Interest group endorsements are critical to a primary campaign. Witness that all major Democrat hopefuls appeared at a construction-workers union conference last week, hoping to curry favor with big labor. The next day, Sen. Hillary Clinton returned to Washington to receive an endorsement from the National Organization for Women (NOW), another pillar of the liberal establishment. NOW's political action committee enthusiastically threw its weight behind Senator Clinton—the first woman with a seemingly real shot at the Presidency—and pledged to rally female voters across the country on her behalf.
NOW's "thumbs up" for Hillary is no surprise. Sen. Clinton's domestic policy agenda mirrors the organization's wish list. Both envision greater government involvement in nearly all aspects of life. NOW supports Hillary's 1994 vision of a government-run healthcare system, higher taxes, and more government regulation of the relationship between businesses and employees, from higher minimum wages to expanded family and medical leave benefits. And like Sen. Clinton, NOW opposes initiatives that give individuals more control of their lives, such as Social Security reforms that let workers own individuals personal retirement accounts or school choice programs that help low-income parents choose their children's school.
NOW agrees with Hillary that it "takes a village" to raise a child—or to care for an adult, for that matter. Sen. Clinton and her feminist sisters want the federal government to increase subsidies for daycare programs, boost spending for public education, further subsidize college tuition, mandate higher wages, provide healthcare throughout one's life, and provide generous income support during old age. In other words, they want Uncle Sam to be a cradle-to-grave caretaker.
Yet their similar visions aren't the real reason NOW is supporting Hillary. After all, the other leading Democratic candidates also pledge to push big government policies like Sen. Clinton. Both Senator Barack Obama and John Edwards arguably promise to be even more generous with taxpayer-funded programs. NOW has consistently opposed the Iraq war, joining with radical groups like Code Pink to sponsor numerous anti-war protests, while Senator Clinton has waffled between outright support for intervention in Iraq and tepid war critic. If policy principles were the only criteria, NOW likely would have sided with a different candidate.
NOW president Kim Gandy unabashedly ties her support for Sen. Clinton with her desire for a female President: "This is the legacy we can leave to our daughters and granddaughters: a dream realized and a new dawn for all who share the dream of equality and justice." NOW's PAC will now focus on its "Make History with Hillary" campaign, which will urge "women and men across this nation to stand up and say "I'm Ready for a woman president" and work to elect Senator Clinton.
NOW may be enthusiastic about the prospect of a woman president, but political handicappers shouldn't mistake NOW's endorsement of Senator Clinton as a proxy for American women. Few women share NOW's radical vision of greater government and few will cast their vote based on the candidate's gender.
A Harris poll found that Senator Clinton's support nearly evenly split between men and women, with 38 percent of women and 34 percent of men responding that they would vote for her. More men than women stated that they wouldn't vote for her, but still 45 percent of women have no intention of supporting the former First Lady.
Nine months before Iowa and New Hampshire's primaries, Sen. Clinton has many assets: she has a deep financial war chest, a seasoned political campaign staff and machine, near universal name recognition, and she now has a network of feminist activists working on her behalf. Yet she still has a long way to go before winning the presidency or winning the support of American women.