The reaction in the New York sector of the feminist jungle to Sen. Edward Kennedy’s defection from Sen. Hillary Clinton has been somewhat intemperate.
“Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal,” according to the National Organization for Women’s New York chapter:
“Senator Kennedy’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard. Women have forgiven Kennedy, stuck up for him, stood by him, hushed the fact that he was late in his support of Title IX, the ERA, the Family Leave and Medical Act to name a few. Women have buried their anger that his support for the compromises in No Child Left Behind and the Medicare bogus drug benefit brought us the passage of these flawed bills. We have thanked him for his ardent support of many civil rights bills, BUT women are always waiting in the wings.
“And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment! He’s picked the new guy over us. He’s joined the list of progressive white men who can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton (they will of course say they support a woman president, just not “this” one). ‘They’ are Howard Dean and Jim Dean (Yup! That’s Howard’s brother) who run DFA (that’s the group and list from the Dean campaign that we women helped start and grow). They are Alternet, Progressive Democrats of America, democrats.com, Kucinich lovers and all the other groups that take women’s money, say they’ll do feminist and women’s rights issues one of these days, and conveniently forget to mention women and children when they talk about poverty or human needs or America’s future or whatever.
“This latest move by Kennedy, is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority and our ability – indeed, our obligation - to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a President that is the first woman after centuries of men who ‘know what’s best for us.’”
The reaction to the reaction of Sen. Edward Kennedy’s defection has been one of mock-shocked surprise.
“So, that's it—an endorsement of any candidate but Hillary is a betrayal of the feminist cause?” says Slate, noting with some bemusement, “Lots more fury follows—enough to prompt John to wonder if the name Mary Jo Kopechne was in the original draft of NOW's press release."
The hubbub has forced Kim Gandy. NOW’s president, to issue the following clarification:
“Statement of NOW President Kim Gandy
“January 28, 2008
“The National Organization for Women has enormous respect and admiration for Sen. Edward Kennedy (D- Mass.). For decades Sen. Kennedy has been a friend of NOW, and a leader and fighter for women's civil and reproductive rights, and his record shows that.
“Though the National Organization for Women Political Action Committee has proudly endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton for president, we respect Sen. Kennedy's endorsement. We continue to encourage women everywhere to express their opinions and exercise their right to vote.”
There has been no speculation in feminist quarters that the senator’s defection from feminist orthodoxy will endanger his long reign as Massachussetts’ senior senator, about which Gore Vidal once quipped that he didn’t mind the senator’s lock on the seat, because every state in the union” should have in it at least one Caligula.”