The emails started to fly around yesterday in the late afternoon with the urgent subject line, "NARAL ENDORSES OBAMA!" In pained tones the senders, my circle of Hillary supporters, expressed their shock that one of the preeminent pro-choice organizations, one that they have supported in good times and bad, had double-crossed them in the eleventh hour of the presidential campaign.
I live in Westchester County, NY, this is Hillary country. I am an ardent Hillary supporter but nothing like many of my Hillary friends here who are often fifteen, twenty, thirty or more years older. They built the feminist movement in this country, and they fought for my right to choose, or what's left of it, today. Hillary's campaign is as much about them as it is about her, and today NARAL betrayed them as much as they did her.
One of the most frustrating and shocking aspects of the reporting of Hillary's campaign has been the cynical reporting of what Hillary means to her supporters. How is it possible that she raised so much money from small donors when she asked in March and April? The answer is simple, because they believe in her and in her campaign! In begrudging fairness to the media, Hillary's own campaign didn't seem to understand or appreciate the depth of these feelings either until it was too late. But the depth of pride and ownership that women across demographics feel for Hillary are very real. And now, here were my Hillary friends, with tens of their friends copied, surging into my inbox with their messages:
I want to crawl up in the fetal position but instead I have to go report as chair of the League of Women Voters Nominating Committee. I just tried calling NARAL and the office is closed." Alisa
"I will never give another penny or any support or advocacy to or for the organization." Hannah
In her announcement on Huffington Post yesterday, the president of NARAL, Nancy Keenan, wrote that the decision to announce their endorsement while the primary competition between two pro-choice candidates is ongoing is because, "for the sake of the reproductive-rights movement, we need to put any perceived differences behind us, and get to work putting Sen. Obama in the White House."
Really, the entire future of the pro-choice movement rests on spitting in the eye of the strongest woman candidate in the history of the country, rather than waiting three more weeks to put whatever organizational muscle it has left after today to work for Obama, that this sliver of times will make the difference between winning and losing in November? It is unimaginable that the NAACP would have pulled the rug out from under it's own constituency like this if the roles had been reversed. African American supporters of the NAACP have waited a lifetime for a presidential nominee who looks like them - and so have women.
Many last century membership organizations are in a panic as they watch their donor bases age and flail around trying to attract young people with newer causes to support. NARAL may be feeling this heat as well. I would be happy to tell you about far more graceful ways to enter the Connected Age than scorning your core constituency.
I am old enough to know that your fight is important but young enough not to have laid the cornerstone of organizations like yours - but I promise you that just as you're not there for me today, I won't be there for you tomorrow. My friends Hannah and Alisa and Barbara, their sisters, girlfriends, mothers, daughters and cousins have volunteered, donated money, made calls, marched, worn buttons, buttonholed their friends and family, fought valiantly against the relentless attacks of the far right, and are the constant stalwarts of every woman's right to choose, and they deserve so much more respect than this.