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Yves here. Regular readers may notice that this article is a departure from normal NC fare, in that this site has steered clear of posts that address a particular demographic or ethnic group. But we’ve decided to go this route in response to the feint being used by the Wall Street and its Democratic party sock puppets to go after Eliot Spitzer’s campaign to become Comptroller of New York City.
As we pointed out, the Comptroller’s office has the potential to serve as a platform for probing and hopefully curbing some of the finance industry’s ways of taking advantage of hapless municipalities. Since broke and severely distressed local governments are increasingly becoming carcasses for banksters to pick over, having someone like Spitzer examine ways that these governments had been or are now being abused could crimp this looting operation. So stopping Spitzer is a high priority for Wall Street.
So the Democratic establishment in New York City is resorting to its tried-and-true playbook to undermine Spitzer. His Achilles heel is the prostitution scandal that drove him from office. How better to keep that transgression front and center than by having women’s groups noise it up? I’m not in a position to prove it yet, but I’m strongly of the suspicion that Big Finance is to a significant degree behind this supposedly feminist squawking. For instance, the people who’ve asked me to give money to Planned Parenthood over the years are Wall Street men on its board, and Planned Parenthood is out front and center in the anti-Spitzer messaging. And in general, New York City has become so finance-dominated that the default assumption is that any major not-for-profit has significant banking industry representation among its major donors unless you have good reason to think otherwise.
As we’ve discussed in the past (see our Why Liberal are Lame, Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4), the Democrats have managed to improve on the Karl Rove playbook of using identity politics to get voters to support candidates who actively undermine their economic interests. As we wrote in 2011:
The left is obsessed with what ought to be peripheral concerns, namely, political correctness and Puritanical moralizing, because it is actually deeply divided on the things that matter, namely money and the role of the state. The Democrats have been so deeply penetrated by the neoliberal/Robert Rubin/Hamilton Project types that they aren’t that different from the right on economic issues. Both want little regulation of banking and open trade and international capital flows. Both want to “reform” Medicare and Social Security. Both are leery of a welfare state, the Republicans openly so, the Rubinite Dems with all sorts of handwringing and clever schemes to incentivize private companies that generally subsidize what they would have done regardless (note that Americans have had a mixed record in providing good social safety nets, but a big reason is our American exceptionalism means we refuse to copy successful models from abroad).
The powerful influence of moneyed interests on the Democratic party has achieved the fondest aims of the right wing extremists of the 1970s: the party of FDR is now lukewarm at best in its support of the New Deal. Most Democrats are embarrassed to be in the same room with union types. They are often afraid to say that government can play a positive role. They were loath to discuss the costs of income inequality until it became so far advanced that it is now well nigh impossible to reverse it. After all, that sort of discussion might sound like class warfare, and God forbid anyone on the mainstream left risk sound like Marx…
So the Democratic party (and remember, our two party system makes the Democrats the home by default for the left) pretends to be a safe haven for all sorts of out groups: women, gays, Hispanics (on their way to being the dominant group but not there yet), blacks, the poor. But this is stands in stark contradiction to its policies of selling out the middle class to banks and big corporate interests, just on a slower and stealthier basis than the right. So its desperate need to maintain its increasingly phony “be nice to the rainbow coalition” branding places a huge premium on appearances. It thus uses identity politics as a cover for policy betrayals. It can motivate various groups on narrow, specific issues, opening the way for the moneyed faction to get what it wants.
So the sad part isn’t simply that Lynn Parramore has to write a piece telling women that Spitzer is on their side. It’s that she’s also likely to take heat from so-called feminists for it. I’ve gotten in some minor squabbles with this crowd in on-line venues, and it’s remarkable to see how they go on tilt if you dare differ with them on how good progressive women should think and behave. I don’t take them seriously enough to be bothered by their bullying, but Parramore, who writes at a liberal outlets, is the sort they probably think they can punish for breaking with the Good Feminist Party Line. So believe it or not, her having written the post that follows is actually brave.
As I wrote last year, in support of Glenn Greenwald for pointing out how Ron Paul was to the left of Obama on some important issues:
Ah, the gender baiting card! No women or non whites have anything nice to say about Ron Paul! That’s patently untrue, but identity bigots like [Katha] Pollitt apparently can’t wrap their minds around the notion that many people see themselves as citizens first and their demography second, and can and do have nuanced views based on how they weigh multiple political considerations: class, concentration of power, rule of law, civil liberties, and gender/race/sexual orientation…
But most important, I object to the presumption of the Pollitt position, that right-thinking women of the left-leaning persuasion must of course agree with her. I find myself appalled by the culture, such that it is, of soi-disant progressives in DC. That isn’t to say that there aren’t many talented individuals laboring to make things better. But from what I can tell, their efforts are too often at odds with and deliberately undermined by a puerile, often vicious style of discourse that values petty conformity over substantive contributions. And the sacred cow of petty conformity is political correctness (well, unless you are a “progressive” woman, that makes is OK to yell “white male oppressor” when you run out of arguments).
So please read and circulate the post below. And better yet, give Parramore an “atta girl” on Twitter.
As a life-long feminist, I’ve often been struck by the lack of insight in the political realm into a simple fact: So-called “women’s issues” are everyone’s issues.
When women have access to reproductive healthcare, when they are supported in the workplace, when they can enjoy a dignified retirement, when they are protected from Wall Street predators, when they are economically secure, everyone wins.
Enter a candidate for New York City Comptroller who has an outstanding record on all of these issues. One who has shown an unmatched enthusiasm for challenging Wall Street abuses that disproportionately impact women, one who has championed women’s workplace rights and access to healthcare — and one who even publicly calls himself a feminist.
Incredibly, some women, like NOW New York president Sonia Ossorio, have chosen to actually team up with business leaders to spend $1.5 million to skew the election and defeat Eliot Spitzer in his bid for office. Is Ossorio representing the National Organization for Women, or the National Organization for Wall Street? In a fit of apparent amnesia, Sasha Ahuja of Planned Parenthood’s New York City Action Fund dissed Spitzer by saying she’s backing Scott Stringer because she wants “candidates that don’t just give a nod to women’s issues.” Huh? Spitzer has given far more than a nod to women’s issues— in fact, he has been a vigorous defender of Ahuja’s own group.
When Karl Rove convinces lower-income whites to vote against their own interest by inflaming them on issues like gay marriage, most progressives and liberals can easily see the game that is being played. Where is that wisdom now?
Some women — thankfully not all — are getting whipped up into a myopic fury and a simplistic stance toward a man whose advocacy of things that matter to them seems to far outweigh the mistake that caused him to resign his office five years ago. This works out well for those who’d rather treat women’s fundamental rights like so many poker chips to toss around in political games. And it’s a dream come true for crooks in the financial services industry who don’t want a comptroller watching them who actually knows what they’re up to and is willing to take them on to protect the interests of New York’s women.
Maybe a close examination of Spitzer’s record will help restore some perspective. Here are 5 things women should consider in assessing Eliot Spitzer as a candidate for New York City Comptroller.
1. Spitzer is a feminist: Yes, that’s right. Recently on MSNBC, Spitzer was asked if he was a feminist. He immediately said yes. That answer emphatically distinguishes him from the vast majority of men, four fifths of whom polls show do not consider themselves feminists, and even many prominent women, such as Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer.
Contrary to what some of the more rigid feminists in high places are saying right now, feminism is not a rulebook handed out by well-heeled, well-connected women in New York City. As Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams recently explained, it is a fluid concept big enough to include conflicting points of view on any number of issues, and some imperfect beings, too. From the very beginning, men have taken part in and identified with feminism, and have used their influence to promote women’s rights. But you don’t see a lot of major politicians flying their feminist flag.
When was the last time you heard Mike Bloomberg describe himself as a feminist? The billionaire mayor donates to Planned Parenthood, but his trickle-down economics and Wall Street pandering certainly do not help women. Apart from that, his public and private sexism is notorious. Who can forget his infamous opinion in a deposition on a sexual harassment case that he would believe a rape charge only if the victim could produce an “unimpeachable third-party witness”? That’s not the viewpoint of a man who is thoughtful about women and their experiences.
Spitzer, on the other hand, goes on national television and calls himself a feminist — an identification that is part of the progressive stance that has shaped his politics, reflected in his repeated actions to protect women’s rights and strengthen their economic security by taking on the Wall Street predators a politician like Bloomberg caters to.
2. Protecting Reproductive rights: Representatives from Planned Parenthood and NARAL say they want a strongly pro-choice comptroller. They might recall that as governor of New York, Spitzer introduced legislation to protect a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy following the Supreme Court’s disappointing upholding of anti-abortion legislation. That same bill, the Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act, sought to remove abortion from criminal statues and repealed criminalization of over-the-counter contraception to minors. You can read Planned Parenthood’s enthusiastic description of Spitzer’s bill on the Planned Parenthood website.
And that’s not all. As attorney general, Spitzer defended women’s access to reproductive health services and filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against a family accused of harassing women at a Planned Parenthood clinic, resulting in an $80,000 fine. He also formed a special unit within his office to combat violence at health clinics across the state.
After leaving office, Spitzer continued to speak out on behalf of women’s reproductive rights. Want to see him vigorously defending Planned Parenthood from a right-wing attack? Take a look at this 2011 CNN discussion with a PP critic.
3. Promoting Women’s Healthcare: Spitzer’s advocacy of women’s healthcare goes beyond reproductive issues to other critical health initiatives. Cervical cancer, once the leading cause of death for U.S. females, still kills thousands of American women every year. In 2007, Spitzer worked to expand cervical cancer vaccination for low-income teens and women. His budget as governor also increased funding for the Breast Cancer Detection And Education Program. Before that, as attorney general, Spitzer supported mandated coverage of mammograms and called for implementation of expanded mammogram care.
And while we’re on the subject of health, let’s look back at what else Spitzer was up to as attorney general. In addition to going after Wall Street criminals, he pursued drug companies who deceived doctors and hid important information about the safety of drugs. For example, he won a major settlement against pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline for concealing negative data on the antidepressant drug Paxil, which was being prescribed to children. Moms across New York have Spitzer to thank for protecting their kids against fraudulent drug companies.
4. Defending Working Mothers and Families: Women often struggle to balance the demands of the workplace with their heavy responsibilities caring for children and elderly parents. In his 2008 State of the State address, Spitzer said that New Yorkers shouldn’t have to choose between economic security and caring for their families. He pushed for a paid leave plan that would give New York workers 12 weeks a year in paid leave to take care of newborn children and seriously ill family members. That plan was far superior to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which only gave covered workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave.
Spitzer also showed his support to women who run businesses. As governor, he signed an executive order creating an Executive Leadership Council and Corporate Roundtable to promote opportunities for Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) and help level the business playing field.
5. Wall Street Watchdog: What does Wall Street have to do with women? A lot, actually. Wall Street predations and reckless activities have cost millions of women their jobs, homes, and pensions. Swindlers in business suits have triggered massive funding crises in cities across America by charging outrageous fees, setting up harmful financial deals, and other shenanigans.
Women pay disproportionately for all this. They endure cuts to the social services they rely on to keep themselves and their families afloat in times of need. Teachers, nurses, and other public workers are laid off and see their pensions under attack. Detroit is merely the worst example — Wall Street hustlers have drained public coffers across the country.
The comptroller oversees New York City’s pension funds and has many dealings with Wall Street and corporations. Spitzer, known as the “Sheriff of Wall Street” during his tenure as attorney general, has the knowledge and capability to examine fee structures on pension funds and aggressively challenge things like stratospheric executive compensation at the companies in which they are invested. No wonder business interests are supporting the anti-Spitzer Super Pac!
Spitzer has said that he wants to use the comptroller’s office as a platform for activism that would allow him to use the power of public investments to make Wall Street act fairly and to protect the retirements of New York workers. As comptroller, he would have the power of oversight to make sure tax dollars are spent wisely and not just shoveled over to corporate interests. That’s good for New York women and their families.
Before dismissing a man who made a mistake five years ago, women should look at the total record and the whole person before deciding if Eliot Spitzer is a candidate worth supporting. His record of achievement in his famous suits against Wall Street, Glaxo, and other corporate behemoths is without any real peer in the U.S. today. He has been a staunch supporter reproductive rights and his record of advancing the needs of working women and families show him to be an ally to women, despite any trumped up charges to the contrary