Here we go again. And it’s a good thing.

It seems odd that we’ve suddenly become obsessed with the issues of racism and sexism again.

For the first time in history we have two serious contenders (in the Democratic Party of course; had it been within the Republican Party all different kinds of hell would be breaking loose) for the presidency of the United States who break the mold of white male candidates. Come January of 2009, either an African-American man or a white woman will be sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office.

So why are we suddenly obsessed with racism and sexism again, accusing members of our own party of harboring deep-seated prejudices that are anathema to our core principles?

We have had two periods of cataclysmic change in the social fabric during my lifetime. First was the Civil Rights Movement, and then came Women’s Lib. Good things happened as a result.

But neither movement was really finished before we moved on to other priorities, and that’s the problem.

So now we’ve gone and picked the scabs of two festering sores left over from these two movements. Yes, people of color benefited from school integration and affirmative action, but this country has yet to address poverty and racial stereotyping in any meaningful way.

And women have gained the right to vote and the freedom to direct their own lives, but we haven’t begun to correct pay inequities or the tacit acceptance of crimes against women.

Of course we’ve whittled and nibbled away at the edges of all of these issues, but none of them has ever been seen as crucial enough to justify the gut-wrenching effort to really make a difference.

Having a viable African-American candidate and a woman candidate who, at one time was considered an extremely viable (and even inevitable) candidate, seems to have awakened the yearning to complete these movements once and for all.

Except there’s no way that both can be tackled at once. There’s just not enough time and attention and resources available to do that.

So once Obama and Clinton started competing head-to-head, as if the stakes weren’t high enough as it was, the primary race became a proxy battle for the Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Liberation. Yikes!

A small personal aside, that you may skip if you prefer: I started thinking about this issue after a recent family get-together. We all pretty much share the same political sentiments (except for my Socialist grandmother, but I digress) so there’s not much to get vehement about. But my sister revealed herself as a Hillary-bot who spewed much of the same nonsense about Clinton and Obama as we’ve been seeing for months. As the gifted and ad hoc debater extraordinaire that I am, I pretty much just stared at her as though she had sprouted a second nose.

Loyal and true Democrats, each and every one of us, chose our candidates. That’s what primary elections are all about. But in choosing our candidates, we also chose our issues.

Obama supporters, it could be argued, have cast their lot with having a president who will cause us to discuss and legislate the issues of our day, including ridding our nation of institutionalized and sanctioned discrimination once and for all, primarily from the perspective of race.

Cinton supporters are just as passionate about the gender issue. Probably even more so. They are justified in their often-frightening ferocity for two reasons.

First, women represent slightly more than 50% of our population, living and working alongside men as we have since forever, and yet unspeakably horrible things are being done not just to women in other countries but right here in our own.

What’s more, we’re slipping backwards rather than moving forward, as abortion rights are chipped away and gender discrimination in the workplace continues to flourish. Then McCain insists that tax cuts and protecting companies from potential lawsuits are much more important than pay equity.

So if he wins in November, things are going to get far, far worse for women before they ever have a chance of getting better.

Second, a candidate’s supporters tend to emulate their candidate’s style.

As a campaigner and as a champion of policy issues, Hillary is a battler who goes straight after the things she thinks are right. She tackles opposing viewpoints head-on and prevails only when she is able to wear down the resistance. Being blunt and divisive and even strident are essential. Whatever it takes to win.

Does this sound like any blogs of our recent acquaintance here at CFLF?

Obama is much more like a martial artist who is always oblique. He doesn’t make direct challenges or fight back directly. Instead, he uses the energy of his opponent to defeat him(her). He’s even been called “no drama Obama” by retired military commanders who think an unflappable temperament is essential in a Commander in Chief.

The sturm und drang surrounding this primary season is inevitable, given our nation’s history. In my lifetime, I’ve seen school integration and the legalization of abortion.

And I, for one, am glad to see us finally beginning to wrestle with these issues. We will all benefit from it. Women. Blacks. Gays. Muslims. Atheists. Everyone.

One Response to “Here we go again. And it’s a good thing.”

  1. Great post; the family aside was hilarious. And I agree, and have made similar points in the past, though I think your point is more relevant, and artfully worded (I believe I used pissing match).

    This has been, in many ways, a proxy war between which issue we think should take center stage, racial equality, or gender equality.

    The rebuttal, of course, is that just because a candidate represents one over the other does not necessarily mean he or she will be devestating to the issue that he or she does not represent. With accusations of race baiting being leveled at Clinton, does anyone still think that she’s a racist that’s going to crap all over African Americans? Unlike Sully, with whom I’ve agreed a lot over the course of this election, I don’t think that the dog whistles are necessarily indicative that Clinton’s going to be anti-black, or anything of the sort.

    It’s ugly, but I think she just wants to win, and the dog whistles and race baiting don’t actually go far beyond that.

    And as for Obama, you can’t be serious in thinking that he wouldn’t be good for women; remember, this is a guy who has gotten 100% ratings from prominent women’s groups.

    There’s an interesting article I’m going to write about when I get the chance to start writing this evening in an hour or an hour and a half that really put a lot of identity politics in perspective for me, and allowed me to look at Clinton through new eyes.

    Again, great post Gail.

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