WRONG ABOUT HILLARY
In response to Katha Pollitt’s “HRC: Can’t Get No Respect” [“Subject to Debate,” Nov. 20]: Sorry, Katha. Feminism today is much more complicated than you let it be. And you haven’t done your homework on Hillary–she says yes to cluster bombs, yes to Israel’s bombing of Lebanon, yes to curtailing abortion, yes to a constitutional amendment against flag-burning, no to gay marriage. She has one of the ten most conservative voting records in the Senate. You need to do your research before you claim Hillary is a good thing for any of us. You rant against Code Pink as though they were the same as the right wing in this country. Shame. And let us take the past forty years of feminisms, as you mention, and realize that your old-fashioned liberal feminism, which claims that a female President will give women power like men, is deeply flawed. Most feminists across the globe know better than this.
Just ask the women in Sweden or Liberia or Chile or Germany, for that matter–many with women presidents today. If you follow your own claims, I guess you support Condi Rice as a gain for women and for the world more generally. And she clearly is not that for women here or in Afghanistan or in Iraq.
Last, if you quote me, could you quote the entire sentence? I have said and written elsewhere, “I think Hillary is a dangerous remedy to the present antidemocratic drift in this country, not because she is a female but because her being female allows a cover for her masculinist militarism.” You really have this wrong, Katha. You allow the right wing to push you into a corner, and you end up authorizing Hillary the decoy, not a viable progressive or feminist candidate. It would be great if your column precipitates a Nation dialogue on the complexities of feminisms for this war-torn moment we all face.
New York City
Katha Pollitt’s “HRC: Can’t Get No Respect” is a brilliant, dead-on summation of the unique challenges faced by Hillary Rodham Clinton, often from the most unexpected camps. Indeed, it seems as though the level of scrutiny she faces in her political career has only increased to include the very feminist forces you would expect to be behind her every step of the way. I guess she needs to bake cookies and stand by her man as the first steps in her presidential platform, if we’re to take her seriously at all. As for me, I’ll stick with the bitter, ambitious career woman all the way.
New York City
My column was a satirical riposte to the sexist insults and gender stereotyping heaped on Senator Clinton, not a serious commitment to vote for her. As I wrote, I would prefer a more left-wing candidate. I just don’t like to see a woman knocked, mocked and insulted for being a woman, or held to higher standards than men. I have trouble with Code Pink’s focusing on Hillary Clinton when blame for the Iraq War and militarism in general is so widely shared, even among Democrats–despite the title of Eisenstein’s essay, the war in Iraq is not “Hillary’s War.” Unlike Code Pink, I don’t expect women to be better than men, and I don’t think peace is a women’s issue. It’s everybody’s issue.
Eisenstein is the one who needs to do her research. Small points: Clinton voted against a constitutional amendment to ban flag-burning (unfortunately, she supported an anti-flag-burning bill). On gay marriage, she has said she isn’t for it, but she wasn’t in office to vote on DOMA (1996). She voted no on the federal marriage amendment in 2004 and no on a June resolution that prohibited states from recognizing gay marriage. Big points: She has never–repeat never–voted to “curtail abortion.” She has a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL, Planned Parenthood and the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. (If anything, her actions are more prochoice than her rhetoric: This fall, despite her own past verbal support for parental notification, she campaigned against the California referendum requiring it.) Finally, Hillary Clinton most definitely does not have “one of the ten most conservative voting records in the Senate.” According to National Journal, which ranks senators numerically, that honor belongs to Orrin Hatch. Clinton is actually the twentieth most liberal Senator (Barack Obama, by the way, is sixteenth, not so different).
I don’t consider myself a “liberal feminist”–one who believes formal equality is enough. I don’t see how anyone could read my columns and put me in that camp. I would never vote for Condoleezza Rice or Germany’s Angela Merkel (which doesn’t mean I’m not pleased to see American and German men having to deal with a powerful woman–a new experience for too many of them). However, I wonder how Eisenstein knows what “most feminists across the globe” think. That’s a lot of people! Surely among them are the women of Liberia and Chile, who worked hard to win the top jobs for Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Michelle Bachelet, and the women of Sweden, who have won through the electoral process an array of family and workplace benefits, and a level of gender equality, that American women can hardly imagine. I would have thought Eisenstein would applaud these partial but real victories for peace, human rights, women’s rights, the rule of law and social progress. Apparently, she would prefer to “bird dog” them all.
IMMIGRANTS: LETTERS ON LETTERS
Franklin Twp., NJ
So much for compassionate liberalism [“ Letters,” Nov. 13]. Half-truths (“downward pressure on wages”), dubious assumptions (“but for the pool of…immigrants these businesses would have to pay a fair wage”), distortions (“the theft of my Social Security number”), exaggerations (“worsening the lot of most working Americans and imposing additional tax burdens on everyone”), hysteria (“we are being Latinized”) and name-calling (“ivory tower leftists”). Pretty sad. It is possible to make a rational case, supported by some research, for limiting certain kinds of immigration, legal and otherwise, but apparently many liberals are as incapable of rationality as Lou Dobbs, a classic populist xenophobe if I’ve ever seen one.
It is true, as letter-writer Les Reed says, that it “is a long-established capitalist maneuver to pit groups of workers against one another to hold wages down and increase corporate profits.” But taking a stance against immigrants deepens the division within the working class, just what many employers like to see. Pleading that it’s only the illegal ones you’re opposed to is a cop-out–it’s still divisive. The alternative is to start to level the playing field and begin unifying the working class by improving the conditions of immigrant workers (via unionization, for example) and defending the human rights of all workers, including the illegal. Both pragmatic concerns and compassion require nothing less.
I was filled with dismay and very saddened to read the responses by so-called progressives to your charge of nativism and your article on the xenophobe Lou Dobbs. I was brought to this country from Mexico “illegally” by my parents at the age of 2. My family and I obtained our legal residence in the 1980s, and I became a US citizen in 2000. I know firsthand about racism and fearmongering. My father, now a US citizen, worked for many years with a fake Social Security card. All taxes that applied to any US worker were deducted from his pay. He never applied for or took advantage of the government assistance programs, nor did my mother, my brothers, my sister or me. America has always been diverse, and it will continue to be diverse. Hate, lies and fearmongering seem to be penetrating even those who preach against it. Do not fall for them.
Until the nativists realize that illegal immigrants are neither illegal nor poor by their own choice, and for as long as the nativists continue to blame immigrants for the economic trade policies that drove them northward in the first place, I believe “nativist” is the kindest name one can call them. The stupidest nativist ideas are the proposals that we can slow down the pace of immigration by creating bureaucratic barriers, or perhaps by building a wall. The former idea is like proposing that by making it harder to get a driver’s license, we can reduce the number of motorists on the road. The latter idea is like proposing to improve job opportunity for whites by banning blacks. By all means, punish employers who pay illegal immigrants less than the minimum wage, but to threaten the victims of this exploitation with deportation or even criminalization is perverse.
Never before has capital been more mobile or investors better able to maximize their returns by running away, literally, from their social obligations. Never have workers everywhere been more outpaced by the mobility of capital. To try to correct this imbalance by restricting the mobility of workers is beyond stupid; it is insane.
The long-term solution to the problem that is the bottomless, heartless hemispheric market that drives migration is obviously to renegotiate NAFTA, CAFTA and all other violations of every nation’s right to protect its own environment and its own workers. Achieving this will require not that we bash immigrants but that we co-operate with them, whether our government calls them “legal” or “illegal.” I am well aware that to propose this idea may make me seem “out of touch” with white “middle America,” but frankly, I have no wish to validate the nativists’ deep desire to shoot themselves in their own foot.
ERIC PAUL JACOBSEN
…AND SPEAKING OF IMMIGRANTS
Re Patricia J. Williams’s “Warlords of the First Amendment” [“Diary of a Mad Law Professor,” Oct. 30]: When I grew up sixty years ago in a Brooklyn neighborhood that was home to first-generation Americans, it was Irish, Italian, German, Polish and Eastern European Jewish. English was the lingua franca among the parental generation, who spoke Gaelic, Italian, German, Polish and Yiddish. The butchers, delicatessen owners, tailors, bakers, barbers and other storekeepers spoke the same. By happenstance, one of my daughters lives in the same neighborhood now. It is Haitian, Yemenite, Pakistani, Afghan, Turkish, Korean, Japanese, Russian, Israeli. English is the lingua franca, and the parental generation and storekeepers speak their native tongues. My grandson graduated some years ago from the same public school I did in 1945, and the “bilingual” coordinator told me that she coordinated twenty-seven primary languages there! The neighborhood is completely different–and entirely the same! Three cheers for the Tower of Babel!
DAVID C. GARRON
HONEY, I SWITCHED MY VOTE!
East Orland, Me.
Thanks to John Shaw for listing the Dems who voted for the loathsome “enemy combatant” bill [“ Letters,” Oct. 30], but he got one wrong. Mike Michaud of Maine’s 2nd District initially voted for the bill but changed his vote two days later during a second round of voting. Michaud admitted he didn’t know what he was voting for, and when angry constituents told him, he switched. It is refreshing to see a politician admit a mistake and rectify it; and it’s good to know that constituent pressure can get results.
Representative Charlie Melancon of Louisiana’s 3rd District also changed his vote. –The Editors