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National NOW Times >> Summer, 2000 >> Article

NOW's Bush-Whacker Campaign Heats Up

by Linda Berg, Political Director

According to the Random House Dictionary, to "whack" is to "strike with a smart, resounding blow." That's exactly what delegates at the National NOW Conference in Miami directed the organization to do to George W. Bush's presidential campaign with the passage of a Bush-Whacking resolution.

Although Bush is masquerading as a moderate, his record on women's rights is abysmal. Poll numbers mean that his true background on women's issues cannot be well known. By launching a public information campaign exposing Bush's stance on feminist issues, NOW/PAC will strike a smart, resounding blow to his campaign.

Compassionate Conservative?

Bush supports a constitutional amendment to ban abortions. He supports parental consent and mandatory delays. He endorses an abortion procedures ban that even this conservative Supreme Court by a razor thin margin of 5 to 4 found too deceptive and dangerous to be constitutional. In short, Bush's position on reproductive rights legislation matches his promise that "I will do everything in my power to restrict abortion."

On affirmative action, Bush has stated his opposition and calls affirmative action "quotas and racial preferences."

He opposes hate crime legislation, saying "all crime is hate crime."

He opposes lesbians and gay men marrying or forming legally recognized civil unions. Bush supported a particularly nasty bill that would make it illegal for lesbians and gay men to adopt, and also fails to protect parents who came out as lesbian or gay after adopting-opening the door for the state to take back their children.

The state Bush is so proud of leading ranks worst in the nation in health care and in the percentage of children without health coverage and second from the bottom for children living in poverty. Is this compassionate conservatism?

With the next president having the power to appoint Supreme Court Justices who can either secure or destroy our rights, and with Bush citing Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas as those he most respects, NOW members know what is at stake in this election. Yet too many people are being taken in by Bush's warm and fuzzy rhetoric.

That's where the Bush Whackers come in. NOW chapters and activists have pledged to work to educate their communities on the risks of a Bush presidency to women. Chapters will form Bush Whacker teams to shadow Bush at campaign appearances and remind the public of his positions on the issues. When his true positions and core values are exposed, women can only abandon his candidacy.

Not Just a Presidential Election

While exposing Bush's record, NOW PACs throughout the country will be working feverishly to elect feminists to every level of political office. The PAC has learned through years of experience that while a presidential candidate may not spur enthusiasm among feminists, NOW activists and others get very energized at the prospect of electing feminists in their communities to public office.

"While activists work at the state and local levels to get out the vote for feminist candidates, we know that every voter we produce will be a vote against a presidential candidate sworn to restrict our rights." promises NOW President Patricia Ireland. "Anyone who turns out to vote for a NOW/PAC-endorsed candidate would never think of voting for someone with the policies of George W. Bush,"

As part of this strategy, NOW/PAC is targeting battleground states where the feminist vote could turn the national election around. One example is Michigan, where not only is a strong feminist Rep. Debbie Stabenow challenging the sitting right-wing incumbent Sen. Spencer Abraham, but feminist candidates are also running for the U.S. House in two important districts.

In Michigan in 1994, NOW/PAC launched a successful "Elect Women for A Change" program and worked to elect Stabenow to the governorship and Lynn Rivers to the House. Rivers won her seat in the House in 1994 and has since been a steadfast leader on feminist issues. While Stabenow didn't win the gubernatorial race that year, she established herself as a strong candidate and was able to parlay that run into a successful congressional race in 1996. This year she is campaigning to make the leap to the Senate, and polls show her neck-and-neck with the incumbent.

With Stabenow running for the Senate, NOW PAC will work to elect State Senator Dianne Byrum to her seat. A strong supporter of reproductive rights, Byrum was also the original sponsor of Michigan's strong anti-stalking legislation. NOW/PAC's strategy is to get enough voters to the polls to elect Stabenow, Rivers and Byrum, with the added bonus that these voters are unlikely to cast their ballots for a right-wing presidential candidate. Other states where NOW is using similar tactics include Illinois, Ohio, New York, New Jersey and Florida.

Over the next two months, NOW activists will be out in full force to educate voters about Bush's record and elect women's rights supporters to state and local offices. These candidates need activists' help - contact the National Action Center at 202-628-8669 or e-mail to get plugged into a local campaign and help whack Bush's campaign.

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