Should Sen. Barack Obama emerge as the Democratic candidate, women have compelling reasons to support his candidacy. Here are my top ten:
10. Nearly half of women voting in the Democratic primaries already support Sen. Obama’s candidacy. CNN compiled exit polling data from all the states that held primaries before West Virginia. Averaging the percentage that each candidate received from women voters in these states, the two Democratic candidates were only three points apart (46.6% for Obama, 49.6% for Clinton). Sen. Obama won the women's vote in 13 states, compared to 16 for Clinton - and that's not counting the caucuses where he won decisively, including among women.
9. Support for Sen. Obama among women is not surprising. His stands on issues important to women, from fair pay to reproductive justice to support for paid sick days and paid family leave, are strikingly similar to Sen. Clinton’s. He’ll be not just on the right side but a champion for gender justice. Above all, he has shown his commitment and ability to galvanize grassroots movements – the key to moving our agenda.
8. He has attributed his understanding of gender to the strong women in his life, including his mother, grandmother and wife Michelle. Having been raised by a single mother, he has insights into the lives of those who need food stamps to feed their families or have to choose between seeking health care or paying the rent. As an engaged father he understands the reality of work-life conflicts, but he also sees how these fall disproportionately on women, and how much more difficult they are for women without resources.
7. Our anger at the sexism that emerged in this campaign, from low-life hecklers to high-profile pundits, should stoke our determination but not determine our vote. At the same time, we must all oppose the racism that emerged in both blatant and coded ways and recognize that breaking that glass ceiling is also a blow to the Big Boys, one that weakens them and strengthens us.
6. Women can set an example of unity to build a stronger party that draws on the unprecedented turnout in the primaries among African-Americans, women of all races, young people and others who have too long been left out of political decision-making. Such a coming together will not only power an election victory, but lay the groundwork for significant social change in the coming years.
5. John McCain on the war: Sen. Obama’s early judgment opposing the war in Iraq puts him in an excellent position to take on John McCain, who has not only supported the war from its onset but professed to having no problem should troops remain in Iraq for 100 years. Women can’t afford a president who thinks “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” is a stance to brag about.
4. John McCain on the right to abortion: not only does he oppose it, he’s pledged to fill any Supreme Court vacancies with justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade.
3. John McCain on health care: McCain voted against reauthorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program for five years. His health plan provides $2 billion in tax cuts to the top ten health insurance companies, while allowing those companies to exclude people with pre-existing conditions.
2. John McCain on valuing families: When Congress was considering the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993, McCain voted to suspend it unless the federal government certified that compliance wouldn’t increase business expenses or gave employers financial assistance to cover any costs. He supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and campaigned for an Arizona constitutional amendment banning any legal recognition to gay couples.
1. John McCain on fair pay: He’s against the most important negotiating tool for women – expanded union rights through the Employee Free Choice Act. McCain also opposes the Fair Pay Restoration Act on the grounds that it will create too many lawsuits (this is like opposing OSHA inspections on the grounds that too many violations will be found). And he’s voted against raising the minimum wage and safeguarding overtime rights.
And did I mention John McCain?
Those of us who have been supporting Obama welcome the passionate, hard-working supporters of Sen. Clinton – as we will support her should the campaign turn out differently than expected. Every woman angry at the way in which gender discrimination has robbed our pay, crimped our opportunities, devalued our work in the labor force and in the home, minimized our pain and trivialized the barriers we face, now has a great opportunity to determine the outcome of this election. We also have a great responsibility, to ourselves and the women who follow.