Linda Hirshman has an interesting post up at Salon about what the women's reproductive freedom movement can learn from teh gayz. I'm not going to blockquote it, just summarize it, so feel free to go read the whole thing and come back. (While you over there, ignore the title and photo, as something tells me Hirshman probably wasn't responsible for that. It's annoying, isn't it?)
She's basically saying that women should replicate the gay/LGBT (those folks were never really clear which it was) boycott of the DNC, the Obama campaign, and Organizing for America. Her argument is about as strong as the gays': the Democrats' Stupak-Pitts Amendment is the biggest roll-back of women's reproductive freedom since the Hyde Amendment, which was also passed by a Democratic Congress. Since the Dems clearly don't value women's rights, seeing them as an expendable and powerless special interest instead of the inviolable rights of over half the population, women shouldn't be donating to them.
Not to be nitpicky, but, unlike how Hirshman writes about it, it's not the gays who are boycotting, but a a small coalition who called for and endorsed it with an unknown (right now) number of people participating. It's also not a complete boycott of the Democratic Party - just three of its organizations. These are important distinctions; fundamental loyalty to the Democratic Party can still be read into the boycott.
But the main problem with what she's proposing, that women learn from the gay rights movement, is that we're bereft of results to convince others to follow in our footsteps. Sure, we're winning some important victories at the state and local level, but that boycott hasn't borne any fruit yet. If anything, with ENDA getting knocked out of the agenda this year, the situation has worsened, not improved.
That's not to say that we shouldn't be learning from each other. But the women's rights movement has been around longer and has had some bigger victories, including winning the right to vote after not having the right to vote at all. Think about it: they didn't have votes, their letters to Congressional representatives would have gone unanswered since they were no electoral threat, and they didn't have the money to be making significant campaign donations. By the political metrics we use in 2009, that's more than a triumph, that's a miracle. The biggest victory we have is winning a Supreme Court case against draconian laws that no one but Antonin Scalia and some sophomoric Texans liked anyway.
Ann Friedman has an interesting column about the connection between social justice movements in this month's American Prospect. I largely agree with her conclusion - we've gotta be working more closely together. But let's be honest: it's not like we haven't heard the call "We're all in this together" for ages now. Yet we manage to forget it 90% of the time.
The organization of identity movements as discrete, me-first, affluence-dependent demands for "equality" and "representation" and "my rights" is what's tearing us all apart. Instead of being about advancing an overall framework, a way of thinking, a way of living, a way of governing, they're about advancing the interests of a specific group of people. And it's not that easy to change them. Just look at the flack HRC caught when they spoke out for racial injustice in the case of the Jena 6, one of the rare instances where HRC took up arms for a cause that couldn't be interpreted as LGBT. It just wasn't their thing, they were a gay rights organization, why should they worry about these other issues? The arguments in the identity politics framework to be made against HRC speaking on behalf of the Jena 6 are stronger and more numerous than those that can be made in favor of it.
We don't see the connections between lifting up various groups because each is just a demand that they can buy into the full inequality that is America so long as discrimination along their specific axis of identity is eliminated. As such, there's no overarching political ideology that says that homophobia is wrong, that racism is wrong, that transphobia is wrong, that sexism is wrong, that anti-semitism is wrong... not because they render life unfair for a specific group-of-people-that-doesn't-include-you, but because they're an affront to our own interests because they allow too much power and luxury to fall on a small group of people.
But that's leftist talk, and, as was patently clear yesterday, America still doesn't have anything resembling a large-scale leftwing movement. I'm referring specifically to the reaction among many liberals to Obama's Afghanistan plans, which I wasn't at all shocked by. There's no betrayal there - Obama campaigned on Afghanistan being the good war and moving troops over there. Anyone who didn't see this coming just wasn't paying attention or thought Obama was telling the right lies to get elected in a toxic political climate that only allows manly, militaristic leaders into high office.
No, what was shocking and betraying was the mass support for escalation from the very people who opposed escalation and war in Iraq when it was Bush doing it. Many blogs and journals were filled with liberals justifying why escalating conflict in Afghanistan is necessary, how we need to build a democracy there with our Freedom Bombs, and how killing a few babies there today will save American lives in the future.
So all the opposition to building democracy in Iraq, which is a much easier task than building one in Afghanistan, all the rhetoric about restoring America's image to the world, and all the talk about establishing a more morally tenable foreign policy was all just a barrel of partisan criticism launched against Bush because, well, he's a Republican.
I've said before, and I'm holding myself to it, I'm not going to judge the Obama Administration until health care reform gets passed. That fight isn't looking good either. Single-payer was chucked before the campaigns even started, the public option was watered down for months, and now there's even talk of the very basics of health care reform - stopping insurers from discrimination and banning rescission - being cut from the bill. The CBO says that the bill probably won't do much to reduce the laughably outrageous premiums Americans are currently paying for health care.
But still, nothing's been passed yet.
The problem isn't just that Congress has no respect for women. That's just the beginning. The problem is that there isn't a left in this country, and even those professional liberals and diehard internet leftists who we thought were on our side turned out to be even more confused than the ones we knew would betray us.
We have two parties in the US because there are basically two types of Americans when it comes to culture. And it's becoming more clear that if you're a part of one America, you're going to vote for the party that represents your culture, outside of small pockets of less-informed and more ambiguous voters. My argument isn't that there is no difference between the two parties - there is - it's that there is really only one party for most people. To me, the choice is between a conservative party and a party that's plain offensive, and the teabaggers probably don't feel like they have much choice either.
And, without competition, power sets its own terms, so even with these boycotts of the DNC I don't see what could come of it.