Democratic nomination circus wrapup
In case it isn’t obvious, I am not a Hillary supporter. I am an old-fashioned leftist and I have severe problems with her positions on Palestine, the Iraq War, US foreign policy and a raft of other issues. I am not a Obama hater either — he is only as far from (and perhaps less so!) the just position on these same issues as Hillary is, by my principles. However, as a feminist I want to write some comments on the subtle and not so subtle sexism and “woman beating” that has occured through this campaign.
What has struck me is the parallels in the technique and rhetoric of Obama supporters (and the campaign itself) and the typical GOP one. One analogy is George Bush’s 2000 image of a friendly, uniting “compassionate conservative”, even as those who pushed his candidacy indulged the most vicious attacks on McCain and then Gore. The GOP uses hired thugs and pundits to carry out this task, while the anti-Hillary campaign has benefitted from voluntary abuse from the so-called “netroots”, media, and public intellectuals (examples are below). Obama himself has taken on right-wing talking points gladly: see Paul Krugman on Obama’s health insurance issue attacks on Hillary, or Obama’s description of blocking Iraq war funding as “playing chicken with the troops“, to offer but two examples. And if the media gave Bush a free ride and now McCain a positive one, they have done much the same with Obama but, again as Paul Krugman points out, done quite the opposite with Hillary.
Any voice that is raised against such abuse is accused of being part of a “lather of angry victim-hood that blames sexism” (Debra Saunders on SFGate) — once again a striking parallel with right-wing rhetoric, which uses such terms to ridicule and deny Black claims, ironically the very group whose success Obama is supposed to represent — even as heavyweights like Barbara Ehrenreich post on Alternet and elsewhere about the lessons to draw about women as a whole from Hillary’s “Nasty, Deceptive” behaviour. In other words, Hillary’s sex matters only in so far as it can be used to critique women — but an attempt to identify attacks on her with her sex would be “angry victim-hood”. We are told (by miscellaneous NYT Op-Ed columnists) not to vote for Hillary because of her being a woman, even as Obama wins Southern states based entirely on black people voting for him (ostensibly, and unsuprisingly/understandably, for his being black and an embodiment of their dreams). Strikingly opposite is the verboten status of any question of Obama’s black identity and experience, even if raised by prominent Black activists.
I am not sure the anti-Hillary camp can have it both ways, at least logically speaking (rhetorically speaking, they are enjoying great success, for sure). So one cannot have Ehrenreich drawing broad conclusions about women on the basis of her understanding of Hillary’s campaign (and throwing the few convicted women of the Abu Ghraib scandal under the bus, to arm her arguments), Maureen Down using gender specific adjectives to describe Clinton’s words in the NYT, the media obsessing about her clothes and cleavage, the Obama campaign using gender specific slang (“Stop the Drama” i.e., Hillary is a drama queen?) as T-shirt slogans, while at the same time exhorting us to abandon our “victim-hood” and not see this as a sexism issue. Here is a simple question: in the tens of anti-Hillary FaceBook groups is one titled “Life’s a bitch, why vote for one?”. Can you search for and find one titled “Your neighbour isn’t a nigger, why vote for one?”. I couldn’t find it. And if some racist idiot where to set one up, how long would it stay up?
The reason why Hillary supporters and non-supporting feminists such as myself have to keep this issue active is not so much to elect Hillary (in which I have no interest) or to defeat Obama (who is infinitely better than McCain but will ultimately end up achieving as little as any other Democrat before him, after Johnson), but to step up when we see a woman getting beaten up. The reason is not so much to stop Obama but to stop the attitude, rhetoric and the threat of the actions that are the consequences of such attitude and rhetoric, that is the staple of a large segment of his supporters.
Some additional data/comments:
RealClearPolitics has the vote totals and among the various numbers, here is one:
Popular Vote (w/MI uncommitted to Obama)
If estimate for caucus states that do not release data is included, and â€œUncommittedâ€ in MI is assigned to Obama, Obama comes out a mere 61,703 votes ahead (0.2%).
I wrote above of parallels with right-wing electioneering, and this perhaps offers more in that vein: the question of who won the popular vote (Gore v Bush) and the disenfranchisement of low-income voters (Gore v Bush, Kerry v Bush) â€” of not since low-income voters break for Clinton over Obama, and they suffer burdens in caucus states that are not felt by their richer Obama-voting counterparts.
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