Again, in a sense, this is a book review, the book in question being one I gave to five friends for Xmas this year. "She's No Lady: Politics, Family and International Feminism" by Arvonne Fraser, Nodin Press, 2007. There is a part of it I believe may help us understand how and why the plus 100 million Hillary Clinton Campaign is on the verge of Crash and Burn. Garrison Keillor wrote the introduction, and has done a couple of hour long interviews with Arvonne on Public Radio as part of the "virtual book tour."
So who is the Author of this political biography? Garrison calls her "Saint Arvonne of the Church of Perpetual Responsibility" and it is a pretty good characterization. Post College, she went to work as the Office Manager for Hubert Humphrey's Senate Campaign in 1948, from there to Office Manager of the DFL, and then she married one of HHH's staffers, Don Fraser, and quickly had six children. Between taking care of kids, sewing all her own clothes and those of her kids, (no, she hates to cook), she mastered the art of campaign management, eventually getting Freeman elected Governor, helped elect Gene McCarthy, Organized JFK's 1960 Campaign, and got her Husband elected first to the State Senate, and in 1962, to the House of Rep. Moved to DC, she took over managing the office on the Hill, but quickly got interested in the emerging Feminist Movement, and after organizing Hill Staffers, she moved on to help birth NOW, the National and Minnesota Womens' Political Caucus, the Women's Equity Action League, and many other key feminist groups. In 1977, Carter appointed her Assistant Secretary of State for Women's Affairs. In between she wrote the language for Title IX, and got it through Congress. When Reagan eliminated the position in State in 1981, she brought many of the programs back to Minnesota, put them into the Humphrey Institute where she was appointed, raised the money to run them over the next 12 years.
In 1993, after Clinton's election, considerable lobbying went into getting the new administration to appoint her as the US Delegate to the UN Commission on the Status of Women -- and she was appointed. But after about three years, Hillary had Arvonne fired just before the Beijing UN Conference. According to Arvonne, Hillary did not want to bother with all the linked up Feminist Organizations that had carried this effort over the bad years of Reagan and Bush I, and thus decided Arvonne had to leave. She did. Arvonne did not exactly appreciate the fact that Hillary had one of Arvonne's best friends do the honors, and in addition have other Clinton people in State see too it that the US lost its seat on the UN Commission by not attending the meeting where nominations were done.
So Arvonne came home, ran a few more campaigns, kept her hand in, and decided to write her political biography. Came out last fall -- got much local attention given that any DFL'er who has ever managed a campaign gets Arvonne style training, (and we love her). Arvonne doesn't actually dislike Hillary -- she just doesn't think she has really paid her dues sufficent to claim the Feminist Halo. Arvonne understands that Marriages between people involved deeply in Poliics are pretty normal, but that unless each partner holds up their own end in their own field, the accomplishments of one partner do not necessarily pass through to the other partner. Anyhow, this election season she did not endorse Hillary, I am not sure who she prefers between Obama and Edwards, but I am sure she will organize her February 5th Precinct Caucus.
Because Garrison Keillor has done two hour long interviews with Arvonne on local Public Radio -- and because he asked questions about Hillary essentially ordering Arvonne eliminated from the State Department, this has become an undercurrent in the local DFL circles, and I am led to understand that across the country there are similar stories being told that do not serve the Clinton Presidential Campaign well. All the older Feminists who were in on the action in the late 60's and through the 70's know all about this sort of thing, and while many of them would love to see a woman elected President, they are not sure about this candidate, and they have withheld support. I think Arvonne's book and her story are at the root of it all. When leadership knows you had a hand in firing the woman who probably founded more specialized feminist organizations than anyone else -- you have cards to show before you get an endorsement. My guess is that the tale Arvonne tells has counterparts all over the country, and once the first little break occured in the dike around the Clinton Machine, the instinct was to walk away, to not engage with saving something for Hillary. Afterall, she fired Arvonne Fraser.
I have many more examples that fit in with this story -- the decision the Clinton's made to oppose Howard Dean's election to chair the DNC back in 2005, the efforts they made to stop in its tracks the 50 State Program that Dean helped plan, and has carefully executed. All that stuff coming out of Rahm Emanual in 2006 about Dean sending the DNC money to state party organizations, and not to Rahm's committee -- all that was about who owns the party, and who decides what outside movements are part of the party process and thus influence it. But right now I think the fact that Arvonne is telling her story, on radio that carries into South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and of course all of Minnesota has been somewhat influential. I suspect across the country, there are other very similar stories, and taken together they are the back story to the crash of the 100 million dollar campaign.
And don't forget that last name, Fraser. I will be coming back to it in my next post which will be about Caucus Rules, Math and Democratic Party Reforms. That is Arvonne's Husband.