Thursday, March 18, 2010

How Are the Pollitt Fallen

Oh, dear; this is very sad. And painful to watch.

Katha Pollitt's latest column in The Nation is one more painful exhibit of the damage that the Obama administration, following hard on eight years of Bush-Cheney, has done to liberal brain cells. Could it get much worse? I fear it will.

During the Clinton years, Pollitt delivered a series of attacks on the man's policies, especially where women's issues were concerned, while most mainstream feminists were still fawning on him, hoping for access, invitations to the White House, recognition and respect. (A lot of those columns can be found in Subject to Debate [The Modern Library, 2001].) Not all were fooled -- I still treasure this ringing denunciation of Clinton and Gore and Leiberman by Barbara Ehrenreich, for example -- but Pollitt was one of those who most steadfastly resisted the Clinton allure.

Still, Pollitt was one who took Bush's accession really hard; I remember how dispirited, even despairing, her columns from early 2001 were. She recovered, though, and was doing all right until Barack Obama came along, causing an embarrassing relapse as she tried to persuade herself and others that this guy was different, and that "An Obama victory could have big positive repercussions for progressive politics." (Ehrenreich also fell for the Obama shuck.) Pollitt even sank to dissing Cindy McCain's looks, a sexist move she'd properly have savaged anyone else for doing. She rallied briefly, criticizing Obama's support for "faith-based" initiatives, which suggests that anti-religion had come to trump even feminism for her. But before long she was flailing desperately away at a Naomi Klein column that once would have been easy meat for her, trying to defend Obama but bereft of anything to defend him with. Except Hilda Solis, who's looking lonelier and lonelier these days in that hornet's nest of DLCers we call the White House.

But today, ah, today, she declared her support for the Senate "health reform" bill in terms of political and even moral exhaustion. We feminists caved in and let you Democrats turn the bill into "a major blow against abortion rights." So don't accuse us of political purity! (That's what Pollitt accuses others of, we who sit in our cabins on Mount Disdain and sneer cruelly at the true believers.) We are team players! It's those Republicans who are the purists! And they don't play fair! So now, "The way I see it, the Democratic Party and the Obama administration owe supporters of women's rights a huge payback for cooperating on its signature issue." She provides a wish list. Item: "Full funding for Title X. ..." Item: "Full speed ahead on the Paycheck Fairness Act. ..." Item: "Confront maternal mortality. ..." Item: Ratify "the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women." Item: "Fully fund the Violence Against Women Act ..." Finally, she gets so het up she lets loose a dainty semi-expletive: "Speaking of violence against women, Dems, would you look in the effing mirror?" Whoa there, little lady! Don't let your emotions get the better of you. Better sit down. Would you like a glass of water?

I am not saying this to derogate Pollitt's concerns; I agree with her priorities and demands completely. I'm simply unable to believe that she thinks anyone in the Democrat Party is going to listen to her. This is not the first time that writers at The Nation have issued fatwas to the Democrats, or to Obama himself (Pollitt signed her name to that one too, as did Ehrenreich). You can see how much they've achieved. They don't seem to have noticed that not only is the rest of the left laughing at them, so are the Democrats and particularly the White House.

It's not for me to say what Pollitt should do. This is not an open letter from a formerly devoted reader, begging her to listen to the voices of the people who lifted her to an editorship at The Nation and urging her to return to the core values that made her one of the reasons I kept my subscription going longer than I should have. Nor is it a long-distance poultice, telling her that I feel her pain. I really don't know what it is, except maybe my own cry of pain at seeing a very intelligent woman stuck in an abusive relationship with a rotten politician. Only she can extricate herself from it, though.