Reasons to Vote for Gillibrand or Warren & Not for Biden

I can appreciate that former Vice-President Joe Biden is willing, so it appears in some respects, to speak his conscience and advocate for unpopular policy positions.

That said, his stance on abortion– upholding the Hyde Amendment (which prohibits use of federal funds for abortions with the exception of rape, incest, and the life of the mother) more specifically– troubles me.

Also, Biden recently “elicited confusion” — as The Daily Beast’s  Emily Shugerman puts it— because, before changing his official stance today, he had voiced his support for abolishing the Hyde Amendment.   

CNN’s Rebecca Buck reported by tweet today

The Biden campaign says he misheard this woman on the ropeline and thought she was referring to the Mexico City rule

(The so called “Mexico City rule,” as Planned Parenthood website explains, “prevents foreign organizations receiving U.S. global health assistance from providing information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or advocating for access to abortion services in their country — even with their own money.”)

I cannot help but wonder, is this really what Biden thought?

While I don’t mean to doubt his honesty or his sharpness of thought, I ask because I’m not sure why he thought she was referring to the “Mexico City rule.”

The ACLU activist, who goes by Nina according to the ACLU tweet sharing the video– did ask Mr. Biden rather directly, “Will you commit to abolishing the Hyde Amendment which hurts poor women and women of color?” and he really had absolutely nothing to say about this policy other than to immediately emphasize how he’s “got a near perfect voting record my entire career” and to add “Right now it can’t be, it can’t stay. Thank you,” and then he walked away.

How aware was Mr. Biden of this specific interaction, and how genuine? To me, it comes across as (though I cannot prove it is) insincere, as if he was sort of mindlessly going through the rhythms of shaking hands, saying hello, and quickly acting on hasty guesses as to what he thinks the people want to hear.

Not that this is a unique problem among politicians and not that Biden should be singled out as the only one guilty of this. Still, between the dynamics of Trump’s electoral success in 2016 for appearing “different,” and Hillary Clinton’s failure in part for seeming like more of the status-quo, one would hope Democrats and sympathetic #NeverTrumpers have learned that politics in the last few years has been changing drastically. Likewise, the kind of politicians we are in need of has been changing.

More disconcerting though than Biden’s inability to appear especially genuine and cognizant of what he’s saying and who he’s saying it to is that his belief in upholding the Hyde Amendment disadvantages women who don’t earn much income.

As the Planned Parenthood website says, “When policymakers deny a woman insurance coverage for abortion, she is either forced to carry the pregnancy to term or pay for care out of her own pocket.”

Biden’s position is thus an affront to efforts made both by women’s advancement in society and efforts to promote the well-being of the economically insecure. Moreover, along with the basic unfairness of the policy, it contradicts conventional Democratic values.

Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren are quite savvy and pro-active on this point.  Of the 20 plus candidates running in the Democratic Presidential primary, along with the 89 year old former Senator from Alaska– Mike Gravel (who is not making a substantial splash in the polls)– these two are the boldest when it comes to their protectiveness of abortion rights, making it clear that they believe it ought to be a matter of law that women be permitted to have abortions should they so choose.

In the process of evaluating Democratic candidates in the midst of this primary, Gillibrand and Warren put their exceptionalism thus far on full display. In contrast, Biden, the mainstream media sweetheart, seems to be either somewhat confused, trying too hard to play politics, or simply fails to demonstrate his awareness of the consequences of his continued support of the Hyde Amendment.

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On the Opposite of a Tweet & a Woman President (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment Video Diary vlog– episode #20)

Yesterday I pledged to vote for a female candidate in the 2020 Democratic Party Presidential Primary and this generated a lot of discussion and debate on Facebook so I want to delve into this deeper.

TRANSCRIPT:

“G’Day folks! Today there are two things I want to discuss with you.

First, I want to clarify my purpose for making these vlogs.

You see, YouTube recommends I work on a trailer to make this channel more enticing so you and so many other people will want to subscribe. Like a college student who wants to get a 100 percent on his senior capstone thesis, I’m trying to adhere to every bit of seemingly reasonable advice. It comes highly suggested that I explain to you my purpose, that I describe my content, the type of videos I produce, and what you can expect to get out of my channel.

Well, this is a video diary. What does one get out of watching such a thing?

In theory, greater knowledge of humanity, “the human condition,” “the human experience” as artists, philosophers and readers might say (?)… greater knowledge of….a RECORD OF what people, in their deepest depths, appear to be like.

The way I look at it…someone has got to do the record keeping of the so called soul searching, of the individual’s streaming consciousness, or thoughts, or mind… whatever you might want to call that phenomena which is that “inner life of the self.”

I figure it is logical for me to do this because I’m in love with uninhibited personal thoughts that seek clarity of meaning in life because I believe it leads to greater universal understanding, thus facilitating a deepening empathy among us.

Like my favorite essayist Michel de Montaigne— and I’m gonna quote the back of my book collection of his essays here:

he discussed subjects as diverse as war-horses and cannibals, poetry and politics, sex and religion, love and friendship, ecstasy and experience. But above all, Montaigne studied himself as a way of drawing out his own inner nature and that of men and women generally.

My goal is to follow in his footsteps, and explore humanity’s inner nature within the medium of the vlog which I believe is a most revolutionary form of self expression for its intense intimacy. Video hasn’t been around much longer than a somewhat over a century compared to other art mediums, and vlogging in particular is radically new.

I’d like these vlogs also to reflect…somehow…a spirit of unconventionality married to logic (as I think all good innovation is)–…. And since the medium of the vlog really still is in its early, early infancy, I think now is a perfect time to try it–I want do talk to you in a way that is (and forgive me for the brief oncoming  adjective storm here)…in a way that is philosophical yet artistic, theoretical yet practical, intellectual yet emotionally open, to utter the opposite of a tweet– I mean the opposite of fast paced, short, off the cuff thoughts on this and that. Instead, I strive for depth and the fulfillment of an aspiration I’ve clung to since I was 18 (I’m 33 now) which has been to do contribute to something culturally exciting, revolutionary and which makes the world a better place.

Some people that come to my mind: Like Michel de Montaigne, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Nietzsche, Van Gogh, Helen Keller, Dostoevsky, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Martin Luther King Jr., Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Ariana Huffington, Mark Zuckerberg, President Obama— they’re not the only ones but I hope they might bring to your mind a sense of what I aspire to.

Yesterday I pledged to vote for a female candidate in the 2020 Democratic Party Presidential Primary and this generated a lot of discussion and debate on Facebook so I want to delve into this deeper. (I do want to also point out that I am not alone in this point of view, though I did think maybe I was as I hadn’t stolen this or adopted this opinion from anyone on tv or in the media. But I did discover this morning an article from VOX, written by Matthew Yglesias also calling for us all to vote for a woman president.

My friend William Scott Smith from West Texas deeply disagrees with me here and remarked that I “blame gender” in general for the fact that a woman has never been president of the United States.

To be clear, I do not and never said I do “blame gender.”

I do blame misogyny and sexism though.

Sadly, anti-woman thinking is all around us which is perhaps most evident in the anti-abortion laws emerging, especially the one in Alabama which outlaws abortion entirely, even when the woman is raped, unless the procedure will save her life. (It is ultimately a woman’s body, and I do think nature makes it therefore, quite clear that the woman should be in charge of what goes on with respect to what she does about her pregnancy. One could ask, “what about the body of a fetus, and what about when it can live outside the womb?” which I do think is a fair question however my answer to this, to the best of my thinking is that you have to ask, is a woman a slave to that which is unborn inside her and until outside of her, subject to her body?

Metaphysically speaking, the answer seems to speak for itself. I wonder then if it might be fair to suggest that constitutionally protected, defined person-hood should begin at birth. I would think, if we are contemplating from the point of view of moral theories, that the Natural Rights theory, properly applied would suggest as much.)

William Scott Smith also says I am “voting for a woman because she is a woman” which he adds is “identity politics.” Maybe it is identity politics but that doesn’t prove it’s illogical or destructive politics. When someone expresses something with greater clarity than I can I like to cite that person, so I’m gonna cite Washington Post columnist Helaine Olen here. She asks:

[what about] a form [of identity politics] that goes mostly unrecognized and unacknowledged. A minority with power and money — white men, mostly wealthy, often religious or pretending to be so — [which] has controlled societal and political norms so effectively that when those left outside simply insist on their rights, they are viewed as angry, resentful, demanding and divisive. When ‘identity politics’ is practiced in such a way that it allows a small group to access and maintain power, it gets labeled as ‘norms’ and treated as simply the way the world works.’

To that I say “amen!”

Part of understanding the well-being of the individual must include the well-being of the individuals within the wider society. In a society that fails to value inclusiveness and diversity sufficiently there is prejudice, bigotry, racism, sexism, classism, exploitation, elitism– unhealthy social trends run amok.

And in the interest of improving society and thus…to speak figuratively here…cleaning up and purifying the air on this earth which we ALL breathe,  we do need to ask, what actions can we take to bring more inclusiveness and diversity to our society, to our global community.

Does that mean I am voting for a woman simply because she is a woman?

No.

I am voting for a woman because there are so many candidates, men and women, who are in my estimation, equally qualified, (among the men for example, I think Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro are qualified) that it complicates the usual criteria and that we thus need to look to other criteria for how we elect a president and how we understand what it means to elect a president as well as what we understand the role of the president to be …(versus the question also of what the presidency ought to be. For example, I do not think a president ought to have as much power as the president has come to possess. Foreign Affairs and Washington Post have both written about how the excessive power of the president and the weakness of the congress– how this imbalance has harmed America on various fronts…)

But based on where we are now, as Matthew Iglesias puts it:

“One of the important ways electing a woman to the presidency would matter is by providing a role model. Role models make a large, quantifiable difference in life. Detailed empirical studies by the Equality of Opportunity Project show that girls who grow up in places where there are an unusually large number of woman inventors are unusually likely to themselves grow up to become inventors. Similarly, Amelia Showalter’s research shows that when women get elected to statewide office, more women start running for state legislature.”

(With respect to role modeling and the power of images in media I would also refer you to research I cited in my essay on Native AMerican writer elissa Washuta and her approach to bringing down stereotyping)

The bottom line is that in a pool of so many talented people of different demographic sorts, when the leadership position in this country has for so long exluded those qualified demographic sorts, it is fair to say it is time for us to open that leadership position up to those who for so long have been denied it.

I am going to leave it there for today and want to thank you for your time. Please let me know what you think in the comments below and I hope you subscribe to my channel!

Public Comment is a personal journal vlog where I share my free thoughts on politics, culture, and self.

Please feel free to share your thoughts with me at sean.publiccomment@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter at 
https://twitter.com/sopubliccomment 


On Sexism Against Women (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog– episode #19)

...out of six women candidates, to suggest that they’re all uniquely unqualified in contrast the remaining 18 men would be highly suggestive of an appearance of a prevailing misogynistic or sexist impulse in our politics.

I see no reason why, after over two centuries of male leadership in the executive branch, at a time when a quarter of the candidates are female, a woman should be denied the presidency at this point. I do believe there is a role for inclusiveness in things…when there is a disproportionate amount of people excluded from something I think we need to ask how there can be more inclusion.

TRANSCRIPT:

It delights me to chat with you today folks. (By the way, I’m searching for the right greeting. I’m sick of “greetings ladies and gentlemen!” because it assumes everyone watching is a lady or a gentleman” ((not that I’m assuming impolite society is watching here but I do strive for as much accuracy and objectivity and as few assumptions as possible)) and “greetings” as I’ve said in videos for over a decade now just sounds too…generic…to me. Greetings?What kind of greetings? Right?)

Anyway…today I’ll be chatting with you exclusively about women.

Evidence suggests that my vlogs–almost entirely… fail to interest the female sex, compared to men and this troubles me. Last night before bed I was contemplating this issue, worrying, thinking, wow, what the hell is wrong with me? How could I so unilaterally repel– virtually– an entire sex?

You see, I use an application called “Tube Buddy” to track how many or how few people watch my YouTube vlogs. For example, Tube Buddy tells me that 60.7 percent of my viewers are between the ages of 25-34. 68.4 percent of my audience watches these vlogs on a desktop computer.

Now, when it comes to male versus female viewership, 94 percent of my audience, according to Tube Buddy is male.

I find this unacceptable on my part and this means I do need to seriously evaluate possible causes. Forgive me if something seemingly, and implicitly sexist ever came out of my mouth for I seek to live as decent person.  

My friend from William Paterson University, Rahinne Ambrose, suggests I ask you directly- what issues are important to you? So I’m asking you: gals out there…lasses (i love the words “lad” and “lass) what issues are important to you? And I suppose another thing I’d like to know– do you have any thoughts on why men might not prioritize these issues as much as you do?

In the meantime, I’m an extremely impatient person so I wanted to start researching this issue of matters that women care about in 2019 to gain a better understanding now.

Three particular articles struck me most this morning.

The first is an article from ThoughtCo which highlighted sexism and gender bias as a top issue on the female mind these days.

In the context of this as a video-diary vlog of a white, straight, heterosexual male, I wonder, what might be the most appropriate and meaningful way for me to appreciate this particular concern of sexism and gender bias?

I suppose taking the time to think and talk about it would be a good start.

I feel especially sensitive to this issue of sexism and gender bias.

I lived for a time under the roof of a single mother. My mother left my father when I was three. So that would have been around 1990. I remember the day we “left.”

My mother picked me up from preschool and said we were moving. I said “is Dad coming?” and she said “no.” Strange though it may seem, I didn’t appear on the surface worry about my father not moving with us. I had not seen him so much up to that point in my life. Or if I did, I don’t have any memories except for one…him sticking his dirty, hairy feet in the bath tub when my little brother and I were taking a bath. To the best of my knowledge my father worked long days and come home late and wasn’t so much a part of my earliest upbringing.

I don’t really know the full details of why the marriage between my mother and father ended. But to bring this story back to the topic of sexism and gender bias I actually, just upon thinking about this, note some things.

My mother had custody of my little brother and I. Yes, every other weekend I saw my father and that was okay, but what does that signify about my father’s view of fatherhood, man’s role in raising children, in contrast to the woman’s?

I do realize my mother was bound to be the one who had custody over us…but that to me is a major point for consideration. My mother took responsibility for raising my brother and I…she did so in a manner that was quite gung-ho.

What did this mean to my father?

To what extent (if it all) and how (if it all) might he have grappled with this?

In some respects his apparent negligence really seems without excuse.

My father was a psychologist who specialized in couples counseling. To say he couldn’t have wrapped his mind…intellectually– around a father’s responsibility to his children, not just as a father to his children, but as a partner in parenting with the woman he had children with, as someone with concern about her well-being in the situation, quite regardless of their romantic relationship …I just think that seems like an illogical supposition.

My father liked, also, to cling to how awful his father was.

(That is one thing he opened up to me about quite vividly in our final years together).

The story goes, as I know it, that my father’s dad, according to my father, only married his mother because he wanted to know he could have her…to have sex with her and make her his wife and that after this he no longer was interested in marriage or family life and so he went to fight in World War II.

Upon returning he started a new family with a new wife, had a daughter and acted for many years as if he was not my father’s dad.

I am told my father once went to visit him at the insurance agency where he worked for decades and when my father introduced himself to his father’s secretary asking to see him the secretary said something to the effect of: “I’ve known your father for so many years and he never once said anything about having a son,” and this is something my father pointed to as traumatizing for him.

I don’t doubt that but still don’t believe this excuses his lack of emphatic parental responsibility and respect for the undue burden this put on my mother, who for a time, went to night school, while working a job…meanwhile, how very comfortably my father lived with his substantial income as a private psychologist. I don;t claim to know the economic/ fiduciary details of talks and agreements or lack there of or issues between my mother and father but I have no evidence that he went out of his way to help my mother out in any truly substantive way beyond child support money which was often late.

What exactly explains my father’s treatment of my mother and his fatherhood role?

He was perhaps not so different in certain respects from his father because he can’t even claim to have some kind of intellectual disinterest in women considering the fact that one of his life passions was photographing nude women and speaking at length of his views on the justification of sexual liberation, pornography, and things of that sort.

It almost seems…but I won’t say I can quite claim…but still it seems…as though my father actually objectified women and viewed them mostly as sex objects, prioritizing his nudist photography and stock pile of pornography over a substantive relationship with a woman.

Of course…things are never that simple.

Philosophical, psychological and contextual questions would need to be addressed.

By that I mean….what was the source of my father’s view of women?

I think a Nietzschean examination would be interesting. One of Nietzsche’s most interesting points…to me… is his Will To Power idea…his idea that people cling to that which they believe brings them so much power. A possible suggestion then, from this point of view, might be that my father viewed…sexual prowess or sexual indulgence as more empowering than husband life and fatherhood?

That seems still like an over simplification though.

And meanwhile, maybe I’m talking too much about him right now and not enough about my amazing mother.

He had the experience of retreating from the demands of day to day parenting and all the stress and complexities, from the psychological, to the economic to the practical, et cetera, that my mother did not have.

I cannot help but think of that line by Jason Isbell

all the years I took from her just by being born.

What if it could have been the other way around? If my mother could have explored something in life (for my father it was psychology, and sex…it would seem) that deeply interested her beyond parenting, and intense economic concern (not that we were poor so much as we grew up mindful that we were not rich and that every dollar counted. In contrast, my father often didn’t hesitate to hand me a fifty dollar bill and say “get outta here.”)  

I’m not suggesting my mother would have wanted it another way, or not significantly another way.

I understand that being a mother is something she was interested in.

But how could her life have been better if she had been treated better by my father.

By the way…I am not saying that has to mean I wish they stayed together. I love my stepfather and every way I imagine the possibilities I see him as the best thing in the world for her. My stepfather treats my mother right– he openly speaks about his interest in her well-being.

Sadly, I do not recall my father ever saying “how is your mother?” Maybe he did and I just forget but clearly then he never went out of his way in such a fashion that it burned in memory.

I think my father may have indeed been a sexist.

 He failed at marriage three times. Now I have no right whatsoever to delve into the details behind precisely how those marriages ultimately failed but I can tell you I saw more of an indication from my father that women served a purpose of sexual thrills than deep relationships that took interest in the wider well-being of the women he was most intimate with…well at least in the case of my mother.  

I don’t begrudge my father’s deep interest in sexuality, or his deep interest in sexual connections with women. That seems to me, unfair, over simplifying things, even to a point of mistreating women…because women are sexual just as men are and those aspects of life are important aspects of life…but did it take precedence over my father’s view of the ramifications of a society where men and women did not and still do not often quite fare the same? Did my father feel profound concern for my mother’s economic well-being? Did he feel concern about how his negligence in the field of parenting negatively impacted my mother and how deeply unfair and harmful it was?

Another article I came across that struck me is an article published by the American Psychological Association. In this article I read in the introduction that

a large number of cross-sectional, longitudinal, and cohort-sequential studies have provided evidence that across cohorts, samples, and measures […] men tend to have higher self esteem than women

This is another troubling finding about our society today and I believe in fact that the topic of self-esteem stretches beyond sex and/or gender though for the remainder of my time with you, I will confine this to the element of this topic concerning women.

While I do not believe politics ever serves as a panacea, I do believe policies can have tremendous cultural impacts.

In light of this, I believe, with the 2020 Democratic primary election coming up we are in a unique position to bring special attention to women’s issues.

6 of the 24 candidates for president in the Democratic primary election are women. Now….I’m very poor at math but I know 6 x 4= 24 which means one fourth, one quarter of the candidates are female.

In my thinking….out of six women candidates, to suggest that they’re all uniquely unqualified in contrast the remaining 18 men would be highly suggestive of an appearance of a prevailing misogynistic or sexist impulse in our politics.

I see no reason why, after over two centuries of male leadership in the executive branch, at a time when a quarter of the candidates are female, a woman should be denied the presidency at this point. I do believe there is a role for inclusiveness in things…when there is a disproportionate amount of people excluded from something I think we need to ask how there can be more inclusion.

We have the means for women to become much more inclusive in American politics than ever before in this election. I believe this is something we ought to do. And I believe this could pay major dividends in elevating the self esteem not just of women but all oppressed groups.

I believe this would be taking a lesson from winning corporate practices in Europe. As the economist reports in the February 17, 2018 article “Ten years on from Norway’s quota for women on corporate boards:”

In 2008 Norway obliged listed companies to reserve at least 40% of their director seats for women on pain of dissolution. In the following five years more than a dozen countries set similar quotas at 30% to 40%. In Belgium, France and Italy, too, firms that fail to comply can be fined, dissolved or banned from paying existing directors.

Following this notion of a quota, of ensuring inclusiveness, I believe pledging to support a female candidate, when so many women are running, is a good move.

Public Comment is a personal journal vlog where I share my free thoughts on politics, culture, and self.

Please feel free to share your thoughts with me at sean.publiccomment@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter at 
https://twitter.com/sopubliccomment