Thursday, May 08, 2008

Thoughts on the primary

It's all but official that Obama will be the Democratic nomimee for President. There are many reasons to be happy at this result, but also many reasons to be happy about the legnth of the primary itself. I know many Obama supporters have been proclaiming that Senator Clinton should withdraw since the middle of March. Now that the nomination really is out of reach, they are getting even more insistent. Let me say that she should withdraw before the convention, but there's no good reason to leave before the end of May. The main thing I want to mention in the post is the reasons to celebrate:

1. 2008 saw the first major primary victory by an African American.
2. 2008 saw the first major primary victory by a woman.
3. The candidates established highly effective organizations in all the states. This will be important in November.
4. John McCain is polling less than 80% in the last few primaries despite running against NO ONE. That is, 20% of the Republican primary voters have been rejecting their presumptive nominee.

Most blogging recently has been about Senator Clinton's remarks regarding her appeal to "hard-working, white voters," and whether this is racist. It's certainly a very poor way of phrasing the idea, what with the implication that people who aren't white don't work hard. I'm certain that Senator Clinton is not a racist. Nothing in her history supports that conclusion. She still said something in a very stupid way. So, what's the proper response?

I think this is part of what Senator Obama meant when he referred to the need for a "dialogue on race." And sex, for that matter. We've established that ascribing bad traits to people based on epidermal melanin is a bad thing. What we have not figured out is how to convince people who think in this way to change their minds. It feels really good to berate people for being wrong on something, but that rarely changes their behavior. If there are a large number of white people who can't bring themselves to vote for an African American, I want to know why and see what we can do to change their minds. For one thing, I want to change their minds because thinking bad things about people based on skin color is a really bad idea. Also, I don't want to give up on any voters that have interests aligned with the Democrats. There are plenty of people who actually think having an aristocracy and an Inquisition is a good idea for this country, since that worked so well for 17th C. Europe. We Dems need to find every vote we can.

Right now, Senator Clinton's supporters are not feeling so great, and I wish Senator Obama's crowd would leave them alone. Hillary Clinton is not killing the party, and in fact the Governor of Montana wants her to stay in the race until his state's primary. I know there are lots of people making stupid blog comments at the moment, but that's mostly an effect of the fact that both Clinton and Obama had lots of really loyal supporters. In any large group, some of its members will have established residence in the tonier neighborhoods of Outer Crazyville. (Liberals live in the nice parts of Outer Crazyville. The trailer parks contain commenters for Michelle Malkin, Redstate, and VDare.)

It doesn't help that Senator Clinton was subjected to really astonishing sexism from her own party, and liberals in it. Kos was so awful I quit reading it. Shakespeare's Sister had NINETY entries in its Hillary Clinton sexism watch. Nine --Zero.

I really don't think Obama faced anything like that on his race. What he did face was, oddly, sexism. The Austin American - Statesman ran an editorial today by Kathleen Parker in which she referred to Senator Obama as "lithe," as in slender, as in girly. Isn't that what all the "latte-sipping" crap is about? Obama is feminine, and being feminine is the worst thing imaginable. Of course, if Obama were heavy-set and didn't wear nice suits, he'd be portrayed as a Scary Thug. As a black man, he's either threatening or feminine.

Clinton, by contrast, is portrayed as an ex-linebacker in drag. She's Tough and Mean and Ambitious and all sorts of other big male things. Maureen Dowd is the worst at this one. Had Clinton had played up her health care and education plans extensively, and worn more pink eyelet, then she would have been too girly to be elected.

Thing is, we have no mental template for powerful people who aren't white and male. Both Democratic candidates are from traditionally powerless groups, and the Punditocracy wants to keep reminding us of this fact. They don't do it in the good, "ain't it great to be an American?" sense. They go out of their way to mention, over and over, that lots of people have a hard time supporting people for high office who aren't white and male. This doesn't get us anywhere. We've been all those places before and left. Now, how do we get to a new place?

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