No Crystal Ball — Still, We Wonder

Erica C. Barnett

What would a Clinton or Obama presidency look like for women? And would one such presidency be better than another? Has any moment in the campaign to this point revealed which candidate might better prioritize women’s health and rights when in office?

What would a Clinton or Obama presidency look like for women? And would one such presidency be better for women than another?

During his two terms as president, George W. Bush has done everything in his power to erode the rights of women in this country and abroad — opposing access to emergency contraception; supporting two of the most anti-choice Supreme Court justices in history; promoting harmful abstinence-only sex education programs; and supporting legislation that would redefine embryos as human beings whose rights trump those of pregnant women. For nearly eight years, the Bush administration has put women's needs last; eroded our rights in the name of "values;" and put us at risk of unintended pregnancy, violence, and disease.

But this election offers the first opportunity in a very long time to reverse Bush's anti-woman legacy. If Obama's momentum, at the moment, seems unstoppable, a strong showing in Ohio and Texas could keep Clinton in the race until August. No matter what happens in the primaries, Democrats will have a candidate with a strong pro-choice, pro-woman record in November. While presumptive Republican nominee John McCain has consistently received zero-percent ratings from every pro-choice organization that ranks candidates, both Clinton and Obama have received 100-percent ratings from NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood.

The Democratic candidates' records give a good indication why. As First Lady and a US senator, Clinton has built her reputation fighting for women's rights. A comprehensive list of Clinton's pro-choice proposals would take pages, so here are a few of the highlights: As First Lady, she helped pass the Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires employers to provide unpaid leave to care for newborn babies or family members, and helped found the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancies, which set and achieved a goal of reducing teen pregnancies by one third. As senator, Clinton led the fight, in a hostile Republican-dominated Congress, to make emergency contraception available over the counter. She led the battle against the confirmation of anti-choice Supreme Court nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito, arguing in Alito's case that the nominee would "roll back decades of progress" for women. She led the fight in the Senate to get rid of the global gag rule, which prohibits US funding for overseas groups that use funding from other sources to provide abortions or abortion counseling, and has vowed to devote her "very first days in office" to overturning that decision.

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Currently, women make just 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. To help address this inequity, Clinton sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help prevent pay discrimination against women and give women tools to fight for pay equity. She cosponsored legislation to add the Equal Rights Amendment to the US constitution. And she has been a strong proponent of real sex education, sponsoring legislation (along with Obama) that would replace failed "abstinence-only" sex ed with comprehensive, medically accurate curricula.

Barack Obama's record on reproductive rights and other issues that matter to women is undeniably shorter than Clinton's, though similarly consistent and unshirking. In the Illinois state senate, Obama opposed the Illinois Born Alive Infants Protection Act, which would have defined a fetus as a child, saying it would "essentially bar abortions"; voted against a statewide ban on "partial-birth abortion"; and supported legislation requiring insurance companies to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives. As a US senator, he cosponsored, along with Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, legislation that would restore birth control discounts for low-income and college women. He also cosponsored (along with Clinton) the Freedom of Choice Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade as the law of the land. When South Dakota passed a law banning all abortions, Obama was the only US senator to help raise money to repeal the ban. He sponsored legislation that would effectively overturn a recent Supreme Court decision that curtails the ability of women and racial minorities to challenge past pay discrimination. He introduced the Responsible Fathers and Healthy Families Act, which would crack down on fathers who don't pay child support, fund support services for fathers and families, and support domestic violence prevention. And he cosponsored renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which funds domestic-violence prevention efforts.

Has any moment in the campaign to this point revealed which candidate might better prioritize women's health and rights when in office? As befits their records in Congress, both senators have vowed to put women front and center in the Oval Office. But last month, on the thirty-fifth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Clinton released a comprehensive agenda for women's reproductive health care. Clinton's agenda demonstrates her understanding of the vastness, and critical importance, of the reproductive health issues on which President Bush has either stalled or rolled back progress. She has committed to appointing judges who will uphold a woman's right to choose; enacting the Freedom of Choice Act, which would codify a woman's right to obtain an abortion; expanding Title X, the 32-year-old national family-planning program, which Bush has frozen at 2001 levels for the past eight years; requiring health care plans to pay for contraception; restoring discounts for birth control on college campuses; and providing women stationed at overseas military bases the same level of reproductive health care as every US citizen. Both Clinton and Obama have vowed to expand the Family Medical Leave Act to cover millions more Americans. Clinton has stated that she will implement paid family-leave programs in every state within the next eight years, expand block-grant programs that pay for child care, and prohibit employer discrimination against parents. Both she and Obama say they will require US employers to pay for seven annual days of sick leave.

The two candidates have both pledged to get serious on health care, but Sen. Clinton is the candidate proposing universal health care. For women, including the one in five women under 65 who are currently uninsured, this may be her most significant priority. Economists and pundits differ over whether Obama's eschewing of mandates will doom his health care plan or not. Obama claims that in states that have universal coverage (Massachusetts, Oregon), mandates haven't worked, but Clinton counters that it's a strength of her plan that she's not giving away universal coverage before the bargaining begins. Universal health care is a universal issue, but it's also a women's issue, because women without insurance are vulnerable to unintended pregnancy, undetected cancer, and other preventable health care problems; more likely to avoid filling prescriptions and to forgo needed health care, including preventive care such as heart disease screenings, mammograms and Pap smears; and more likely to be diagnosed late and die early.

Obama's priorities are similar to Clinton's — with a few differences of emphasis that are attractive to some feminists. As president, he has vowed to raise the raise the minimum wage — and, importantly, to link it to inflation. Women make up 58 percent of minimum-wage earners, at least one million of them single mothers. He has also proposed doubling funding for after-school programs; expanding child tax credits; expanding the Nurse-Family Partnership, which provides home visits to low-income first-time expectant mothers. And he has consistently opposed the war in Iraq, an issue of huge concern to many American women, vowing to pull all combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months. Clinton has also spoken out against the war and issued a timetable for troop withdrawals, but her vote for the war in 2003 and the perception that she is more hawkish than Obama has made many women, particularly pro-peace feminists, oppose her (At Women's eNews, Allison Stevens takes a close look at this phenomenon).

There are good reasons to pull for either of these candidates, and convincing arguments in each candidate's favor. What every advocate for women's rights can agree on, however, is that the next president must end eight years of backsliding on women's rights and restore women's issues to their rightful place at the top of his or her presidential agenda.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Republican National Convention Edition

Ally Boguhn

The Trump family's RNC claims about crime and the presidential candidate's record on gender equality have kept fact-checkers busy.

Republicans came together in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC), generating days of cringe-inducing falsehoods and misleading statements on crime, the nominee’s positions on gender equality, and LGBTQ people.

Trump’s Acceptance Speech Blasted for Making False Claims on Crime

Trump accepted the Republican nomination in a Thursday night speech at the RNC that drew harsh criticism for many of its misleading and outright false talking points.

Numerous fact-checkers took Trump to task, calling out many of his claims for being “wrong,” and “inflated or misleading.”

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 Among the most hotly contested of Trump’s claims was the assertion that crime has exploded across the country.

“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” Trump claimed, according to his prepared remarks, which were leaked ahead of his address. “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.”

Crime rates overall have been steadily declining for years.

“In 2015, there was an uptick in homicides in 36 of the 50 largest cities compared to the previous years. The rate did, indeed, increase nearly 17 percent, and it was the worst annual change since 1990. The homicide rate was up 54.3 percent in Washington, and 58.5 percent in Baltimore,” explained Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “But in the first months of 2016, homicide trends were about evenly split in the major cities. Out of 63 agencies reporting to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, 32 cities saw a decrease in homicides in first quarter 2016 and 31 saw an increase.”

Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said in a statement posted to the organization’s website that 2016 statistics aren’t sufficient in declaring crime rate trends. 

“Overall, crime rates remain at historic lows. Fear-inducing soundbites are counterproductive, and distract from nuanced, data-driven, and solution-oriented conversations on how to build a smarter criminal justice system in America,” Grawert said. “It’s true that some cities saw an increase in murder rates last year, and that can’t be ignored, but it’s too early to say if that’s part of a national trend.” 

When Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was confronted with the common Republican falsehoods on crime during a Thursday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he claimed that the FBI’s statistics were not to be trusted given that the organization recently advised against charges in connection with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

“According to FBI statistics, crime rates have been going down for decades,” Tapper told Manafort. “How can Republicans make the argument that it’s somehow more dangerous today when the facts don’t back that up?”

“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods,” said Manafort, going on to claim that “the FBI is certainly suspect these days after what they did with Hillary Clinton.”

There was at least one notable figure who wholeheartedly embraced Trump’s fearmongering: former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. “Great Trump Speech,” tweeted Duke on Thursday evening. “Couldn’t have said it better!”

Ben Carson Claims Transgender People Are Proof of “How Absurd We Have Become”

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson criticized the existence of transgender people while speaking at the Florida delegation breakfast on Tuesday in Cleveland.  

“You know, we look at this whole transgender thing, I’ve got to tell you: For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is. And now, all of a sudden we don’t know anymore,” said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. “Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa?”

“Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan. Look, I know I don’t look that way. My ancestors came from Sweden, or something, I don’t know. But I really am. And if you say I’m not, you’re a racist,’” Carson said. “This is how absurd we have become.”

When confronted with his comments during an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric, Carson doubled down on his claims.“There are biological markers that tell us whether we are a male or a female,” said Carson. “And just because you wake up one day and you say, ‘I think I’m the other one,’ that doesn’t change it. Just, a leopard can’t change its spots.”

“It’s not as if they woke up one day and decided, ‘I’m going to be a male or I’m going to be a female,’” Couric countered, pointing out that transgender people do not suddenly choose to change their gender identities on a whim.

Carson made several similar comments last year while on the campaign trail.

In December, Carson criticized the suggested that allowing transgender people into the military amounted to using the armed services “as a laboratory for social experimentation.”

Carson once suggested that allowing transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity amounted to granting them “extra rights.”

Ivanka Trump Claims Her Father Supports Equal Pay, Access to Child Care

Ivanka Trump, the nominee’s daughter, made a pitch during her speech Thursday night at the RNC for why women voters should support her father.

“There have always been men of all background and ethnicities on my father’s job sites. And long before it was commonplace, you also saw women,” Ivanka Trump said. “At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.” 

“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all,” she continued before pivoting to address the gender wage gap. 

“Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

However, Trump’s stated positions on the gender wage gap, pregnancy and mothers in the workplace, and child care don’t quite add up to the picture the Trumps tried to paint at the RNC.

In 2004, Trump called pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers. When a lawyer asked for a break during a deposition in 2011 to pump breast milk, Trump reportedly called her “disgusting.”

According to a June analysis conducted by the Boston Globe, the Trump campaign found that men who worked on Trump’s campaign “made nearly $6,100, or about 35 percent more [than women during the April payroll]. The disparity is slightly greater than the gender pay gap nationally.”

A former organizer for Trump also filed a discrimination complaint in January, alleging that she was paid less than her male counterparts.

When Trump was questioned about equal pay during a campaign stop last October, he did not outline his support for policies to address the issue. Instead, Trump suggested that, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Though he had previously stated that men and women who do the same job should be paid the same during an August 2015 interview on MSNBC, he also cautioned that determining whether people were doing the same jobs was “tricky.”

Trump has been all but completely silent on child care so far on the campaign trail. In contrast, Clinton released an agenda in May to address the soaring costs of child care in the United States.

Ivanka’s claims were not the only attempt that night by Trump’s inner circle to explain why women voters should turn to the Republican ticket. During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Manafort said that women would vote for the Republican nominee because they “can’t afford their lives anymore.”

“Many women in this country feel they can’t afford their lives, their husbands can’t afford to be paying for the family bills,” claimed Manafort. “Hillary Clinton is guilty of being part of the establishment that created that problem. They’re going to hear the message. And as they hear the message, that’s how we are going to appeal to them.”

What Else We’re Reading

Vox’s Dara Lind explained how “Trump’s RNC speech turned his white supporters’ fear into a weapon.”

Now that Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Republicans have faced “an intense, chaotic, awkward week of brazen lobbying at the breakfast buffet, in the hallways and on the elevators” at the convention as they grapple with who will run to replace the state’s governor, according to the New York Times.

“This is a party and a power structure that feels threatened with extinction, willing to do anything for survival,” wrote Rebecca Traister on Trump and the RNC for New York Magazine. “They may not love Trump, but he is leading them precisely because he embodies their grotesque dreams of the restoration of white, patriarchal power.”

Though Trump spent much of the primary season denouncing big money in politics, while at the RNC, he courted billionaires in hopes of having them donate to supporting super PACs.

Michael Kranish reported for the Washington Post that of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC, it is estimated that only 18 were Black.

Cosmopolitan highlighted nine of the most sexist things that could be found at the convention.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked, “Where are these contributions that have been made” by people of color to civilization?