Friday, June 15, 2007

National NOW’s early endorsement of Hillary Clinton discussed at our June chapter meeting

National NOW’s early endorsement of Hillary Clinton has caused some controversy in Phila. NOW chapter. (See Kathy Black’s letter to Kim Gandy at

Linda Berg, the national NOW political director, came to our June chapter meeting to explain the thinking behind the early endorsement of Clinton and to hear the concerns of some of our members.

There were several issues: the timing of the endorsement, the process by which the decision was made, and the merits of the endorsement.

First, the timing. Linda Berg stated that there was very strong feeling among members of the national board, particularly the long-time NOW members, that this endorsement should be made as soon as possible. The push for the speedy, fast-track endorsement came from the national board members, not the officers.

Kathy Black raised the issue: What leverage do we have with Hillary Clinton if we have already endorsed her? Doesn’t this reduce our chances of influencing her position on Iraq?

Linda Berg said that if NOW had not made the early endorsement, there would have been no leverage and that national NOW President Kim Gandy now spends considerable time with Hillary Clinton and is in a position to have influence.

Linda acknowledged that some of NOW’s coalition partners(e.g. Code Pink) were unhappy about the early endorsement , but recognized that there was value in an inside/outside strategy, with Code Pink pressuring Hillary Clinton on the outside and NOW in a position to influence her from the inside.

Kathy Black stated that the influence seems to be going in the other direction as the national NOW website has much less about the war than it did before the endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

The chapter members present were divided about the wisdom of an early endorsement. Hannah Miller, who was in favor of the early endorsement, stated that she would have been disappointed if NOW had not made an early endorsement.

The next issue was the process. Linda Berg stated that national NOW sent out an email to chapter leaders asking for their feedback before the endorsement decision was made. She said that the response of the approximately 200 who replied was overwhelmingly in favor of an early endorsement of Hillary.

However, the heading of the email which went out to members was: “[NOW Leaders] Tell Us What You Think!” If the heading had been "Should NOW make an early endorsement in the presidential races?" more people would have noticed it and opened it.

Linda was surprised that there had been no communication from the mid-Atlantic national board members to solicit members’ opinions before the decision was made. She noted that when she was on the national board she was in close communication with the members in her region. (National board members are supposed to represent the members in a particular region.) Linda always solicited members’ opinions before voting and she said that it was clear that this time the process had broken down.

Gloria Gilman said that it is responsibility of leadership of an organization which relies on mid-level representatives to make sure that the mid-level representatives are in touch with the grassroots membership; top leadership should not just assume communication is taking place.

Among members present, there was general agreement that there were problems with the process.

Finally, the decision itself: Linda Berg presented Hillary Clinton’s record. See

There was general acknowledgement that her record was strong on women’s rights but that her record on the war was distressing. Kathy Black also mentioned concerns about Hillary’s record on labor issues.

We then discussed the reaction to the endorsement among NOW members with whom we had spoken and with members of the feminist community who might not be NOW members but who strongly identify as feminists.

Kathy Black stated that anti-war feminists were dismayed by the timing of the endorsement.

Francesca Alvarado stated that young feminists of color, such as her daughters, were undecided and were favorably impressed by Obama.

Hannah Miller stated that some young women she knew like Hillary Clinton a lot but were uncomfortable about supporting her openly—the silent, under-the-radar vote for Hillary, perhaps.

I’ve asked those at the meeting, including Linda Berg, to add their comments about points I may not have included, additional thoughts, etc.

My personal opinion: Like many chapter members, I am deeply concerned about Clinton’s position on the war. But I am supporting Hillary Clinton because:

I believe she is the strongest Democratic candidate and we must get rid of the Republicans.

She has a very strong record on women’s rights: pay equity, affirmative action, LGBT rights, abortion rights. Not only will she be an inspiration to young women in this country, but she will inspire women’s right activists around the world

On a very personal note, I want to see a woman as president. It’s time.

I realize that for many feminists Clinton’s gender is not enough and agree that gender issues must be viewed through the lens of race and class. The war is having its greatest impact on low-income and working-class women, particularly women of color—-both because they are more likely to have lost their lives or the lives of loved ones in Iraq and because resources now being squandered in Iraq could be used to address unmet domestic needs.

That said, this is a conservative country and I don’t think anyone could be elected president who advocated immediate withdrawal. So bottom line: I support Hillary Clinton. I realize this is little more than article of faith but I expect her to end this nightmare—maybe not as quickly I would like, but I believe she will work to get us out of Iraq.

Karen Bojar


At 2:22 PM , Blogger Philadelphia NOW said...

I agree with Karen's summary for the most part. I will add, however, that my additional criticisms were not about labor issues per se. They were more about the corporate company Hillary has kept, both as a WalMart Board member for six years (the worst offender in American history when it comes to gender discrimination at work), and with many others she has cozied up to and taken money from. Despite her early attempts to get health care reform adopted, she now is one of the top recipients of corporate health care and pharmaceutical money.

There's also her association with Mark Penn, a close adviser to her campaign and a notorious consultant who specializes in, and has gotten rich from union busting. Al Gore disassociated himself from this guy when he ran for President because of these ties.

And finally, and for me, most importantly, there is the war. Louise made the point in the meeting that what she does from here on is more important than her past vote. I agree to some extent. But I do think her past votes and behavior on the war are an indication of where she will go. That is, while she now is voting to cut off funds and end the war, she is not speaking about it on the Senate floor or exerting leadership on the issue in any other way.

In fact, it was revealed in an article I passed around to NOW members this week, that she is quietly calling for a long term presence in Iraq, at least ten years, even after most of the troops have been brought home. That is, she's calling for permanent US bases and a continued occupation. There's not much she could say that would turn me off more. And she knows it's not popular, which is why she's not broadcasting it. She's just mostly not giving out the details of her position.

I disagree with Karen that the country is conservative and doesn't want the troops brought home right away. That's exactly what every poll shows the vast majority do want.

I am proud to be a NOW member and leader, and I too want to see a woman President. But it's not the only hat I wear. I am also a national officer of US Labor Against the War, and spend considerable time organizing to end it, and to prohibit the building of US bases and a continued occupation. If Hillary continues to hold these abhorrent positions on the war there is no way she will get my vote.

Those are the issues - the process was also disgraceful. Four years ago, there was a national forum of Presidential candidates at the national conference before an endorsement was made. Linda Berg said that was unworkable this time because the candidates wouldn't come to Detroit. I doubt this is true, but even if it were, the invitations should have been extended. Endorsement should have been discussed at the national conference where our activist members congregate and could provide input. And finally, Board members should have been pushed to gather input from their constituents before any vote was taken.

Even now, it is 17 months to the election. If the members were consulted at the national conference and then the decision was made, it still would be an early endorsement.

NOW has disillusioned many of its most activist members with the undemocratic way this was handled, and by its dismissal of the war issues. I don't see how we have any leverage whatsoever with Clinton now, and I think it's disgraceful that she was not grilled on these issues prior to bestowing the endorsement on her like a crown on a princess, who has nothing to prove.

At 2:44 PM , Blogger Lillian T Ciarrochi said...

I am a past president of Philadelphia NOW (mid to late 70's).
I joined NOW in 1971 to do all I could to empower women and to attain for women full equality with men. I volunteered in the state of Florida for 1 1/2 yrs to work for passage of the ERA. The possibility of electing a feminist woman as the most powerful leader in the world is awesome and inspiring. To think what the team of Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could do to
further the cause of women's rights and passage of the Equal Rights Amendment is an opportunity that may not be achieved for another 50 years if Hillary is not elected. I for one, want to see these dreams realized while I am alive. I would ask all of the women who are opposed to this view to search their souls and remember why they joined NOW in the first place. We owe it to future generations of women and girls. It's our resposibility, so let's do it!!!

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