Ruth Rosen: Why would a feminist vote for Obama?





Some people are stunned that I have already voted for Barack Obama and that I signed a "Feminists for Obama" statement which now includes over a thousand rather distinguished names. They know I've been involved in the women's movement since 1967 and have spent my life teaching and writing about the history of women and gender ever since. So why, they ask, didn't I cast a vote for Hillary Clinton?

Am I filled with self-hatred as a woman? No. In fact, there is nothing I'd rather do than vote for the first female presidential candidate. I still remember hearing--on a remote Greek island--that the Democratic party had chosen Geraldine Ferraro as a vice-presidential candidate. To my great surprise, tears flooded my face.

So why haven't I cast this historic vote?

The reasons are not all that complicated. Before I was a feminist, I worked in the civil rights and anti-war movements. Supporting Obama fits those life-long commitments. In my opinion, both Democratic hopefuls are able, smart, qualified candidates. But here are my concerns about Hillary Clinton. She talks about the poor, yet when Congress addressed the re authorization of TANF, which replaced welfare, most Democrats wanted to keep the 30 hour limit for working mothers so that they could use the rest of their time for education and training. The Bush administration, in its typically punitive manner, demanded that these women work 40 hours. Clinton split the difference and advocated 35 hours.

Denying poor women the possibility of upward mobility is just not my brand of feminism.

Then there is this insane war. Even today, Clinton shows little passion for ending the war in Iraq, even if you ignore her earlier votes.

Finally, there is Bill Clinton. During his last term, he squandered a huge amount of political capital as a result of his reckless behavior. I am genuinely afraid that revelations about recent sexual or business scandals may sabotage Hillary's candidacy and/or her presidency. I am unwilling to watch Democratic capital squandered by him one more time.

If Hillary Clinton should end up being the Democratic presidential candidate, I will certainly vote for her. But all these reservations and worries won't go away when and if I have the chance to vote for the first woman president.


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