Project Wonderful

Friday, March 25, 2016

Check Out Beyond the Ceiling Podcast

My incredible colleagues have created a Podcast about women doing the work they love to do and I was so blessed to be featured on their second episode. They asked me about women working on campaigns and running for office. Shockingly, I had some opinions Check it out Above or at!

Well met, The Stranger

Seattle's only newspaper made its endorsement in the Democratic Primary earlier this week. When you click the link it prompts you to choose your age. If you refuse to answer or answer that you are under 30, you are directed to an endorsement of Bernie Sanders. If you answer that you are 31 or older, you are redirected to an endorsement of Hillary Clinton. I see what they did there. Gotta give the people what they want!

March Badness

Is anyone as obsessed with college basketball as I am right now? Check out this chart about student voter suppression from Campus Vote Project.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Democratic Primary That No One's Winning

When Latina activist and labor leader, Dolores Huerta, posted the tweet above after the Nevada caucus Clinton supporters myself included, quickly--and in retrospect a little too gleefully--made sure that it populated the Facebook feed of every active Democrat we know. When more information surfaced and it turned out that the source of the objection may have been that Huerta is a well-known Clinton supporter, Sanders supporters were quick to accuse Huerta of smear tactics and those of us who re-posted it as partisan puppets, ignoring that the video still clearly showed hissing and booing of the 85-year old civil rights activist and cheering when the uproar led the caucus chair to declare that there would be no Spanish translation provided. (By the way, where was the Nevada Democratic Party? Surely they could have foreseen the need for translation.)

I was incensed when the Sanders campaign led a chant of "we stand together" over Black Lives Matter protests and deeply disappointed by the patronizing tone that Clinton took when meeting with Black Lives Matter leaders. (Put.your.hand.down! I had to stop rewatching the video when I found it to link for you.) Both campaigns' supporters were all too eager to share their opponent looking insensitive and clueless with little discussion of the fact that this is supposedly the best the Democratic party has to offer.

When I write about my support for Hillary Clinton on the basis of descriptive representation inevitably someone (usually a fellow white someone) reminds me that Hillary Clinton is wealthy white woman, as if Bernie Sanders--a 74 year old white man whose initial response to the Black Lives Matter movement was "Leave me alone, I marched with Martin Luther King"--were the love child of Shirley Chisholm and Audre Lorde. Bernie Sanders has been in Congress for 25 years and Hillary Clinton has been on the national stage since she was First Lady. Both have been critiqued for their poor policies toward and lack of understanding of communities of color before, but all of a sudden supporters who had never even heard the word intersectional are behaving as if they are racial justice activists and civil rights scholars.

So my question to myself and my fellow white progressives is why is it that we are only interested in holding our Democratic leaders and our party accountable to communities of color when it helps us score political points? Suddenly the media discovers the concept of the New American Majority and we have slews of articles about who black people should and shouldn't support but way less coverage on what we as a party should be doing to earn that support. Before I get the inevitable blow back of how that's not fair and "I work with this and this disenfranchised community" and "we passed this and this piece of legislation" let me say of course. I try, you try, the media occasionally reports, but not this publicly, not this persistently, not on this scale.

Part of it is because in a general election, we don't have to. When the Republican front-runner demonizes Muslims and calls for a wall to keep out the "drug dealers and rapists" of Mexico the bar for "less racist" is low. But we are the ones who place the bar for acceptable. How do I post this without appearing as if I am asking for my ally-ship cookie? I'm not sure, but after this weekend I felt like it needed to be said as a reminder to as much as from myself. I'm not advocating that people of color and their allies stay home on election day until we as a party do better, that would be pretty antithetical to everything I have ever written and believed. I am advocating that we stop treating racial justice as a special-interest, intermittent issue and hold our leaders to the same standard year-round and for the right reasons, that we are attempting to hold them now.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Vagina Dialogue: A Very Special CampaignSick Endorsement

There's been all this talk about vaginas voting and it's made me really angry but since I hate talking about who other groups should or shouldn't/will or won't vote for I thought we should go right to the source. Ladies and gentlemen, Campaignsickles, here agreeing to appear in her first public Vagina!

Me: Hello! Thank you for joining me today!

Vagina: Well, I didn’t really have much of a choice. I kinda go where you go, you know?

Me: Ha! Fair. So speaking of choices can you tell us a little about why you’re here today?

Vagina: Yes. First let me say I’m here on behalf of your entire downstairs/reproductive system. There have been a lot of people saying oh “women shouldn’t be voting with their vaginas” or “you can’t choose a candidate just because she has a uterus” but no one has actually asked ME who I’m voting for. It’s insulting.

Me: I get that. For me there’s all this reporting on who young women (and frankly a lot of other marginalized groups) “should” be voting for and why but it seems to me that discussion should be led by and for young women. Instead a lot of it seems to be happening about us, telling us what to value and how we feel.

Vagina: Exactly. Also, no offense Nancy but I don’t like when people confuse the two of us. You’re a woman. I’m a vagina. There’s a difference.

Me: Of course. Say more on that.

Vagina: Well first of all, I know this is getting kind of technical but not all women have vaginas and not all vagina-having people identify as women.

Me: You’re talking about the trans* community.

Vagina: Yes. Equating women with their genitalia/reproductive system just feeds into an anti-woman, anti-trans* narrative that no Democrat should contribute to.

Me: So a vagina is not what makes a woman?

Vagina: I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m very good, but I can’t do it alone. You have an entire body including a mind and a heart and those are what you use to decide whom to vote for. As for the physical aspect of voting, I’d imagine that is mostly your hands. Unless they brought those levers back.

Me: You wish. So we know I won’t be using you to vote. Are you planning on voting?

Vagina: Yes, I plan to. It’s very difficult. If there’s one thing state legislatures like to regulate more than who can vote it’s well…me. Whether it’s ID or IUD people want to make it hard for me to make my own decisions. In that respect, I am very lucky that we live in DC.

Me: Wait so….if you can vote how does that work?

Vagina: It’s a caucus process, lots of county meetings and puns involved. We elect delegates and then they elect a delegate to send to the convention. It’s best for you not think about it.

Me: No but like….

Vagina: Shhhhh…. You’ll never even know I’m gone.

Me: Okay… setting that aside for my own sanity. Here’s the million-tampon question: Whom are you voting for?

Vagina: Dun da dun…. HILLARY CLINTON!

Me: Oh thank God. I really hate it when you are mad at me.

Vagina: Yeah no kidding. Remember that time in college whe…

Me: Yes I remember. I thought we agreed not talk about it.

Vagina: Okay, I’m just saying. Eat more yogurt.

Me: Great. So why are you supporting Hillary?

Vagina: Well first of all I’m excited to finally vote for a candidate I can relate to. Who would have thought there’d be a vagina at the top of the ticket in my lifetime?

Me: So you’re saying you ARE voting for her because she has a vagina?

Vagina: No, I’m saying she IS a vagina. Hillary is guarded because needs to be but among those who take the time, she is known for her warmth. Throughout her lifetime she has held a diverse set of important jobs. People, especially those who don’t know what they’re doing, can be intimidated by her but she generates a huge amount of loyalty and affection. Most of all she is incredibly strong. She can take a lot. No matter what obstacles she comes up against she can always push through and no matter what you never see her get bent out of shape. If that’s not a vagina, what is?

Me: Wow. I don’t know what to say. I guess I never thought about it like that. That’s kind of poetic.

Vagina: Thank you.

Me: So are those your only reasons?

Vagina: No! It is really rude to imply that because I care about Hillary being a vagina I can’t like her for other reasons.

Me: Ohhhh because that’s almost like saying a vagina can’t have other qualities besides being a vagina.

Vagina: Exactly. First of all Hillary was the first candidate to come out in favor of the ending the Hyde Amendment; That alone is historic and huge. She has also been endorsed by NARAL and Planned Parenthood because she has been an active champion of women’s health and reproductive rights which...kind of a big issue for me. I also agree with Paul Krugman that she has the best plan to continue Obama’s legacy and keep the economy working for us. I want you to be able to buy the nice toilet paper.

Me: Wow is that all?

Vagina: No. I’m someone who understands the importance of working together even with people who are not like you and Hillary has proven she can build consensus and move our country in the right direction. There’s also her proposal on ending Alzheimer’s, her strong stance against gun violence, her foreign policy experience… shall I go on?

Me: I think I get your point. Hillary is the most qualified candidate. You like her policy positions. You trust her to get things done and you are also excited that she is a woman.

Vagina: Vagina.

Me: Vagina, excuse me. Is there anything else you want my readers to know?

Vagina: Yes. Everyone should get informed and participate because that’s what makes our democracy great. Also, stop telling others that their reasons for voting are dumb or wrong. No single candidate or campaign has a monopoly on truth and there is nothing wrong with wanting to see yourself represented by your representatives.

Me: Wise words. Well thank you for speaking to us. I know this your first public appearance in years.

Vagina: Pubic appearance.

Me: You really like word play don’t you?

Vagina: I am your vagina. Hey Nancy, hey Nancy do you know what GOTV stands for?

Me: Please don’t.


Me: And we’re done here. Thanks for reading! Say goodnight, Vagina.

Vagina: Goodnight, Vagina!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Stop Shaming Women For Wanting To Elect A Woman

(Image Source)

Recently a Facebook friend posted the following:
"Is it possible to be ‪#‎ImWithHer‬ and also ‪#‎FeelTheBern‬ as the same time? One half of me definitely wants to see a woman in the White House....but the other part finds herself agreeing more with Sanders platform. Not to mention I want it to be a qualified woman for the job, not just a woman for the sake of it....‪#‎ImStillAFeminist‬"
She's not the first one to post a similar status or to message me privately to ask my advice and when they do, it's heartbreaking. When someone says to me, "I don't want to vote for Hillary because she's a woman" what I hear is, "I very much want to vote for Hillary because she's a woman, but I am being made to feel like that's wrong."

This is a lie that Bernie Sanders' campaign is benefitting from and now openly propagating and it is pernicious. As Jessica Valenti writes in her fantastic piece for The Guardian, "Only in a sexist society would women be told that caring about representation at the highest levels of government is wrong. Only in a sexist society would women believe it." Come to think about it, I said that too. If Hillary's record on women's rights, her shared experience as a member of a disenfranchised group, and her impact on women's political ambition are not compelling enough reasons to for you to vote for her, I disagree with your decision but I can respect that. However, choosing to support a woman in part because of what having a female president can do for our country is not a shallow or simplistic point of view.

Because I know who I am and I know how these things work, I told you the truth. I am supporting Hillary because she's a woman. It's not the only reason, but it is the most important to me. Academic research shows and my own experiences bare out that people decide in their gut whom they are going to vote for and they rationalize it later, not even realizing they have done so. Here is an excellent study that I recommend to all fellow election nerds. (This same phenomenon by the way, is why I firmly believe that a swath of Bernie's support is rooted in sexism and why it's so difficult to prove.) I am a person who thinks about descriptive representation all the time. I spent a year and a half working for a PAC whose mission was simply to endorse LGBT candidates for office. So yes, Hillary's gender is important to me. All things being equal I will always support the woman or the trans* guy, or the person of color. But equal they are not.

Almost as offensive as the implication that it is wrong to consider Hillary's gender as a positive aspect of her candidacy is this implication that she can either be a woman or she can be the best candidate, but she can't be both. It is quite the fiction that her opponents have been able to push that somehow the symbolic and historic significance of Hillary's candidacy is the only possible reason people support her. That right there speaks to how sexist our system really is and why having a woman chief executive is a selling point that cannot be overstated. Sady Doyle, whose writing is so spot on and expressive it makes me feel like I'm blogging in crayon, explores this point in greater detail here.

Let's be clear about something: Hillary Clinton is considered by experts to be the most qualified Presidential candidate in modern history. She has been named the most admired woman in the world twenty times. She led the charge for universal health care long before it was central to the Democratic platform. She was the author of the sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table. She has been the most vocal and conversant on ending gun violence and in fact won Mario M. Cuomo Visionary Award from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence last year. She was the first candidate to come out in favor of ending the Hyde Amendment, the first to visit Flint, Michigan and has put forth a detailed and sweeping plan to reduce student debt.

I'll stop here because the purpose of this piece is to address a sexist tactic not to convince you to vote for Hillary Clinton. (Although might I suggest you click here, here and here for starters on that.) My point is that the suggestion that Hillary's gender and her qualification for the office are somehow at odds or mutually exclusive is baseless and sexist but if Elizabeth Warren were running for President against a male politician with Hillary's record and experience (although no such person exists) I can guaranFUCKINGtee you that people would be saying the exact same thing.

I don't mean to belittle any woman who says, "I won't support a candidate just because of her gender" or "I'd love to see a woman President but I want to make sure it's best the one." I have said both of those things. About Hillary Clinton. In 2008. When I worked for John Edwards because I believed he was the most progressive and yes, most morally upright, choice for President. But two important things have changed since then, two important women actually: me and Hillary Clinton.

Clinton's record as Secretary of State and her grace and poise in the face of the most serious attacks I've seen on her since I've been politically sentient have moved her from one of five Senators in the Presidential race in 2008 to far and away the most qualified candidate running now. She's also deliberately campaigning differently when it comes to her gender which, combined with the fact that she's not running head to head with another potential historic candidacy (we can talk about Bernie Sanders' Judaism another time), highlights the historic nature of her candidacy rather than making it an aside.

When my Bernie supporting uncle realized I was all in for Hillary he messaged me "8 years ago she was 'too polarizing' what happened?" And the answer is, I woke up. I realized that language like "too polarizing" or "untrustworthy" was residue from years of partisan attacks against her many of which have their roots in gender. I realized that in a Democratic primary where everyone agrees on basic policy what people do is more important than what they say and I realized that yes, I had underestimated the huge benefit, of having a woman in the White House.

I'm not here to tell other young women, and frankly I'm sick of hearing who you should vote for. As I wrote earlier this week in response to the articles discovering that the New American Majority will decide this primary, "Your vote is like sex. No matter who someone is or what they have done for you, you don't owe it to anyone." (And as an aside, it is 2016. We are at the point in our nation's history where no Democrat should be asking for a cookie for supporting communities of color.) But I'll tell you this: a campaign that wins the nomination by making women feel like there is something wrong or bad about wanting to see themselves represented at the highest echelons of government is not any revolution I want to be a part of.

(Author's note: Get excited! I am announcing a BIG (well, appropriately sized) endorsement on the blog tomorrow.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

When All You Have Is a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a #BernieBro

I thought I had closed the book on the Bernie Bro phenomenon and was feeling quite satisfied when I got two messages from male friends who are supporting Bernie insisting that my take was unfair because it failed to address the over-use of the "Bernie Bro" label. Clinton is after all, a politician and cries of sexism should not be used to shield her from legitimate critique.

I think it is very telling of the current state of the progressive community that in order to have my complaints of sexism validated I need to be so obsequious and specific. A wise Facebook picture I was recently tagged in said, "expecting marginalized peoples to disregard their own emotions to calmly educate you is the epitome of entitlement." Whatever Bill Clinton did, or Gloria Steinem said or a Clinton supporters tweeted, the Bernie Bro phenomenon is a problem, and a cancer on our community and it needs to be addressed by all of us, full stop.

Having said that, CampaignSick is a blog about campaign life, elections, and women's political power. So let's talk.

Simply criticizing Secretary Clinton does not a Bernie Bro make. It should be noted that by that standard I would be a Bernie Bro. The insufficiently addressed problem with Bernie Bros is not even the nature of their attacks on Hillary. At least to the extent that is reasonable to expect, those have been acknowledged by mainstream Bernie supporters. (Yes, those are a thing.) It's the Bernie Bros' attacks on me and my reasons for supporting her. It's their insistence that an aspect of the electoral system that doesn't yield their desired outcome must be rigged against them. Although not overtly sexist this last part is certainly male entitled, not to mention ironic since the system was designed by and for white men.

When we apply the Bernie Bro label indiscriminately we weaken our own argument. Contrary to a response I got from a Twitter follower, the Bernie staffers I caught having a pizza party at 7:30 two days before the caucus were not Bernie Bros, they were just being little punks. (Kids today, amiright?) That would be like a Bernie supporter responding to my post about a staging location director accidentally giving me lit with the wrong polling place by calling her a corporate shill. I believe the constraints of gender have played a large part in Hillary's less progressive decisions, but there is nothing sexist about a Bernie supporter saying, "not good enough!" Hillary's gender does not exist in a political silo and it is a ridiculous and counterproductive bar to set to ask us to unpack the invisible backpack of gender and conclude that it excuses any and all distasteful behavior on the part of professional women.

Before Bernie Sanders' candidacy looked competitive people said, "well it's good that the primary won't be a coronation." Of course Hillary Clinton or any woman is not entitled to run unopposed by dint of her gender. However political context being what it is, it seems as if a coronation is the only way we can ever nominate a woman. Please read this excellent piece on the un-discussed gender dynamic in the race to learn more about why I feel that way. It makes me feel incredibly sad and frustrated and powerless. I've been a girl/woman for 31 years and politically sentient for about half of them. I can only imagine what it must feel like to be 81, to have fought for equality your whole life, to be this close to a woman holding the highest office in the land and see the possibility that it might again elude you. But it doesn't excuse Gloria Steinem implying that young women who support Bernie Sanders are doing so to meet boys or because they don't know any better. Which is, in fact, sexist.

Having done this for 10 years, I should not be surprised by extreme thoughtlessness even from Democrats. Then again, maybe the only way to do this for so long is to have unwavering faith in the moral arc of the so-called target universe. When you are a woman and you fight for equality in the public space, it is intensely personal. It is demoralizing and it is pervasive. There is barely an interaction personal or professional where I don't see gender at play. For this reason it is sometimes hard to see the line between "it's sexist" and "you're sexist," but nobody wins when women are trivialized or reduced only to that one identity. The reason I take this primary so personally is not because I so greatly admire Hillary Clinton, although I do. It is because more so than on her, or Wall Street, or Citizens United, it feels like a referendum on women in public life.

And right now, were it within my power, I would hand Bernie Sanders the nomination on a silver platter if it meant that we would once and for all be treated with respect.