Betsy Reed is the executive editor of The Nation. She and Nation senior editor Richard Kim co-edited the New York Times bestseller Going Rouge: Sarah Palin–An American Nightmare.
She is also the editor of Unnatural Disaster: The Nation on Hurricane Katrina, a collection of the magazine’s coverage of the storm and its aftermath published by Nation Books on the hurricane’s one-year anniversary, and of the anthology Nothing Sacred: Women Respond to Religious Fundamentalism and Terror, published by Nation Books in 2003.
Just recently, things were looking up for socialism. In April, a much-discussed Rasmussen poll reported that only 53 percent of Americans expressed a preference for capitalism. The poll didn't define either system, so one could surmise that the right's desperate strategy of branding a popular Democratic president as a "socialist" had backfired: If Obama's a socialist, then a good number of the 69 percent of Americans who viewed the President favorably were apparently ready to sign up. Perhaps this new openness to alternatives wasn't deep, but it seemed promising.
Now, the Obama=socialist meme, which was once just laughable, has gone viral.
It's still hard to take it very seriously, given how far Obama's policies are from even the mildest form of social democracy--recall how he explicitly rejected the idea that the United States should emulate Sweden's highly effective response to its early 90s financial meltdown, when it overcame the crisis by nationalizing the banks.
In the coming months, the Obama Administration and the Senate will have the chance to right a major wrong of the Bush era: the US government's refusal--along with such beacons of women's liberation as Sudan, Iran, Qatar and Somalia--to ratify CEDAW, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, adopted by the General Assembly in 1979.
What does CEDAW promise? Guaranteed maternity benefits. The right to equal pay. (And no, Lily Ledbetter didn't give us that. The right to sue after you've been discriminated against for years is not the same as the right to be free from discrimination.) A commitment, at the broadest level, to eliminate acts of discrimination against women--i.e., to prohibit them, and to punish them when they do occur.
It's good stuff. One of the best things about the treaty is that it requires governments periodically to review and evaluate their policies and programs relating to women's equality, provoking what Human Rights Watch's Marianne Mollmann calls "a democratic dialogue" about women's rights, which has already occurred in some of the 184 signatory nations, including Peru.