Hillary News & Views 5.19.16: Ghostbusting, Veepstakes, LGBT Service, Women Speaking and Listening
Guest post by aphra behn
Good morning to the Hillary-supporting community! It’s great to start the day with you, with HRC news, and of course—some Thursday Herstory!
First some campaign happenings. A new office opened in Billings, MT, where, as the Montana campaign director explained, “If you look at the voting turnout, Billings is a significant portion of votes, both in primary elections and general elections. And you have a big media market." Bill Clinton is scheduled to speak in Billings, Fargo and Sioux Falls tomorrow. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton will be speaking at the Trayvon Martin Foundation’s Circle of Mothers Restoration event this weekend. And Ricky Martin has confirmed that he will be performing at a Hillary Clinton fundraising concert on June 6 at the Greek in Los Angeles, alongside Christina Aguilera, Stevie Wonder, and a number of other acts. Oh, and in case you missed it, Hillary will join the cast of the all-new female Ghostbusters next week to appear on Ellen. As Lauren Holter writes at Bustle:
So many amazing women in one room is bound to terrify misogynists and thrill feminists. I mean, you have four famous comedians remaking a wildly popular movie featuring male stars into one about female scientists on the same show as the woman trying tirelessly to become the first female president of the nation. Not to mention DeGeneres herself, who has given visibility to gay women and has proven that women are just as funny as men for decades. You just can't ask for more — I hope the studio can handle that much girl power at once.
The vice presidency is no longer, as the first one, John Adams, called it, the "most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived." But it still comes with severe limitations. Were she to actually hold the vice presidency, Warren's portfolio would be at the whim of the Clinton White House. And once a decision was made, she would have to toe the company line, instead of using her voice in the Senate as a leftward pressure point on the Democratic Party as a whole.
It's being that leftward tug, though, that Warren is at her most effective. Just consider some her most impactful moments: Challenging then-Sec. Timothy Geithner or former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke over the government's response to the financial crisis or scuttling the nominations of regulators who were too close to the financial industry or insufficiently progressive, such as Larry Summers for Fed chair or Antonio Weiss to work in the Treasury Department.
The public side of these debates was as important, if not more so, than the inside game, but that tactic becomes unavailable if Warren has to work on behalf of whatever decision a President Clinton has made. The Senate, not the White House, is where regulators can be raked over the coals if need be; acting as oversight for the executive branch and independent agencies is key to Warren's success and an ability that would be curtailed if she were co-opted into an administration.
In any other year, Kaine would have been a solid pick. Kaine, the former governor of Virginia and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has been on several V.P. short lists since 2008, and was likely at the forefront of Clinton’s mind back in 2014 when he supported her pre-candidacy. Of course, this was all prior to the Republican Party falling in line behind Trump, a bully who requires an equal and opposite force to be neutralized. That could be Elizabeth Warren, who has seemed to relish in publicly berating Trump in recent weeks. But it’s not as clear if Kaine is up to the task. As a former colleague from the D.N.C. put it to Politico, “What he’s not is an attack dog. . . . It’s not his natural disposition. He’s a thoughtful guy who likes to play in the world of facts and policy. He doesn’t shoot from the hip, and he’s not a sound-bite master.”
Brown joined the conference call with reporters as he was on his way to Columbus to join Vice President Joe Biden for the official announcement of expanded overtime rules and compensation….
“I’ll consider anything that anybody asks. But Tom, I’ve already answered that. I’m not seeking this. I don’t want this. I love what I’m doing in the Senate. I want to continue fighting for workers and a higher minimum wage and the earned income tax credit and job growth in my state.”
On Twitter, the Clinton campaign congratulated Eric Fanning, the first openly gay man to lead any branch of the U.S. military:
Honor the military service of LGBT people. Every day, LGBT service members valiantly fight for our country around the world. Hillary believes we should honor their service and ensure they receive the benefits they have earned. As commander in chief, Hillary will upgrade service records of LGBT veterans dismissed due to their sexual orientation and support efforts to allow transgender personnel to serve openly.
Among the other important things about this proposal are its concrete financial implications for LGBT veterans who received an other than honorable discharge, such as denying them GI Bill benefits or VA healthcare treatment. Upgrading those records is important.
Also on Twitter: perhaps in an olive branch to a certain primary competitor, HRC’s Twitter reminded us that political rivals can work together to better the United States. It’s happened before!
Wonkette has been officially neutral in the Democratic primary, until now. (We know, angry commenters; Wonkette says it has been neutral but has been a reliable source of bought-and-paid-for neoliberal corporate piece of shit one-percenter shilling for a mass murderer who will be arrested for “emails” any day now. Fair enough!)
But if your “revolution” includes disinformation, aimed to rile up your supporters, that would make Pravda and Ronald Reagan blush, you can make like your healthcare, and keep it!
(Also, if you consider Barbara Boxer, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Dolores Huerta, Planned Parenthood, Emily’s List, Barney Frank, Harry Reid and John Lewis to be Enemies of your State, you probably need to sit down with a mug of Ovaltine and give your animal farm and Four Legs Bad Two Legs Better a super double plus good unthink.)
And now a break for some Thursday Herstory!
How many different rights have women had to struggle for in order to achieve full participation in American democracy? The right to hold office, the right to suffrage, the right to legal personhood… the list goes on. But how about something even more basic: the right to speak? While not restrained by formal statute in early American history, women who spoke on political topics to mixed-gender audiences were met with heckling, violence, and overwhelming social opprobrium. Frances Wright and Maria Stewart were among the earliest American women to take on this prejudice.
Scottish-born Freethinker and activistFrances Wright is the first women known to have lectured on a political topic in the United States. A friend of the Marquis de Lafayette, acquaintance of Thomas Jefferson, and editor for Robert Owen’s socialist newspaper, Wright had a colorful career. Successful author, sponsor of a failed utopian abolitionist commune, and relentless social critic of the industrial age, her editorials in Owen’s New Harmony Gazetteespoused variety of radical causes. Wright was the featured speaker at the July 4, 1828, New Harmony (Indiana) Independence Day celebration, thanks to her blazing editorials. That same year, she soon took her speeches to Cincinnati, then on to crowds in St. Louis, Louisville, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Boston, Philadelphia, and New York City. Her lectures expanded on radical topics explored in her newspaper columns, criticizing Christianity, promoting abolition, lamenting the oppression of the working class, and arguing for liberalized divorce laws, birth control, universal suffrage, and much more.
What Fanny’s admirers called “noble” her detractors called “masculine.” She carried no notes, only a copy of the Declaration of Independence. The press and the clergy were united in their opposition to her. She was labeled the “female monster,” “great Red Harlot of Infidelity,” “Priestess of Beelzebub,” and “the whore of Babylon.” Her supporters organized to provide her protection. She traveled with a bodyguard. Once when a heckler yelled fire and her audience began to stampede Frances stood calmly on stage, soothing the panic like Apollonius silencing the riot. Another opponent turned off the gas lines that lit the lecture hall lamps. Frances finished the lecture by candlelight, earning a thunderous ovation she was carried out of the venue by her devoted followers.
Even allegedly liberal men, such as abolitionist newspaper editor William Stone, were revulsed by Wright:
At the fifth lecture a protestor set fire to a barrel of turpentine sending suffocating smoke billowing through the venue. Stone blamed the victim. “It is time we should have done with Miss Wright, her pestilent doctrines, and her deluded followers, who are as much to be pitied, as their priestess is to be despised. She comes amongst us in the character of a bold blasphemer, and a voluptuous preacher of licentiousness… Casting off all restraints, she would break down all the barriers to virtue, and reduce the world to one grand theater of vice and sensuality in its most loathsome form.”
The response to Wright must have been daunting to other woman, but it didn’t stopMaria W. Miller Stewart, who became the first American-born woman, as well as the first African-American woman to give a public political speech. She had become enthralled by the abolitionist cause through the work of David Walker, who, like Maria and her husband James, was part of Boston’s small free black community. (Walker is best known for his fiery black nationalist pamphlet, 1829’s Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World.) Stewart might have pursued a conventional path of working behind the scenes with her mentor Walker, were it not for three successive tragedies: the death of her husband, the theft of his inheritance by white executors, and Walker’s own sudden death.
Spurred by tragedy, Stewart introduced herself to white abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, who agreed to print her essays. He also encouraged her, in February 1832, to make her first public address, to the Afric-American Female Intelligence Society. After Garrison printed the text in his newspaper, Stewart was emboldened to a public speech to a mixed-gender, mixed-race audience, on September 21, at Franklin Hall in Boston.
Let our girls possess what amiable qualities of soul they may; let their characters be fair and spotless as innocence itself; let their natural taste and ingenuity be what they may; it is impossible for scarce an individual of them to rise above the condition of servants. Ah! why is this cruel and unfeeling distinction? Is it merely because God has made our complexion to vary? If it be, O shame to soft, relenting humanity! “Tell it not in Gath! publish it not in the streets of Askelon!”
Stewart also took on white abolitionists who complained that free black Americans were not thriving. It was racial prejudice and restriction to menial labor, not lack of hard work, she argued, that limited free African-Americans:
I have learnt, by bitter experience, that continual hard labor deadens the energies of the soul, and benumbs the faculties of the mind; the ideas become confined, the mind barren, and, like the scorching sands of Arabia, produces nothing; or, like the uncultivated soil, brings forth thorns and thistles.Again, continual hard labor irritates our tempers and sours our dispositions; the whole system becomes worn out with toil and fatigue; nature herself becomes almost exhausted, and we care but little whether we live or die. It is true, that the free people of color throughout these United States are neither bought nor sold, nor under the lash of the cruel driver; many obtain a comfortable support; but few, if any, have an opportunity of becoming rich and independent; and the employments we most pursue are as unprofitable to us as the spider’s web or the floating bubbles that vanish into air.
Stewart’s 1833 “Farewell Address,” in which she abandoned public speaking, struck a defiant posture against the gendered and racial prejudices that kept African-American women from full participation in public life:
[B]e no longer astonished then, my brethren and friends, that God at this eventual period should raise up your own females to strive, by their example both in public and private, to assist those who are endeavoring to stop the strong current of prejudice that flows so profusely against us at present. . . .
What if such women as are here described should rise among our sable race? And it is not impossible. For it is not the color of the skin that makes the man or woman, but the principle formed in the soul. Brilliant wit will shine. Come from whence it will; and genius and talent will not hide the brightness of its lustre.
Stewart did not speak publicly again. She died in 1879, after a career of teaching, activism, and staff management at the Freedman’s Hospital and Asylum in Washington, D.C. Decades before, in 1852, Frances Wright had passed away, spending her last years in poverty and ill health after a tragic marriage and an unsuccessful attempt at reviving her speaking career. I think of both of them when I consider how far we’ve come, that women of all colors now serve as elected officials, political pundits, inspirational speakers, social critics, and other positions where they make their living by speaking publicly. And I think of them, too, when I see some dude (*coughcoughrandpaul*) shushing a female journalist, or a crowd shouting down a female Senator with misogynist slurs. What would Wright and Stewart say? Hmmm… maybe something like: “Keep on talking!”
And while talking is important, let’s not forget the other side of that equation: listening. It’s something Hillary Clinton is good at. Writing at Blue Nation Review, my blog-colleague Melissa McEwan writes:
“She’s a listener” is a thing I have read again and again, from people who have worked for her and people who have met her, even if it was only the briefest of meetings.
And should they meet her once more, she remembers the details from their previous encounter. Because listening, for her, is not a gimmick or a party trick: It’s the way she comes to understand the world, and the people who inhabit it.
...She’s not just a listener, but a productive one. It’s a rare politician who takes the time to listen in the first place, and rarer still to do the follow-up work of developing reactive policy that makes people feel heard.
There are an endless number of politicians who will promise to fight for me. (And for you.) But one of the main reasons #ImWithHer is because she’s shown me, over and over, that she’s done the work to understand just what it is we need her to fight for. Without that, it’s just an empty promise.