Newsweek recently had an article discussing how Obama and McCain are competing to get the support of women who support Hillary.
This matter is, of course, a fairly serious one. There are a significant number of women who support Hillary and they will be important votes in the upcoming election. Also of importance are groups that are primarily considered woman’s groups, such as the pro-choice group NARAL. This matter also raises various concerns about gender and sexism.
To focus the discussion, I’ll be considering the matter of NARAL.
Recently NARAL decided to endorse Barrack Obama. There reasoning seems to be that Obama’s pro-choice credentials are as good as Hillary Clinton’s and he is probably going to win the nomination. NARAL, like other pro-choice groups, is concerned about defeating McCain. Interestingly enough, many people believe that McCain is pro-choice when, in fact, he is (or claims to be) pro-life.
Hillary supporters were, of course, very dismayed by the NARAL endorsement. On the NARAL web site there have been some rather negative comments. Some of these, such as the one presented from “Kayla” in the Newsweek article, follow the usual pattern of resentment: an expression of anger followed by a threat to abandon the group.
From a rational standpoint, these angry responses seem to be rather foolish. After all, Obama and Hillary vote in essential the same manner in regards to pro-choice issues and both have 100 % ratings from NARAL and Planned Parenthood. Supporting Obama hardly seems to be be something that should cause NARAL members to feel “shame.”
Of course, from an emotional standpoint it makes complete sense. People just feel the way they do and just vent their feelings in ways that are only weakly influenced by reason. Those who are devoted to Hillary have sometimes come to regard Obama as the enemy and hence NARAL’s support of him is regarded as an act of shameful treason against Hillary. One obvious motivation for this feeling is that Hillary is a woman and hence it is not surprising that some women see her as entitled to the support of NARAL. After all, they might think, no man can be as pro-choice a woman and perhaps no man can understand it as a woman can.
In short, there certainly seems to be a strong element of sexism in the view that Hillary is somehow entitled to the support of NARAL and that NARAL’s endorsement of Obama justifies people in feeling shame and deciding to abandon their support of the organization.
It could be replied that NARAL’s endorsement of Obama is disrespectful because Hillary has a longer involvement with the group and hence has a great claim on their support. This motivation would, of course, not be a sexist one. It would be based on a reasonable principle that established loyalty should count and be rewarded. In this case, the young upstart Obama would be regarded as “stealing” the endorsement after only a few years serving the pro-choice cause. In contrast, Hillary has long been involved with the group and the pro-choice cause and hence had a right to expect NARAL’s endorsement.
From a political standpoint, NARAL runs the risk of alienating some of its supporters. But, it seems very likely that Obama will be the nominee for the Democrats and I suspect that those who are now miffed at NARAL will come back into the fold once he is the nominee. Unless, of course, they would rather express their anger by supporting the pro-life McCain in the fall. That would certainly teach NARAL to endorse a man.