Sunday, October 14, 2007

Liz Cheney, Hillary Clinton, and Women in Power

The October 15 edition of Newsweek is a "Women in Power" issue. The Huffington Post's Arianna Huffiington's on the cover (and the contents page, etc., etc.), and the volume includes a number of topical essays and first-person testimonies from prominent women in politics, industry, and sports.

I was particular interested in Liz Cheney's personal vignette, which is included in the symposium, and especially her comments on Hillary Clinton. Liz Cheney is Vice President Dick Cheney's eldest daughter. She's an attorney specializing in international law, and has served in prominent positions at the U.S. State Department, with specializations on Middle East policy. Most of the women Newsweek profiles are on the left (way left in the case of Huffington), but Cheney's got solid-gold GOP credentials, and I was especially impressed by her comments on Hillary Clinton. Cheney's been highly critical of Clinton,
especially on Iraq, but she's fair in recognizing her historical significance:

I don't agree with Senator Clinton's views on the issues, but I think it's terrific that she is a credible presidential candidate. It's a measure of progress in this country that she will be judged not on the basis of her gender, but on whether she is right or wrong on the issues, whether she is up to the task of being president. That says a lot about us as a nation. It's about time we got to that point.
To an amazing degree, Cheney's sentiments capture my own feelings about Hillary Clinton. While I disagree with the senator's policies, I admire her political success, and especially her political perseverance and learning. As Clinton will almost certainly win the Democratic nomination, the debate and political polarization on her candidacy will undoubtedly get nasty. I frequently post on Clinton. I'm especially disturbed by her wishy-washy positions on the war. But I will not demonize her, and I will distance myself from conservative attacks on her integrity which fall outside the bounds of acceptable political discourse.

But let me be clear: While I'm intrigued by the historical significance of Hillary's presidential campaign - and especially the possibility of the United States electing a woman as president for the first time in history - I utterly reject any hard-left feminist political agenda that might naturally find a home in a Hillary Clinton administration. While Clinton has certainly moderated her overall political ideology - and she's emerged as the quintessential Washington insider - given her history of supporting the hardline feminist agenda, a Clinton presidential administration in 2009 is naturally prone to capture by hard-left forces, and particulary the male-bashing cohorts of militant feminism.

Clinton's entry over at the Discover the Networks has this on her radical feminist propensities:

Throughout her adult life, Mrs. Clinton has embraced the worldviews and ideals of radical feminism. Following the February 2006 death of Betty Friedan, the longtime communist who co-founded the National Organization for Women , Mrs. Clinton said that Friedan's activism and writing had "opened doors and minds, breaking down barriers for women and enlarging opportunities for women and men for generations to come. We are all the beneficiaries of her vision."
Some hardline feminists reject the idea that Hillary will implement a radical women's rights agenda. Barbara Erhenreich, a well-know progressive author and feminist, has rejected Hillary Clinton as a standard-bearer of the militant feminst political agenda. Note thought that Erhenreich's opposition is mostly based on Clinton's recent policy positions. In the larger sense, with Clinton's known feminist history - and especially her extremely malleable political positions - voices like Erhrenreich's are likely to get a prominent hearing in a Hillary presidency. This larger context is key.

So in summary let me say once again that I will not politically demonize Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Like Liz Cheney, I see Hillary Clinton as highly qualified for the office of president. However, I'm fully aware of the political implications of a Hillary presidency for the direction of American cultural politics. I believe that a reform feminism - which notes the inherent diffences between the sexes, but recognizes historic practices of gender subjugation - represents a reasonable approach to fostering women's progress. Conversly, a radical feminist agenda - rooted in revolutionary feminist demands, and often accompanied by the ideology of feminist separatism - would be a disaster for American politics. It will join with all of the other strands of antiwar leftism, multicultural ideology, moral relativism, and terrorist appeasement to continue a hegemonic project of the destruction of the traditional American way of life.