OK, not to beat the Caroline Kennedy horse, but this is ridiculous.  During an interview, with perhaps the most esteemed newspaper in the entire world, a female political “candidate” is asked, repeatedly, how her husband feels about her career ambitions, is later subjected to a Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy analogy, is pounced on for calling sexist reporting out and the resulting mainstream media coverage centers on how some bitchy, no-name political bloggers didn’t like how many times she said “you know?”

It was easier for a lot of people to play the ostrich when it came to the clear and appalling sexism faced by Hillary Clinton during her run for the Democratic presidential nomination.  To be fair, some of those ostriches were mere harbingers of what Sarah Palin would face when named the GOP VP candidate.  Still, those of us who didn’t think we had to throw the woman or women’s issues under the bus to embrace “change” recognized sexism when we saw it, and will continue to support women in public life who are regularly faced with it.

Kudos to Politico‘s Michael Calderone for calling bullshit in this instance, and to Kennedy for keeping her cool and her sense of humor.  Hopefully more people got the point Kennedy was trying to make when she asked for the Times‘ questions to be printed along with her responses.  How bizarre, criticizing a woman for giving less than substantive responses to queries intermingled with those one might find in the pages of US Weekly. Especially when that woman is only trying to satisfy a critical audience’s demand for accessibility while respecting the job she’s after isn’t really one subject to an actual political campaign.

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Come now?

May 21, 2008

I suppose nothing about this election should phase any of us at this point, but I was really taken aback by David Gergen’s suggestion that Hillary Clinton should publicly renounce the votes of racists.  Has this woman really been dragged through so much mud that it can’t just go without saying that she isn’t reaching out to racists for support? 

As Gergen himself says, Hillary Clinton has been a strong supporter of civil rights her entire public life.  If we’re going to require Hillary to denounce the repugnant views of a small group of the millions who’ve cast votes for her, we’d also have to ask Obama to denounce those who voted for him because his opponent is a woman.    

How unnecessary either statement would be, and what undue relevance it would give the racist and/or sexist views unforutnately and inevitably held by a few in a sample of millions.  It’s clear that race and gender are still issues in this country, and it would have been nice if Hillary had been allowed to address sexism in a way Obama was allowed to address racism.  Yet, forcing statements near the end of a campaign that will only be seen as defensive is hardly the way to go about starting a national conversation on any social ill. 

Our candidate will either be an African American or a woman.  It’s possible our ticket will be comprised of an African American and a woman.  We’ve already illustrated that the Democratic Party really is the famed “big tent” of American politics and we need not have anyone making “duh” statements expressing views that are perfectly clear to anyone with a brain.    

My very last classmate response blog goes to Shari, who is no doubt about to pass out from the excitement of this great honor.  Since she was the first person in class I talked to, I figured it only appropriate to end this portion of my blog talking about hers.  I only wish there was some virtual way for the two of us to share an international flavored coffee as we celebrate this milestone.  Maybe in Web 3.0? 

I will admit that I’ve been a little conflicted about some of the things we’ve talked about in class.  Well, not conflicted, exactly, but hesitant to embrace Web 2.0 as fully as some others (Garrett) have.  I definitely understand the hugely important role the Internet and other “wired” applications play in everyone’s daily lives.  I also agreed with Garrett’s comment that those who refuse to embrace Web 2.0 will end up looking a lot like those who rejected electricity. 

Yet , something Shari wrote in her latest blog posting reminded me of my conflicted feelings, especially as our discussion grew more political.  Responding to a story about Hillary Clinton not following anyone on Twitter, compared to the 23,000 Barack Obama “follows,” Shari said “he must have a lot of time on his hands.”  In just one line, she managed to sum up my thoughts on Web 2.0 and political campaigns. 

It’s no secret that I’m a Hillary Clinton supporter.  I was either annoyingly precocious or amazingly nerdy as a child.  I was the only first grader with a Mike Dukakis pin stuck to the front of my jacket and four yeras later, during the ’92 campaign, I begged my dad to take me to a Clinton rally.  I was 10-years-old and too big for piggy backs, but I somehow persuaded him to hoist me on his shoulders so I could better see Bill, Hillary, Al and Mario Cuomo, who reminded me a lot of my grandpa. 

Hillary, however, reminded me a lot of my mom.  When she later lashed out at Republicans who questioned the non-tradiational role she played in her husband’s campaign, I heard my mother talking.  Both were (and are) smart, fearless women with a feminist sensitivity so inate and so true to their character that it could never be confused with any sort of contrived activism.  

Looking back not at the 2004 campaign, but that 1992 campaign, and contrasting it with the one in which we are currently engaged, I can’t help but wonder if we’ve perhaps lost touch with certain sensabilities in our rush to embrace every new gadget, every new service, every better, faster stronger entity Web 2.0 can produce. 

Has the Internet made us so easily amused that we embrace or reject a political candidate based on the entertainment value of their YouTube video

Has the ability to share every last detail of our lives with a public we can only assume care made us so selfish we embrace or reject a political candidate becuase they don’t indulge that narcacisstic assumption?  

Has the almost infinite amount of information available to us at any moment we may want it made us so impatient that we simply want a Cliff Notes version of everything, packaged in the most exciting way possible? 

The power of the Dean campaign wasn’t just its online stylings, but the substance behind that online activity.  If we forget the two need to go together, we’re just squandering all the potential it provided. 

In another entry I said more people needed to view the world around them with a Technicolor lens.  That includes the onilne world.  I think Web 2.0 is far too immense an entity to say it’s either good or bad for us, or for politics.  I think it’s quite fine to just declare that it might be both and recognize that our task is an ongoing mission to adapt its use for the better and not for the worse.    

Democrats look forward to making history by nominating the first female or first African American to head a major party presidential ticket.  Yet, whoever is nominated must win the general election to make good on oft-repeated promises of change.  Barack Obama has proved himself capable of success in November and is prepared to make good on those promises. 

 

It is easy to poke fun at the euphoric optimism of Senator Obama’s campaign.  With Oprah firing up crowds and Will.i.am leading celebrities in song, his huge rallies could be the bastard love child of a Tony Robbins motivational session and a U2 concert.  His supporters in the grassroots and on Capitol Hill are frequently flummoxed when questioned about his stands on specific policy issues. 

In a primary election such as this one, though, why can’t they be? 

Voters can sometimes make clear distinctions between primary candidates.  In the 1980 Republican contest, George H.W. Bush was pro-choice while Ronald Reagan was adamantly opposed to abortion.  Bush thought Reagan’s fiscal policy wasn’t centered as much around supply-side economics as it was “voodoo economics.”  Such policy differences were readily apparent, but by choosing either Reagan or Bush, Republican voters also had the opportunity to change their party’s course entirely.

No such opportunity is currently available to Democrats.  Neither Senator Clinton nor Obama will lead their party on a path wildly divergent from the others’.  Policy squabbles between the two have been over minor details that few voters have even taken the time to examine.  Will a health care plan cover everyone, or almost everyone?  Will troops be pulled from Iraq in the first six months, or within the first year of taking office?

When voters who might prefer to have more substantive issues upon which to cast their ballot simply don’t, other factors obviously and rightly come under consideration.  When the substantive differences that do exist are nuanced enough to satisfy Democrats of all shades of blue, how else might those voters make a choice?  Barack Obama gives Democratic voters reasons to cast their ballots in his favor that, if not substantive, are significant and more serious than his detractors will admit.

There was a time in American politics where hope and optimism were welcomed, not derided.  A country suffering through the Great Depression was comforted by Franklin Roosevelt.  A nation unsure of where to go after the relative bore of the 1950s became members of Kennedy’s New Frontier.  The button-downed schoolmarm tone of the Carter Administration ended with a Hollywood cowboy’s promise that it was morning in America. 

The voters who’ve come to support Barack Obama because he evokes similar feelings of comfort, exciting change and pride should feel no shame.  The Bush presidency was conceived in part through telling racist voters that his white primary opponent had a black daughter.  His Administration abused trust generated by legitimate fear in 2001 to support a disastrous foreign policy.  When it fell apart, he stayed in power by pretending he’d alter the Constitution to, for the first time, deny rather than bestow a right on the American people.    

The college students and other first time voters supporting Senator Obama should feel proud that after eight such years, their generation is the first to embrace rather than shun a candidate because his ancestry challenges rather than supports business as usual.  They should feel proud that their candidate saw the potential for disaster in Iraq from the start and distances himself from rather than relies on the biases and prejudices of fellow Christians for support.     

African American voters who delivered primaries in states where the Confederate flag is only a slightly less common sight today than it was during the Civil War should likewise feel proud that they added an uplifting new chapter to the complex narrative their people have written with the South. 

The “latte liberals” who round out Obama’s big three and who were battered for their support of the earth-toned Crimsonite in 2000 and the windsurfing Yalie of 2004 are joined in 2008 by a chorus of support from voters in the decidedly un-yuppie bastions of Wyoming, Nebraska, North Dakota, Iowa and Idaho.

The original assumption of Democrats, that they would be well served whether Senator Clinton or Obama was their candidate in 2008, is not untrue.  They should be pleased that one doesn’t have to belittle either senator to show support for the other. 

 

 

I’m not a big fan of Ralph Nader.  While I respect many of his ideas and the work he has done to protect consumers, I didn’t, and don’t, think his work is quite enough to qualify him to be POTUS.  Still, it was his right to run in 2000, bitter as I might be about his campaign’s role in Gore’s “loss,” and I respected that right.  This week, I respected his defense of Hillary Clinton against the arrogant, silly calls of Obama backers Patrick Leahy and Chris Dodd for her to leave the Democratic primary race.

   

What I find interesting about any elected official telling another elected official to pull out of a race is that they would never in a million years do so themselves.  They certainly wouldn’t if they ever found themselves in a situation like Hillary’s.  The first woman to be within reach of a major party nomination for president of the United States is 139 pledged delegates behind the first African American man to be within reach of a major party nomination for president of the United States.  She also leads Obama by 32 superdelegates, a profoundly retarded addition to the primary process which nonetheless exists.

  

Obama has won almost twice as many states as Hillary and his now legendary 11-state sweep was impressive, if only superficially.  One-half of the former superstar duo of the Democratic Party, Hillary has undoubtedly had a rough time of things.  Yet, despite his success, Obama has failed to close the deal each time he had a chance to clinch the nomination.  In “American Idol” parlance, each time he could have “made the song his own,” he “was a little pitchy, dawg.”  Coasting on the media euphoria from his big sweep, having almost erased HIllary’s sizable lead in the week before the contest, Obama lost Ohio by 10 points.  Having started that primary night winning Vermont, he closed it by losing the Texas primary.  Winning Ohio and/or Texas would have effectively sealed his nomination.

What should be more alarming to those Democrats looking ahead to November are Obama’s other losses.  Clinton beat him in California, New Mexico, Arizona, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Michigan (sorta) and Florida (oh please, if Obama can claim he suffered in name recognition, I can claim to be the King of England).  She currently enjoys a double-digit lead in Pennsylvania, with Obama’s only significant endorsement there coming from Bob Casey, with his Bushesque grudge against the Clintons for slighting his daddy about a million years ago.

 

With the exception of Arizona (McCain territory) and Arkansas (although a Clinton could paint it blue once again) all of those states are important to a Democratic victory in November.  Much more important than all Obama’s Heartland caucus states highly unlikely to be any help to the Democrats in the general election.  No, Hillary Clinton cannot win the nomination by taking Pennsylvania.  She needs landslide victories in the remaining contests to overtake Obama in pledged delegates (provided Michigan and Florida remain unseated).  Yet, for all the victories, all the hype, all the “high profile” endorsements, Obama can’t win the nomination, either, without his still formindable competition giving up.  That should be of concern to voters who want a Democrat in the White House in 2009.

  

Why, then, the calls for Hillary to leave the race?  Such calls are entirely contrary to the democratic process.  Complaints that Democratic squabbling is helping the Republicans?  Hogwash.  Not knowing who he’ll face in November, McCain can’t do anything but flog the same tired war hero story he’s been peddling since 1999.  Arguments that it would be wrong for superdelegates to vote for Hillary if Obama has more pledged delegates?  Rubbish.  Those arguments weren’t advanced when superdelages jumped from Hillary’s ship in the wake of Obama’s 11-state sweep and they make no sense now.

 

Superdelegates are UNpledged.  If Hillary adds Pennsylvania to her collection of much needed, very-important-come-November blue states, she is not so far behind in any other regard for it to be deemed unfair for superdelegates to give her the nomination.  This is especially true when one considers the alternative.  Obama’s collection of African American voters, limousine liberals and college kids stuck in the red state hells of Idaho, Georgia, Utah, Wyoming, etc., is the general election equivalent of Bush’s Coalition of the Willing.  Obama has also failed to connect with Hispanic voters, “si se puede” aside, who went overwhelmingly for Clinton in Texas.  In California and Florida, Hispanic (as well as seemingly Obama-phobic Asian) voters could put their states solidly in the Democratic column in the fall.

Also alarming is that Obama’s loss in Ohio came after his campaign proved itself completely incapable of handling criticism from another candidate or the national media.  Forget Hillary’s commercials!  Republicans will be taking cues from LBJ or Bush I’s playbooks.  Eloquent speeches on important but general topics won’t be enough to satisfy a press hungry for details on comparatively more nuanced foreign policy issues or economic concerns.

 

It’s time for everyone involved, from the candidates and their campaigns to party leaders, uninvolved politicians, the media and the voters to take Bill Clinton’s advice and “chill out.”  No one, not Ralph Nader, Mike Huckabee and especially not someone who has achieved what Hillary Clinton has both superficially and substantively, should be forced from a political race in a democratic country.

 

It might be prudent for Democrats to remember what happened the last time a major party threw its support behind one candidate and prematurely thrust another out of competition.  Bush triumphed over McCain and went on to serve two of the most disastrous terms in American presidential history.  How ironic it would be if a Democratic rush to judgment gave McCain the White House eight years later.