Chauvinism And The Democratic Primary

The Telegraph is reporting that Hillary Clinton is attempting to portray calls for her to step down from the Democratic nomination race as an act of mass chauvinism. Now, typically, I take what the Telegraph has to say about anything with a grain of salt, but while this piece may or may not be true in regards to Senator Clinton herself, it cannot be ignored that there are more than a bare few who have regarded such calls as only possible under acts of sexism.

I must beg to differ.

The facts of this race are simply this: Yes, race is playing a role in voters’ decision making when it shouldn’t, and gender is playing the same kind of role. In the past, I’ve expressed my personal dismay at how this race has seemed to turn into little more than a pissing contest over which demographic identity has been more oppressed.

This is not, of course, what any election should be about. One shouldn’t vote for or against Obama because he’s an African American, and one shouldn’t vote for or against Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman. It is true, both would be significant landmarks in our nation’s history, but to vote for or against either only because of their gender or race would taint that place in our children’s textbooks.

Voting for a black man because he’s black undermines the ultimately greater aspiration of voting for a black man because you think he is the best to lead this country. This is the same for voting for a woman; voting on gender alone implies you think there is someone better suited to fit the job but you really wanted to see the glass ceiling shattered.

In either case, one would have to be naive to think this isn’t going on on both sides, and ultimately this is something we must all cope with. After all, there’s no law telling you how to think when you go to the voting booth.*

The same goes with those calling for Hillary Clinton’s ouster; I would be a fool to think that such a movement was one hundred percent free from any kind of sexist motivation whatsoever. On the other hand, to imply that sexism is the only motivation for trying to push Hillary out is equally absurd, and frankly, a little insulting.

Indeed, it is animosity such as this that makes some of us Democrats particularly nervous about this nomination battle continuing on much longer. Just as it would be naive to think that this race is totally devoid of or plagued with racism or sexism, it would be also naive to believe that allowing this battle to go all the way to the convention will leave the party enough time to heal and face McCain in November.

Given the wounds that are being poked and prodded in this primary race, we’re going to need a little more time than usual.

And not all calls for Hillary Clinton are going to be based in chauvinistic tendencies, real or perceived, conscious or subconscious.

For me I find it interesting that before I started advocating Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race, I also advocated five white men and a Latino man to drop out as well. It was a pretty simple decision for me to make; these were simply candidates that I think weren’t going to win, and weren’t helping the party much by staying in the race. At the time I felt that Hillary, Barack, and to a lesser degree Edwards, were the only three candidates who had a likely shot at the nomination, and I wasn’t amped at the idea of giving Mike Gravel an open mic to shout, “Follow the money!” at the people who were best poised to beat the then likely Republican nominee, Rudy Giuliani.

My way of thinking was that there was no one on that stage even close to being as dangerous of a president as Rudy Giuliani and having one of the party’s own jeopardize our ability to prevent him winning the White House was unacceptable.

Times have changed. Now it’s John McCain who poses the big threat, and one can hardly accuse Hillary Clinton of being a responsible Democrat in at least protecting our ability to beat him in the fall.

Politics is more often than not a zero sum game; the culture in DC is look out for number one, and you know what you do for number two. But I’m not playing the same zero sum game that Hillary is playing, indeed, there are a lot of Democrats that aren’t.

I’ve backed off believing that Clinton is going to hurt Obama in the long run. Indeed, analyzing recent polls suggests that by the end of this nomination process Obama will be as strong if not stronger at Hillary’s expense, as I touched upon earlier this morning. But that doesn’t change the dynamic of what I’m talking about.

While some calls for Hillary to quit are rooted in sexism, I simply don’t believe that this is, as Jean Edelstein puts it, an instance of the Democratic party saying, “Step aside, little lady. This is men’s work. Go bake some cookies.” It is anything but that.

In fact, it strikes me as relevant that part of the reason she is still in this race is because of who she is. If she wasn’t Hillary Rodham Clinton, a tough, talented, and prominent female in the Democratic party, she wouldn’t still be in this race right now. I believe that if roles had been reversed, and Obama was desperately chasing after Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead, if he had suffered a massive string of blowouts in February, he would be getting shouted out of the race. OpEds starting the day after the last primary in February would have flown off the presses calling for him to step down and stop hurting his party.

I would probably be able to wallpaper my house with them.

And there would have also been a deluge of Super Delegates marching towards Hillary to put this thing at an end before anyone started turning it into the circus it is now.

More importantly, I think Obama, or at least his supporters, would have acquiesced. I would have. To be perfectly honest, my entire attitude going into this thing was to support Obama until he lost on Super Tuesday, take a week off to get over the loss, and then come back and rededicate myself to putting Hillary Clinton in the White House over John McCain.

In fact, at any time had Obama proven not to be a viable candidate I would have walked away because McCain is the bigger threat here.

But it is Hillary in this position, and for some strange reason I must be asked not to express my opinion on the affect she is having on this race because to do so would be sexism? That is as absurd as saying that everyone who opposes Obama is a racist.

You can oppose Hillary Clinton for valid reasons that aren’t tied to gender just as you can do the same thing against Barack without it being about race. I have opposed Hillary for a long time because I am incredibly worried about her approach to foreign policy just as there are plenty of Democrats out there that think that Obama’s health care plan doesn’t go far enough.

But this isn’t why I have advocated in the past for Hillary’s ouster from the race. The real reason has nothing to do with sexism, or trying to turn this into the Affirmative Action presidency by electing a black man. I have called on Hillary’s ouster because of the way her campaign has been run, because of the possibly irreversible negative impact it could have on the fall. If she was in this race to continue to talk about ideas, that would be one thing, but she has used her spent political capital to put John McCain on a pedestal over her Democratic colleague, and to pass judgement on Obama’s controversial pastor (A pastor, might I add, that many liberals would actually agree with if they listened beyond the mashed up YouTube clips that have made the rounds) for her own political gain. Her highest level surrogates have leveled some of the ugliest charges, from implying Obama was a drug dealer in his youth, to race baiting.

I am sickened by the constant changing of the goal posts, and the constant fighting against rules that don’t create a clear path of victory for her, while honoring those that do. Some say it’s just politics, but the spotlight is increasingly turned on those politics, and the whole time our party is being made to look like a bunch of immoral idiots, John McCain continues to smile as he has went from being significantly behind either Democratic candidate in the polls to drawing even or slightly above both.

The calls for Hillary Clinton to quit the race may not be the best way of going about things. She is not a Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel with hardly a ripple of actual support; she does have the support of millions of voters, and to treat her too poorly is to treat them poorly, and we can ill afford that animosity.

At the same time, it is wrong to dismiss out of hand those whose apprehension towards this primary season have caused them to ask for Clinton to drop out as raw sexism. She is losing, she is losing badly, and she was given more of a chance to turn her campaign around than I think most other candidates on the national stage would have been. If people are unwilling to look beyond the blind accusations of chauvinism, they will fail to see the very real, and very dangerous concerns that we all have.

*Okay, so some states, like Ohio, say you must vote in good faith in the primaries, but cut me some slack here.

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  1. Chauvinism And The Democratic Primary - [...] 31st, 2008 · No Comments sazzylilsmartazz wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThe Telegraph is reporting that…

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