Ex-Democratic congresswoman Lynn Schenk, fresh from the local campaign trail as Hillary Clinton’s San Diego chairwoman, has circulated a lengthy email to volunteers and contributors giving her take on her candidate’s defeat, which she attributes to the media, along with the sexism of Democratic chairman Howard Dean. “Hello wonderful Hillary supporters,” the message begins. “Some people have asked why they have not heard from me after Hillary suspended her campaign. The truth is, I have been without words sufficient to express the many thoughts and feelings churning within me. I have lost my own elections and have faced defeat in other arenas, but nothing has affected me as this primary outcome has. Also, I did not want to write from anger.
“For the past nearly 40 years,” Schenk continues, “I have devoted a good part of my life, my time, my work and my money to advancing the causes of women — in law, in politics, in business and in society. Always, always I was fueled by hope that when sexism was pointed out that the ‘majority’ of people would see it and act to eliminate it.
“Oh, there would always be ‘those people’ who didn’t ‘get it,’ but in my mind they would be in the distinct minority because the good people of this amazing country, this breathtaking experiment in pluralism, would do what is right just because we are so fair minded.
“For over 40 years, my ultimate political fantasy, which would be the exclamation point to my life’s work, was the election of a Democratic woman as President of the United States. Yes we have eliminated so many blatant forms of sexism, so many obvious roadblocks to the advancement of women, yes we have created so many opportunities that 40 years ago were almost unimaginable.
“But I am suffused with sadness as I realize what effort still lies ahead. How do we get at the subtle sexism, the subconscious sexism the structural sexism that even good and well-intentioned people (some women as well as most men) don’t see and don’t acknowledge?
“The journalists who are indignant that they are being accused of sexism? I think most of them are good people who would be horrified to have someone point out examples of racist bias or bias against the disabled etc in their coverage.
“I believe that they believe they are not sexist. I believe that they believe they treated Hillary as just another candidate, customizing their questions and coverage to the sum of who she is. But that is why I am so sad. They don’t see it, understand it, or get it, that inherent in that ‘customizing’ is sexism.
“I am ineffably sad that the head of the Democratic Party, an otherwise good and decent man, did not understand his own sexism. He did not call out that ‘enough is enough’ when a woman in New Hampshire asked Sen. McCain, ‘how are we going to beat the bitch?’ or when men held up a wrinkled shirt and taunted Hillary with ‘iron my shirt.’ So there is so much left to be done.”
Schenk, an ex-aide to former governor Gray Davis recently appointed to the board of Sempra Energy, concludes by telling her followers to support the party’s presumptive nominee, Barack Obama, with conditions. “I have participated in several calls with [Clinton] and she is without question committed to a Democratic win in November. She is equally committed to her ‘team’ being treated with respect. So, if you are inclined to participate as she has asked us to do, please consider doing it in such a way that the Obama campaign knows you are doing so through ‘Team Hillary.’ ”