Sunday, February 24, 2008

DON'T PILLORY HILLARY

This is truly the most exciting election year in my 4+ decades of voting.  Each political party had a real race over the past few months, engaging many voters in the process.  And as of this writing, the Democratic Party nominee is not yet identified.  

Perhaps the single greatest historic change is that the two candidates left standing on the Democrat side are a woman and a black man.  Many of us longed for the day that a woman or a person of color would be the nominee for President; now that outcome is a sure thing. 

In February, 2007, I wrote here a short piece titled "Is America Ready for a Woman or Black President?"  This was a comment related to the media focus on this question.  Here it is:  

Unfortunately, the fact that this question is asked means that we're not ready. If this is truly a democracy, why does it matter what gender, color, religion, etc. a candidate is? I wonder if this would even be a question if the media didn't keep hyping it. Perhaps we need to get beyond gender and color and religion identity, and just talk about candidates in terms of their qualifications, experience and positions on critical issues. I look forward to the day when the news isn't that so-and-so is the first woman or black such-and-such, and the focus is on the real story.

Well, I don't need to "look forward to the day" anymore - that day has been here, and now the focus is on the "qualifications, experience and positions" of Barak and Hillary.  (An interesting tangent is that in this election we usually refer to the D candidates by their first names - I think because the Hillary campaign didn't want the focus of her campaign to be "Clinton."  But that's another discussion.) 

As a result of Barak's amazing results in Iowa and other early contests, and his recent string of "wins,"  the pundits have pretty much concluded that Hillary is on the ropes and will not be the winner (headline from today's NY Times, beneath a head shot of a resolute, tight-lipped Hillary Clinton: "Soldiering On, but Somber as the Horizon Darkens"). I think there's a lot of "piling on" re: Hillary's campaign and the primary outlook, and some of it is just plain mean. The campaign post-mortems will be endless - and interesting.  Many pundits think that her campaign has made fatal and presumption-of-victory errors from the very beginning, while the Barak machinery, by comparison, has worked carefully and methodically to build an amazing base of support. I'm certain that candidates in the future will look very closely at these two campaign strategies and teams.

But the bottom line for me is that Hillary Clinton is a good person and would be a good President. (For the record, I'm in the Obama camp - this week, and probably for good.) If she were to become the nominee, I would campaign for her and vote for her.  If she indeed does not become the Democratic nominee, there will be many and long discussions after the dust settles about what went wrong for Mrs. Clinton, including discussions about the role of sexism (gender bias?) in her ultimate failure to win the nomination.  And this discussion should be engaged; it is important.  But I have to ask; if Clinton wins the nomination, will we have similar discussions about the role of racism in the Obama defeat?  It seems to me that there has been more media time spent on the gender question than on the race question. (A confounding variable is "the Clinton question.") Is there more gender bias in the USA (and perhaps the world) compared to race bias?  If nothing else, I hope that this election year elevates these questions to a prominent place in our national dialogue. 

I hope that the American public gives Hillary Clinton the credit she deserves for breaking an historic barrier, for putting herself under the microscope of public scrutiny and on the grill of media heat, and for standing up for democracy.  You go girl! 

3 comments:

pjd said...

I think the race issue will be less frequently discussed if Obama loses, in part because we've had bad black candidates in the past (Jackson, Sharpton). Obama has specifically not campaigned on race as those two frequently did; he has campaigned as a popularist and a uniter. At least, that's my impression. His appeal relies on that, plus his status as a Washington newcomer (or outsider, if you prefer), with only a few years there.

Clinton, however smart and capable she is (and I agree that she'd be a very good president), will never completely escape the impeachment baggage, just as she can rely on the lift she gets from Bill's success. This makes her a divisive figure in America, and I worry that the moment she takes the oath of office the far right war dogs will be loosed in attack, and her presidency would be marked not by progress but by even more partisan conflict.

Obama, at least, has the benefit of a relatively clean slate.

On the issues, they are to my eyes much the same candidate. And unlike four years ago, I feel we have a choice between two very strong candidates. It's no longer "anyone other than W."

But you're right... don't count Hillary out at this stage. The Clintons are winners if nothing else.

Tiffany said...

I think the big thing that Hilary has against her is that she's a Clinton. And that's the paradox - if she wasn't a Clinton would she have gotten so far on her own?

I lean more towards Hilary but I dislike the idea of dynasty politics. So that leaves Obama, who reminds me of Tony Blair.

Tony replaced John Major when I lived in England. Tony was young, charismatic and labor. (Plus, he gave a great speech - sound familiar?) Unfortunately, the hype and promise didn't live up to a stellar job performance. Maybe it's unfair to compare Blair to Obama, but I can't help but feel cautious about Obama.

I agree with you Paul when you say that this is a very exciting election!

Paul said...

Thanks to both of you; your comments are on the mark. What's exciting, as you both indicate, is that we can have these discussions because we have two very strong candidates. Added to this is the fact that this primary cycle is not a done deal like so many on the past. When I was much younger, there were conventions where the nominee was not a foregone conclusion, and there were pitched political battles on the convention floor - i.e. lots of politics - and the nominee was actually selected at the convention. This year looks like it might be that kind of convention. The superdelegate issue is becoming more important, and we'll see how that on plays out. But - this is democracy with a big D, baby! (Unless the political machine steals it....)

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