May 30, 2008

beware forwarded political emails. you have been warned.

Beware, Democrats. Email is no longer your friend.

Last night I read an email containing the text of an op-ed about the Democratic primary. A Clinton supporter, a well-credentialed woman, pointed out how the primary has illustrated both subtle and overt sexism in our country, and how the rules are different for women than for men in politics. There were solid points and well reasoned opinions.

But there were also a few over-the-top statements claiming that a sexist nation "stole" the primary from Clinton. And the conclusion was that women with principles must, by moral imperative, stay away from the polls in November if Obama wins the nomination.

I was flabbergasted at the conclusion. How could an educated doctor of psychology with over 20 books to her name conclude that withholding her vote in November would be good for anyone? It wouldn't be good for Clinton, it wouldn't be good for the voter, it wouldn't be good for society, and it certainly wouldn't be good for the principles of democracy. The only one it would be good for would be John McCain.

This conclusion left me very unsettled, so I looked for the original text in the Baltimore Sun.

Wait a minute. Where are the statements that the primary was stolen from Clinton? Where is the angry conclusion about not voting in November if Obama wins the nomination?

What I received in email was not the actual text of the op-ed, yet it was being forwarded as if it were.

Now, putting your own words in someone else's mouth is nothing new in politics. But the implications of this email, which is a very clever and sinister attempt by the opposition to keep Democratic voters away from the polls in the fall, are chilling. And even more chilling is the willingness of educated, reasonable, strongly liberal feminists to get whipped into a frenzy and agree with the false conclusion. If this were not the case, then why would I have been forwarded the email by her educated, reasonable, strongly liberal feminist (lesbian) friend? Someone felt strong enough agreement to pass along the text.

Be careful out there. Approach every politically angled text with a healthy cynicism and a critical eye. Make your own conclusions, and don't trust your friends to make conclusions for you. They just might be basing their thoughts on misinformation.

And finally, if you are considering withholding your vote in November rather than vote for Obama, please write in Clinton's name instead. Do not abstain. Use your voice; use your vote. Be counted. Abstention is not protest; non-action creates non-results. And, when you're there with your pen ready to write in Clinton's name while someone beside you is ticking the box for McCain, you just might realize what's at stake and make a different decision.

UPDATE: I found a copy on line of what is supposedly the author's email reply. The final paragraph states that she plans on writing in Clinton's name in November, which is different from the email I received last night. The email that was forwarded to me said she would stay home and refuse to vote.

FURTHER UPDATE: I decided to email the author (Dr. Lynette Long) and ask her about the email texts attributed to her. A copy of my email appears below. We shall see if she replies. Stay tuned.

Dear Dr. Long,

I have seen two different versions of an email attributed to you. The one that I hope is real can be found at The conclusion is that you plan on writing in Hillary Clinton's name when the November election rolls around.

The version I received from a friend last night, which caused me to read the original text of your excellent op-ed in the Baltimore Sun, had some different text. In it, the conclusion was that you would withhold your vote in November and stay away from the polls entirely.

Is either one of these emails actually your writing?

I personally believe that either candidate would make strong President, and I vowed long ago to vote for whoever won the primary. I agree that our society is rife with blatant and subtle sexism, but it is not limited to politics and certainly not to the DNC. Simply walk through any suburban shopping mall, flip through the magazines in any Barnes & Noble, tune in to any "reality" TV show. Sexism is endemic in our national psyche, as are racism and ageism and now, thanks to Bush, xenophobia.

I fail to see how a protest vote of any kind is ever a productive thing. Consider the two outcomes of a Clinton write-in campaign:
1. Obama wins. In that case, the write-in tally for Clinton will be forgotten amid the election coverage by the "sexist" media who then will gush over the first ever black President. The Clinton write-in will be a footnote at best, and the DNC will gladly ignore whatever numbers they see. Feminism will become irrelevant to the DNC and even more marginalized as it had no impact on the outcome.
2. Obama loses. In that case, the write-in tally will be blamed for the loss. Rather than being seen as a powerful voting bloc, the feminist Democratic movement will be seen as the root cause of "four more years" of war, fear, and failed energy and health care and education policies. Feminists will be painted as selfish and shortsighted, not as powerful and principled. Why? Because your write-in vote won't suddenly make the press stop being sexist, particularly if a white man wins the election. And the DNC will want to make sure such a write-in campaign never happens again.

I hope you will reconsider your position. As a relatively privileged white male, I am highly aware of the biases that shape my opinions. And while I admire your passion and encourage you to continue to fight against sexism everywhere in our society, I think your protest vote is a well intentioned yet misguided action. I do not think it will have the impact you hope it will, particularly because of all the points you illuminate in your most excellent op-ed.

Thank you for your time and attention. I hope to hear a reply from you regarding the email text and also regarding my opinions above. I agree that the world would be a better place if run by women, and I hope to see that in my lifetime. But the country needs NOT to have McCain in charge for the next four years.



JaneyV said...

As somebody who will be directly affected by the outcome of this election despite having no say whatsoever in who wins - I am really scared by this kind of manipulation. As a member of the human race I would beg the American public NOT to inflict another 4 years of Republican politics on the world. I think both the Democratic candidates are strong and would be happy for either to win although the shit flinging during the primaries has wound me right up. Stick to the frickin' issues guys.

Thanks for writing your email Pete. It was well constructed and powerful - I hope the good Dr sees fit to respond.

(If not I know an Irish Turkey who'll run in oppoistion to McCain!)

PJD said...

Ha! You've heard the term "yellow dog Democrat"? It's someone who would vote for a yellow dog before voting for a Republican.

I propose we change that to "Irish Turkey Democrat," because I would be so totally willing to vote for that Irish turkey over anyone even remotely associated with the Bush administration. Anyway, it might be a lot of fun to have that turkey as the leader of the free world. Gives new meaning to the old saw, "talking turkey."

Sarah Laurenson said...

Great post, Pete.

And the one who forwarded it blindly? Just another e-mail sheeple. One of many who pass along an e-mail without checking its veracity. *sigh* Too many of those in this world.

Thanks for the heads up!

And I'm sorry but writing in Clinton's name is almost as bad as not voting. We need to stick together no matter what (or who)!

Maria Dudley said...

I didn't read it carefully enough to notice!

I absolutely agree with you... maybe I need to go and read it a bit more carefully now. I'll forward you Lin's response -- she was mad about it too....

Robin S. said...


I think it's great that you care enough to actually do something - take the time to write the letter, and to speak out.

It will be really interesting to see if you receive a reply.

PJD said...

Still no response from Dr. Long. But really, I didn't expect one. For one thing, she's gotta be entirely snowed under with emails, even more so than a literary agent who announces she is running a free manuscript critique contest. So she probably skimmed it, if she even opened it, and either tossed it away or set it aside for further thought.

Anonymous said...

A principle is a principle. Write-in makes a sense to me as I can't vote for a person who acknowledges but don't mind that the victory was stolen from Hillary. Obama is a total narcissist if he even thinks about running for President with that tiny portfolio he has. I don't care for his race but he should have been more experiences or at least have some original ideas not just copy-paste from other candidates.

While I supported all Democrat candidates from Dukakis to Kerry, I can't help wondering how unprofessional DNC is to seriously endorse Obama this fall. So Democrats deserve to lose if they think they can put any candidate to win over GOP with one finger!