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 http://philanow.blogspot.com/2007/04/philadelphia-now-endorsements-for-may.html)
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 http://www.nowpacs.org/2008/hillary/issues.html
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.