We all know that the GOP is an anti-woman party, right? The "stale, male" party as Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation magazine likes to call them, its always working turn back the rights and freedom of women. Right? And the young, female-led Democratic Party – the "mommy party" as Katha Pollit has called it – this is the party of a fair and egalitarian future, right?
We see evidence of this stark difference between the two parties all the time. The GOP is constantly working against women! They attack reproductive freedom, they attack against the living wage movement in a world in which minimum wage earners are disproportionately likely to be women, they refuse to enhance womens’ protections against crimes like rape, and they oppose K-12 education funding and salary enhancements for the teachers and schools that educate womens’ children.
Whereas the Democrats … well, attack reproductive freedom (see: health care "reform"), they attack the living wage movement (see: "increases in the minimum wage so marginal as to be irrelevant"), they won’t enact a law even with Congressional and White House control allowing women gang raped while working for government contractors overseas to pursue domestic criminal charges against their assailants, they haven’t funded or pursued any rescue of the education system.
The Democrats, with complete control of the government, have prioritized: warfare and banks. That’s right, the two great oppressors of women – wars that kill men, women and children, and leave widows poor and societally dispossessed in their wakes, and economic exploiters who rob us of our share of domestic prosperity.
In terms of the real issues concerning women, what achievements have the Democrats made in this generation?
Well, we all know of an achievement, do we not?
Look at the leadership of both parties. The officialdom. Which party has put strong, forceful, independent women into positions of power? That’s right! The Democrats! We have the gleaming scimitars of the post-feminist political class in the Democrats. That’s right. Hillary Clinton. Nancy Pelosi. The figures Gloria Steinem went to war to try to get elected.
Whereas the GOP … Sarah Palin? Condoleeza Rice.
Let’s take a step back now please. Let’s take a look at which of these women, regardless of party affiliation or political views.
Who is Hillary Clinton, really? Well, I say she is a career first lady and backroom dealer who wouldn’t exist without her husband. Hillary Clinton was one of the few Yale Law School graduates to fail the bar exam after graduation. She used her Ivy League bona fides to have an apparatchik position in … the Ford Administration. Wait, the GOP? Yes, let’s not forget that Hillary Clinton was a Goldwater Girl, first. She was a Republican, first. And fast forwarding a bit, she would never have been a senator or presidential candidate or secretary of anything at all if it wasn’t for the establishment patriarchy and a much more gifted (if terribly flawed) man named Bill Clinton. And as an officeholder and administration secretary, what Hillary Clinton been? That’s right! A proponent of warfare and a tool of the health care cartel. No Hillary Clinton is no great leader of women.
And Nancy Pelosi? Let’s not take the time and space in this (long) writing to regurgitate that long history of failures and capitulations this utterly craven politician has amassed in her recent years as a Congressional leader. No need. Let’s just remember that she is in office courtesy of the wealth of Paul Pelosi. That’s right, Nancy Pelosi is a) an auxiliary to white male power and b) has done basically nothing but set back the entire progressive agenda for years.
Which brings us to the competition: the GOP. While I deplore the GOP and their agenda, let’s take a look at two (monstrous in one case and idiotic in another) women who have had center-stage in the GOP in recent years. Let’s look at Sarah Palin and Condoleeza Rice.
I am not a big fan of either of these womens’ political outlooks. In the case of Palin in particular I see a person whose political "thinking" if it can be described as such disqualifies her from school teaching let alone high government offices. In the case of Rice we have an utterly nihilistic political view that has given rise to horrible war and violence in the world.
But neither of these women ever got ahead because of a man. Condoleeza Rice … never married, no kids. Rice was an utterly brilliant 23-year-old PhD who was fluent in multiple languages and rose to high levels in academia rapidly and on her own merits alone, as a black woman from the deep South. She became the first National Security Adviser who was a woman. She became a woman Secretary of State who was about as prone to violence as a substitute for diplomacy as the previous woman Secretary Madeleine Albright.
Now Sarah Palin. It is very true that this woman has no business in office. However, she has been responded to in a horrible manner. This is a woman who came from Nowhere. She rose to governor of the State of Alaska *purely* as of her own ability to succeed. Her husband is a nobody. Palin was born a nobody. She went on to (for better or for worse) become a Vice-Presidential candidate. Yes her candidacy was superficially chosen because of her age and gender (moderating images) coupled with her hard-right religious appeal (wouldn’t alienate the GOP base). Yes, she is probably not particularly intelligent or well-suited to any serious activity. It is not clear to me why Alaskans voted for her. But they did. And she got on a VP ticket.
What did the Democrat establishment feminists do in response? They called her "Caribou Barbie". That’s right, a woman from nowhere who got ahead on her own … was called "Barbie" by feminist leaders because she didn’t … come … from … the … right … social class. The feminist leaders smeared and laughed her. Her emergence on to the national scene was responded to by Democrats and feminists by pointing to her shopping trips to Neiman Marcus with all the new money she had access to (its OK for rich Democrat women who are used to having lots of money to shop at Neiman Marcus). She was treated with the exact level of contempt that feminists in politics normally complain that men greet any women candidates with.
Both Condoleeza Rice and Sarah Palin are actually, seen clearly, completely iconoclastic women who match in person if not in politics the exact image of female empowerment and freedom in the view of feminists. They are both women who got ahead without relying on a husband’s wealth, power, connections, and higher status. They both stand alone on the stage, in stark contrast with, say, Hillary Clinton, a figure who incidentally hasn’t exactly led the charge against Washington DC to press DC to address womens’ issues fairly.
Now if you’ve read this far, I thank you. I am no proponent of the GOP, Rice, or Palin. I regard the first as vacuous and threatening, the second as monstrous, and third as a mental lightweight. But I feel strongly that we have placed too much belief in the Democratic Party as a "womens party", when the figures who are put into power by the Democrats are so often the traditional female auxiliaries to white male power, and when the party in the sway of these figures seems to undermine or even work against every aspect of the progressive agenda including all womens’ issues.
Finally, I want to leave you with an idea: you cannot defeat your enemies if you cannot look at them objectively and in depth, without ridicule or illusion. If you cannot see Rice and Palin objectively, and see some truths about them (such as I suggest) but instead you merely laugh at or sneer at these figures, you will never see them beaten. Likewise, if you delude yourself as to the character and nature of those you call friend or ally, you’ll always seem to find yourself relying on the untrustworthy and getting burned.