When I think of people who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s I quickly see names and images fly through my mind: Civil Rights, Vietnam, SDS, draft dodgers, Watergate, and Tom Hayden. Tom's name is synonymous with resistance and doing good work.
Interestingly he is not known as a fierce fighter for women's rights. In the symbolic hallways of feminist history Tom Hayden's name might emerge briefly once or twice. Yet, at the Democratic Party Executive Board Meeting in Long Beach this past June feminism is exactly what Tom Hayden and I discussed and it was in the context of Hillary Clinton.
Initially, I had met his assistant Emma Taylor, and we chatted about Hillary whom she was supporting. She introduced me to Tom, who was also a Hillary supporter.
He was dapper in his hat and tie and relaxed in his manner. He seemed at home in this raucous group of California democrats who were in the middle of state party elections (he was running for a seat.) I saw his name earlier on the list outside a ballroom door and thought "Tom Hayden. This is a long life, his and possibly mine, too. From national political fame to this state contest on a long of list of people I don't know." After Emma introduced me Tom was immediately absorbed in what I wanted to talk about - his endorsement of Hillary.
Tom Hayden clearly took the feminist road to the White House by endorsing Hillary and not the hero of the progressive left for 2016, Bernie Sanders. In today's polarized politics he took a risk in losing his base.
We began our talk while standing and then he asked if we could move the conversation to two empty chairs. Tom talked to me about the hate he received after he endorsed Hillary for President. Many progressive activists considered him a traitor and he was struck by the vitriol for her by leftists. It really perplexed him and I sensed he had been thinking about it. I admitted that I had been saddened and discouraged by that as well.
He asked me my opinion and he listened carefully. I said that for me it seemed archetypal. I felt that many couldn't square the reality of a democratic woman who could see the world through feminist eyes and also through the eyes of a Senator for all and ultimately as a Commander in Chief. He mulled that over and smiled approvingly, but wouldn't commit to my theory. He had more to think about on that subject.
He felt that Bernie Sanders was too ensconced in the homogenous state of Vermont to be a fully effective President. He did say to me that a guy like Bernie was not ready for Black Lives Matter, let alone the White House. We laughed at that.
We didn't solve one of the conundrums of our time; the resistance to a female president who has spent a lifetime fighting for children and women by those on the progressive left. Although it was enjoyable to scratch at the surface of a topic that will be discussed in the years to come.
Tom didn't win his election that weekend in Long Beach.
Last night I saw #TomHayden trending on Twitter and I knew he had died. I told Emma I was sorry.
Tom Hayden won't see Hillary Clinton elected, an historic journey that has been decades in the making. That makes me sad.
Tom and Hillary, two people whose names form part of the backdrop of my life. Both of them embody the heartfelt passion of always doing good work in the world. Doing good work never ends and there is a lot of good to do.