Virtual Voices

NARAL deepens divisions

Campaign 2008

When NARAL Pro Choice America endorsed Barack Obama last week in an effort to mend the divide between black voters and feminists, they only deepened the rift and brought down the wrath of their members. The fight even led one blogger to ask if the NARAL endorsement was bigger than John Edwards' endorsement.

On Wednesday, NARAL president Nancy Keenan said that NARAL is backing "the pro-choice candidate whom we believe will secure the Democratic nomination and advance to the general election. That candidate is Senator Obama." In a video that included statements by NARAL staffers, Keenan emphasized the need to move towards a general election mentality: "We cannot go another day without John McCain's record being exposed to the American public." A young female staffer called Obama "the best candidate possible to defeat John McCain."

Hillary Clinton, of course, was "disappointed." Ellen Malcolm, president of Emily's List, was outraged and called it "tremendously disrespectful … to not give [Clinton] the courtesy to finish the final three weeks of the primary process." The National Women's Caucus protested the decision as well. Nearly a quarter of NARAL states affiliates issued statements saying they are still neutral in the Democratic race, and hundreds of women expressed their disapproval in comments on the NARAL Pro Choice America blog.

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Doug Kmiec, pro-life Catholic Obama-supporter, had other reservations. He called the endorsement "deeply troubling unless the good Senator Obama intends to match it with the sobering acknowledgment that abortion is less 'right, than avoidable tragedy." (He also revealed that a priest denied him communion for supporting Obama, another bit that's drawn plenty of commentary.)

Talking Point Memo's Greg Sargent states the obvious: "This was a really mystifying decision for NARAL to make. All it did was alienate huge swaths of its membership and fundraising base, and it's hard to see how the endorsement did anything to accomplish the group's stated goal of uniting African Americans and female activists."

Victor Davis Hanson explains the power struggle: The race-class-gender industry "is no longer fancifully seen as united and synonymous in its struggle against rich, white Christian heterosexual male capitalists, but at each other's throat-and so the Democrats have had by needs to deconstruct them into pecking-order categories of descending importance: race trumps all (Obama), then gender (Hillary), with class concerns lagging behind (white working class)."

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