Friday, June 24, 2016

Will Clinton's feminists speak out against two-party patriarchy?

Clinton supporters have spent much of the year insisting that sexism lies at the root of many of her electability problems - and that the feminist move is to refuse to let such considerations derail her candidacy. Matt Bruenig, in February, collected multiple examples of this argument from writers like Rebecca Traister and Catherine Campbell:
Sanders, unlike Clinton, doesn’t give a damn if he’s camera-ready...This is, of course, a form of authenticity that is off-limits to any female politician, not just one with Clinton’s baggage.
As Bruenig wrote, this is clearly an argument "that Clinton is structurally prevented from behaving in the kind of authentic and sincere manner that appeals to voters". And the upshot, of course, is that we should vote for her despite these structural handicaps, because they have their roots in systematic sexism, a problem that progressives should not enable by making concessions to it.

It will surprise no one, of course, that as Jill Stein's poll numbers improve, Clinton partisans are completely abandoning this argument:


Stein, of course, is a victim of the greatest obstacle to proportional representation for women in America today: the two-party system. Clinton is not the first woman to be nominated for president; she is preceded by Linda Jenness, Evelyn Reed, Margaret Wright, Deirdre Griswold, Maureen Smith, Ellen McCormack, Sonia Johnson, Lenora Fulani, Mash Feinland, Monica Moorehead, Cynthia McKinney, and of course Stein herself, among countless others. But while the major parties shut women out of their presidential tickets, the two-party system ensured that they wouldn't be able to win through third-party or independent campaigns, either.

Women have long recognized the role that the two-party system has played in their exclusion. The League of Women Voters, for example, described two-party control of presidential debates as a "fraud" and withdrew support for them in 1988, declaring that "The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public." Susan J. Carroll - Professor of Political Science and Women's and Gender Studies at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University - has written about the problem at length:
I think that there would be more opportunities [for women] if there were more parties of different ideological stripes. Certainly there have been more opportunities in recent years in the Democratic Party than the Republican Party, so one would presume that if you had a party that was further to the left, as in many other countries, there might be more opportunities. Those parties then put pressure on the other parties, so I think more competition is always good.
If electability problems rooted in sexism are impermissible objections to Clinton's candidacy, they obviously shouldn't be wielded against Stein, either. Clinton supporters should rail against the latent sexism of electability arguments against Stein with just as much outrage, and refuse to countenance mansplanations about the inevitability of two-party patriarchy from bros like Shroff. When so-called progressives make "I wish the two-party system were different, but" arguments against Stein, we should see the kind of eloquent righteous fury that we saw from Courtney Enlow:
WE ALL WISH THINGS WERE DIFFERENT BUT THEY DON'T BECOME DIFFERENT WHILE WE'RE ATTACKING THE FUCKING PERSON WHO CAN MAKE THAT POSSIBLE.