Earlier today, The Albany Times-Union’s State Editor, Jay Jochnowitz, posted this report on the paper’s Capitol Confidential blog: “The National Organization for Women’s New York chapter issued a scathing reaction to Sen. Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. Actually, the word ‘scathing’ feels inadequate here.”

It does here, too. The Politico’s Ben Smith summed the release up in one word: “Whoa.” Slate’s Emily Bazelon added a few of her own: “Whoa is right. Also woe. Also wow.”

If you’re in the mood for some vitriol, you can read the NOW reaction here; otherwise, here’s the condensation:

The piece begins: “Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal.”

And it concludes: “This latest move by Kennedy, is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority and our ability - indeed, our obligation - to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a President that is the first woman after centuries of men who ‘know what’s best for us.’”

The release’s message is as flawed as its prose; indeed, it seems almost beside the point to note that Obama’s record when it comes to so-called women’s issues is virtually identical to Clinton’s. Still, NOW’s gender-uber-alles reaction to the Kennedy endorsement seems worth pointing out—especially (no pun intended, but) now, coming out of South Carolina and going into Super Tuesday—as a general example of the pitfalls of identity politics. Gender is a factor in the election this year; that doesn’t make it a mandate.





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Update: The AP reports on January 29:

The national office of NOW in Washington, D.C., which has endorsed Clinton, released its own statement.

“The National Organization for Women has enormous respect and admiration for Senator Edward Kennedy,” NOW President Kim Gandy wrote. “For decades Senator Kennedy has been a friend of NOW, and a leader and fighter for women’s civil and reproductive rights, and his record shows that.”

Gandy said her group respects Kennedy’s decision to back Obama.

‘We continue to encourage women everywhere to express their opinions and exercise their right to vote,’ she said.


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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.