A recent think piece in the Washington Post declared that this has been “a transformative year for women in politics.” This pronouncement was based primarily on Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s attempt to brand herself as a feminist who happens to hold opinions contrary to traditional feminist values and important changes like women not having to dress like a man to be taken seriously in politics,
“One option women have today is that they don’t have to dress like a man to make it in politics — although the frenzy about Palin’s $150,000 designer shopping spree shows there are limits to what the public will accept.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) makes no bones about favoring Armani suits and Chanel shoes — and has been criticized for it; Clinton has developed a consistent fashionable look with regular hairstyling and St. John suits. Palin, with her long hair, slim skirts and red high heels, is surely the first national female candidate to be called “hot,” as Alec Baldwin did last weekend on “Saturday Night Live.””
Missing in action in this reductive look at women and the election is any analysis of how this campaign has been business as usual in terms of women’s concerns being reduced to little more than the abortion issue, a point made oh so clear by John McCain’s air-quoting of women’s health as “an extreme pro-abortion” position.
The Post piece also completely ignored the groundbreaking two woman Green Party ticket of Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente. No surprise there because their campaign has been routinely invisibilized not only by mainstream media but as Amee Chew points out, the liberal media have (with few exceptions, notably Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman) also ignored their campaign.
The failure to support and acknowledge McKinney-Clemente is unfortunate for several reasons. First, the two party stranglehold on the American electoral process has become disastrously dysfunctional. It is already clear that many voters will be denied their right to vote because of voter roll purges, long lines and other tactics and that many of our electronic voting machines are not accurately reporting votes, either purposely or accidentally. These are the reasons why the 2000 and 2004 elections were ‘won’ by George Bush, not because of third party candidates such as Ralph Nader as some have charged.
Secondly, in our current system, all but the best funded candidates are almost immediately shut out of the political dialog, thus limiting that dialog to a callously shallow repertoire of non-productive and usually non-realistic talking points and accusations. Third party candidates like McKinney and Clemente who offer an alternative vision end up in something of a hamster wheel situation where they are not considered serious candidates because you don’t hear much about them and you don’t hear much about them because the media won’t consider them to be serious candidates.
What the Washington Post has labeled transformative is the accomplishment of women in a patriarchal, deeply misogynistic system. When women like McKinney and Clemente dare to speak the truth on so many issues and to confront that system, there is nothing accidental about the systemic near blackout of coverage of their campaign across the media spectrum.
There are obvious structural changes that need to be made to our electoral process –abolish the Electoral College, a shorter campaign season, mandatory verifiable voting and an end to the two party domination of our elections because only then will we have the benefit of the voices of wise women like Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente who offer a vision of true transformative change not only for women but for everyone. I urge you to take the time to read their platform and listen to their words.*
As Rosa Clemente said in a recent speech, “We are not the alternative; we are the imperative.” And that is why I am supporting the candidacy of Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente.
*As I write this, the McKinney-Clemente website is down and there are unsubstantiated reports that it has been hacked, therefore it is impossible to learn more about their platform at this time, although hopefully that will be rectified soon. Another site does however offer substantive information and of course a Google search will find plenty of material.
Author’s note: I have no doubt that many who read this have their fingers poised above their keyboards ready to ask how dare I risk the chance of a McCain presidency by suggesting a vote for anyone other than Obama. I urge them to read more closely. In point of fact, although I live in a state that is so completely expected to go for McCain that the candidates have barely spent any time here, I will vote for Obama for the simple reason that McKinney is not on the ballot here. However if she were, I would have voted for her. In states where the outcome is less clear, I would probably vote for Obama. But if, like me, you are concerned that the current system is very badly broken, please give serious thought about giving third party candidates the support they need to help reclaim our democracy.