Monday, February 4, 2008

Peace, Feminism, and the #%*&@ Primary

I'd promised myself I'd write about sex since that's what I'm teaching about this week - but with Super Tuesday looming, I just can't get in the mood.

A group called New York Feminists for Peace and Barack Obama has come out in favor of Obama. Comprising over 100 prominent feminists, the group is heavy on academics. It includes some of the historians whose work I've admired since I embarked on grad school: Victoria de Grazia, Alice Kessler-Harris, and Linda Gordon. Emily Martin, Rayna Rapp, and Rosalind Petchesky have all influenced my thinking on women, embodiment, and reproduction. And Katha Pollitt still inspires me every time I read her column; her latest explains beautifully why she's backing Obama.

But their status as feminist luminaries in my personal cosmos isn't nearly as important as their compelling reasons for backing Obama, which are pretty much identical to mine: We need peace first, and everything else depends on that. Feminism is dead in the water unless we've got peace and prosperity. This means that we need need to get out of Iraq, stay out of Iran, break our oil addiction, and recommit to the rule of law.

The Iraq sinkhole has put us in hock for at least a generation, hampering our ability to spend on the domestic needs that most feminists care about, such as health, the environment, and education. Obama doesn't have a foolproof plan for getting us out of there. No one does. But he's opposed the war from the very start. Clinton has never even apologized for her pro-war vote.

Based on Obama's consistent opposition to the Iraq war and Hillary Clinton's steadfast support in the Senate for a "stronger" military, there's good reason to believe he'll be more cautious in using military force elsewhere, too. Obama has said he'd be willing to talk directly with the leaders of "rogue" states such as Syria. Clinton mocked the idea. I can't see why that's so ridiculous. Talk is a heck of a lot cheaper than bombs, and often more effective.

The New York group doesn't mention Iran, but I'm worried that Hillary will take a hard line there, too. She's already signaled this by voting for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which designated Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. This puts us on a collision course with Iran that's apt to end in military action.

As Christopher Hayes argued eloquently in the Nation last week, foreign policy is the area where presidential power is least restrained by the Congress or courts. And that's precisely where the candidates' differences are greatest.

Neither candidate has adequately addressed the looming energy and climate catastrophes, which together with our foreign policy constitute a monstrous three-headed beast. Neither has signed onto the goals of the Apollo Alliance. While this worries me, my gut feeling is that Obama is more likely than Clinton to pursue an innovative energy policy. He's more willing to think outside the box. He's less indebted to vested interests. And for what it's worth, he's been chatting with Al Gore.

Finally, I'm not at all sure Clinton will renounce the new presidential powers that Dubya has arrogated to himself. She equivocated when she was asked about this a couple months back. As a former professor of constitutional law, Obama is more likely to reject Bush and Cheney's theory of the unitary executive and restore civil liberties. This, too, is essential if feminism is to thrive.

So if you're reading this, and if (unlike us disenfranchised Ohio residents) you get to vote in Super Tuesday, I hope you'll weigh these humble thoughts and consider voting for Barack Obama.

And now that that's settled, I'm going back to thinking about sex.


ThePoliticalCat said...

Katha Pollit rocks me. As a feminist since sprogdom, this primary has been hard for me. I want to support Hillary Clinton, but her political positions on many issues are not acceptable to me. Worse yet, her campaign has engaged in tactics I find repellent. And yet, and yet, and yet. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

Sungold said...

I totally get this - I too called myself a feminist from about age 11, despite a staunch Republican upbringing. I dreamed of voting for a female president, or maybe even becoming one myself! I ditched that latter dream by middle school, but I still hang onto the first one.

Today I spoke with my sister, who's much to the right of me but also generally onboard with feminism. She has a similarly melancholy feeling, wishing she could be excited about Clinton.

Maybe I'll feel more enthusiastic if she actually wins the nomination - after I've thoroughly licked my wounds, of course.