Nearly all leaders of the radical student movement of the late 1960s were male. Most of the ones I knew were sexists. Pretty soon, the women in the movement noticed.
I recall some efforts by women to raise the issue of sexism within the mainstream radical movement, but most female radicals gravitated to the nascent feminist movement. By the mid-1970s, the mainstream radical movement was essentially dead, whereas the radical feminist movement was just taking off.
I have no reason to believe that today’s male left-wing bloggers and fellow left-wingers are sexists, but I wonder whether they may have a “feminism” problem on their hands nonetheless. Hillary Clinton is the bane of the anti-war left. The obvious explanation is that she has been a few steps behind the anti-war curve at every stage of the debate. In addition, for lefty bloggers interested in flexing their muscle (or proving they have some), there’s nothing to be gained by promoting Hillary, the clear Democratic front-runner.
But I can think of no politician who has a better, longer track record of old-fashioned, 1970s-vintage feminism than Hillary Clinton does. That record, coupled with the desire of such feminists to elect a female president, likely will count for much as Hillary competes for the votes of leftists in her party. Of course, leftists for whom the war in Iraq is the be-all-and-end-all issue will be hard-pressed to prefer Hillary. But Hillary’s status and her gender should give her a good shot at capturing a substantial chunk of the overall leftist vote, as long as she takes solid anti-war positions from now on. And Clinton doesn’t need to prevail among leftist Dems, she just needs to be reasonably competitive.
The feminists were the sleeping giants of American radicalism 40 years ago. They may be the sleeping giants of the Democratic party in 2008.
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