Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Clinton and Obama: "Getting the Milestone"

I realized, after yesterday's post, that it could have been interpreted as an attack on Clinton and Obama for "acting" female/black.

"Are you saying," a savvy commenter might ask (though none of you did), "that they should downplay, hide, or ignore such a fundamental part of their identities?"

Absolutely not. What I meant, though I failed to explain it, was that yesterday morning we entered a new stage in the presidential campaign.

Technically this stage could have started the day before, when Clinton cried in front of her constituents (I'm linking to Fox News only because their headline, "Special Report Panel on Hillary Clinton's Emotional Moment," is too hilarious to ignore).

But for me it started Tuesday morning, with the now-"most emailed" Gloria Steinem editorial.

The headline was enough. "Women Can Never Be Front-Runners." And in the article, Steinem dared to imply the unspeakable: Vote for Clinton, ladies, or you'll set feminism back 100 years. Vote for Clinton not just because of her policies, but because of her chromosomes. Vote for Clinton because we've all been saying we want a female president, saying it for decades, and now it's time to put our money where our mouth is.

Before yesterday, the race was different. To paraphrase a comment I posted on Ultrabrown: Both a Clinton win and an Obama win will be a milestone for America. But what's great about this election is that it isn't about "getting the milestone." People are most interested in each of the candidates' policies and platforms, and the fact that we get the milestone as a bonus is what makes this election awesome.

Now that Steinem's called it out, I'm worried that we're going to see a lot more campaigning directly for the milestone.

And that isn't what this election should be about.

1 comment:

ctrlalteredmind said...

In an ideal world, yes, but sadly that hardly ever is the case. The average person will always vote for the person they identify with the most - not on political views or agendas, but on social and character levels that may be quite aloof from the topics at hand. A significant number of women will vote for the female candidate, because they will assume she resembles them as a person more than any of the male candidates. On NPR last evening, I heard about this woman who voted for Hillary simply because "men are messy and we need a woman to clean up their mess" (I say ;simply' because there was no evidence in the talk that she was well-versed with her political stance). Quite ironically though, the woman who asked the (in?)famous question that made Hillary cry, voted for Obama.

Indian political swings in this regard are even more interesting to monitor. Especially in southern states, people will forget all past occurrences and follies (of a candidate) in a state of massive nduced amnesia and vote for him if he/she resembles them on some personal or social aspect. Of course, there is the whole tradition of garnering votes by making crazy promises like "free rice/color television for everyone", but that's beside the point.

I think I've rambled a bit, but my principal point is that I am quite pessimistic about the chances of the average person making informed rather than emotional votes. I would expect Hillary to use the female card often (both non-verbally or explicitly), but I greatly respect Obama for not even hinting towards playing the black card (as far as I know).