don't worry. All you need to do is get more education and training to get better jobs. And that shows why he cannot rescue this economy or help women to lift themselves up in this economy. When the Senate brought up the bill to remedy the Supreme Court's decision overturning Lily Ledbetter's pay discrimination claims to make sure it does not happen again, John McCain said he would oppose it. When it came time to vote, he didn't even bother to show up."

Illinois Representative Jan Schakowsky
the Threat John McCain Poses to Social Security:
"Barack Obama believes that Social Security is the cornerstone of the Social Compact in this country and he promises to protect it today, tomorrow and forever. John McCain says Social Security funding is an absolute disgrace. He simply doesn't get how it works in the first place. And he support privatization. In March, McCain said, I am totally in favor of personal savings accounts. Barack Obama opposes Social Security privatization because it would gamble the retirement plans of millions of Americans. We're talking about people over 65 years old. We're talking about persons with disabilities. We're talking about spouses and dependents, including my very own grandchildren, who lost their mother and are being helped by social security payments."

California Representative Linda Sanchez
John McCain's Outreach to Women and the Health Care Crisis in America:
"Despite his campaign's outreach efforts I think that McCain's efforts to bridge the gender gap is about as effective as the bridge to nowhere. And I want to take health care as an example. The lack of universal health care coverage hits women especially hard. There are over 20 million uninsured women in this country, and women are more likely than men to delay or not get medical care because of high costs. Health care premiums have doubled in the last seven years alone. No wonder only 27 percent of women are very confident that they'll be able to afford health care for themselves and their families. And, what does John McCain offer these women? John McCain offers a health care plan that would, for the first time in our country's history, tax health care benefits. And John McCain's plan won't even make a major dent in the number of uninsured Americans."

Maryland Representative Donna Edwards
Economic Opportunity and Domestic Violence:
"I know I wouldn't have gone to college if my father, who was disabled, hadn't been able to receive Social Security and we hadn't been able to receive benefits as children. This is important not as a ceiling, but as a floor and Barack Obama understands that. For America's women, for America's children, we understand that we want to live in our homes and in a home that's free of violence. Barack Obama, and certainly Joe Biden, understand that. They understand that when women live in homes that are filled with violence and when children withness that violence that it impacts how they perform in the workplace. It impacts how they are able to take care of themselves and their children. Barack Obama understands that. John McCain doesn't."

As McCain makes his campaign more and more about his and his VP's personality and also about the faults in Barack Obama's personality, the choice is becoming more and more clear. If Americans would like to take another gamble at electing Presidents or Vice Presidents who they feel "comfortable" with, would want to have a beer with, or hunt some moose with, then McCain and Palin are their obvious choice. But if they would like, to quote a line from one of John McCain's favorite songs, "take a chance" on electing a President who promises more than just the aura of familiarity or worse yet mediocrity, but actually has some plans for America, which will benefit a larger majority of Americans, than simply hoping that prosperity will trickle down from the top 1%.

Perhaps this is the case for all elections where the ultimate choice comes down to deciding whether you will support the candidate is or isn't "like you." McCain and Palin are appealing to a desire that the President of the United States not really offer much in terms of change, new ideas, or even competency, but instead that the office exists as a symbolic point where my benefits from it don't have to be tangible, economic or social, but are just derived from the intimacy I feel knowing that I am on the same level as the President or the Vice President. That they are just like me.

With Obama-Biden, there is the shaking suspicion that they aren't like you, that you don't have a sort of "gut" connections to these candidates. You aren't sure about where they come from or what they're saying, since all the fancy words and big ideas they using don't seem to be grounded in any friendly ideological terrain, since they lack that "gut" tie. They will most likely offer you something different, might be better, might be worse, but supporting them represents a risk in losing that intimacy to power. It means that the possibility of things getting better for you are related to you not feeling like those who rule you "are one of you" or "are just like you" but that they are smarter than you, more competent and knowledgable than you.

It might seem like a silly choice, or structure through which choices are made, but its a natural one, and it is because of this, that although Obama clearly offers more plans and solutions to help more Americans, the race can still be so close.

Obama Lays Out Plans To Woo Women Voters:
Forget Palin, Focus On Equal Pay
Sam Stein
The Huffingston Post

During a conference call with national female supporters on Monday, Barack Obama and his aides outlined a comprehensive strategy to target female supporters who could be on the fence between his and John McCain's candidacies.

The plan included intense focus on McCain's opposition to equal pay legislation, which aides to Obama believe resonates beyond female voters; sending out prominent female surrogates to serve as political "ambassadors"; limiting focus on Gov. Sarah Palin in favor of McCain himself; and breaking through the media's propensity to focus on conflicts and gaffes.

"We have got a lot of work to do and I can't do it without your help," Obama explained. "In recent weeks, we have seen Republicans up to their election year tricks. In his campaign ads, John McCain and Sarah Palin - I'm being generous here - distorted my record. They inflated their own. They ran an ad accusing me of promoting teaching sex to kindergartners when in fact the bill called for ensuring that our children learn how to protect themselves from sexual abuse. That is one of the more egregious examples. And with all these antics I'm going to need all of you on call to set the record straight."

"All of you, as prominent women that the American people listen to," the Democratic nominee continued, "are going to be some of our most important ambassadors in this process. To the extent we can get people to pay attention to choice involved on issues like health care, the Supreme Court, pay equity, I am absolutely confident we will win. But we are going to have to cut through a whole lot of noise and the media's propensity to cover scandal, gaffe, polls or attacks."

The National Women Leaders Conference Call came as part of a greater effort on behalf of the Obama campaign to solidify a portion of the electorate that, with McCain's choice of Palin as VP, seems more up for grabs than at any previous time in this election.

A Hill Democrat told the Huffington Post that female lawmakers will hold an event this week focusing on equal pay legislation. In addition, the Obama campaign on Monday rolled out the endorsements of "hundreds of national women leaders in fields ranging from business to women's rights, from astronauts to athletes, from former governors to cabinet secretaries." The list includes Stacey Snider, Chairman of DreamWorks, Linda Chavez-Thompson, Executive Vice President Emerita, AFL-CIO, and Olympic gold-medalist Dominique Dawes.

Speaking on the phone with many of these individuals, Obama implored them to start reaching out on their own to help recruit female support. "Don't wait for our call," he said. "I need you to talk to your colleagues, get on the radio, write op-eds in the newspapers, talk about what is really at stake in this election."

There were several issues on which the campaign suggested these pseudo-surrogates focus. Equal pay, opposition to choice, and the economy were some of them -- Sarah Palin was not.

"I know we are getting a little distracted by discussion about Sarah Palin, but I think it is important for all of us to focus on Sen. McCain," said Dana Singiser, a strategist for Obama. "Ultimately, of course, he will be president, he will be choosing Supreme Court justices, he will be steering the federal government, and we know a lot about him and where he stands on issues that are important to women. The contrast between John McCain's record and his positions and Sen. Obama's really could not be any more stark. I go back to equal pay because, given where we are with the economy, we are finding with the polling that pocket book issues really are what is top of mind for women voters. Whether we are talking about jobs or health care or gas prices, this is what women voters and really all voters are concerned about."

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