All Together NOW!

Feminist holdouts need to put their anger behind them and vote for their best interests.

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The National Organization for Women's recent endorsement of Barack Obama ordinarily would not be such a big deal. Even though the organization endorsed Hillary Clinton in the primaries, it makes sense that the group would channel its energy to the Democratic nominee. Still, with all the tension around gender and race that spilled over during the primaries, the NOW endorsement of Obama earlier this week had the feel of a consolation prize.

That said, it was a consolation prize that Obama sorely needed—and welcomed.

Obama needs the help of the leading white feminist organization for a number of reasons—to help older white voters feel comfortable about his age and experience, to convince white working-class voters that he will not just be the president for black people and to persuade undecided white voters—especially undecided women or disgruntled Hillary supporters—to give him a chance.

It's not like NOW had a lot of other options. It could certainly not back John McCain, a candidate whose positions on pay equity, reproductive choice and Supreme Court appointments, among other issues, are anathema to their core principles.

Still, NOW's leadership could have decided to sit out this election and taken a Hillary-or-no-one position. Camp Obama should be relieved that they did not. With the campaign in a virtual dead heat (at least according to some polls), the "Palin Factor" pulling independent and undecided voters off the fence and still-angry Clinton supporters vowing to go with McCain, being NOW's second choice is not so bad. It signals that even an organization viewed as the voice of liberal, middle-class white women—the very women who made up a good portion of Clinton's base—understands what's at stake in this election and, despite disappointment over Clinton's loss, would not sacrifice their long-term political interests to make a short-term political point.

Gloria Steinem, a prominent Clinton supporter who is also now backing Obama, argued the same position in a widely read Op-Ed earlier this month. "To vote in protest for McCain-Palin would be like saying, 'Somebody stole my shoes, so I'll amputate my legs,''' she wrote.

Even Emily's List, the influential political advocacy group founded to help elect more Democratic pro-choice women to office, has urged Clinton supporters to vote for Obama. Emily's List did this despite the fact that they endorsed Clinton, thrashed Obama during the primaries and criticized NARAL Pro-Choice America last spring for endorsing Obama.

These organizations deserve credit for taking a stand. The question now is will their flock, the rank-and-file members still smarting over Clinton, follow these leads and actually vote for Obama? Or will they rationalize voting for a right-wing, anti-choice male candidate by saying they're really voting for his female running mate? The angry, die-hard Hillaryites—the PUMAs (aka Party Unity My Ass), the Clintons for McCain and the Just Say No Deal crowd—are a tiresome and annoying bunch. Unfortunately, they also have a following.

Despite some signs that good portions of white female Clinton supporters are, in fact, coming around to Obama, a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that "Just 50 percent of Clinton supporters say they're 'definitely' for Obama."

The poll also found that: "White women have moved from 50-42 percent in Obama's favor before the conventions to 53-41 percent for McCain now, a 20-point shift in the margin that's one of the single biggest post-convention changes in voter preferences."