The Proxy Battle

Like everyone here at CFLF and elsewhere in lefty Blogsylvania, I’ve been struggling to understand the actions of Hillary Clinton and her supporters as the primary season winds down. After all, the math is the math: she can’t win the nomination unless the Superdelegates ignite the biggest war the Democratic Party has ever seen. And it’s been that way for quite a while now.

And yet, she and her campaign staff and surrogates have offered one rationale after another about how she could actually pull it off. As Obama continues to pile up delegates, though, the rationales have become thinner and less credible. Lately, the focus has switched to more blatant charges of sexism, both on the part of the press and Obama himself. Despite notable efforts to bring about some healing, the sense of a divided party endures.

I’m a psychologist; I want to understand why people do what they do. And I think I kinda get it.

In some ways, the Democratic primary race became a race between addressing racism and sexism, once the field narrowed down to just Obama and Clinton. Perhaps neither of these candidates wanted their competition for the Democratic nomination to be about racism and sexism, perhaps they did. No matter.

What does matter to all of us, and to the country as a whole, is what happens once the nominee is finally selected and acknowledged. Because depending on which candidate gets the nomination — Clinton or Obama — that will probably drive the focus of our national discussion.

If Obama is the nominee (and it’s hard to see how this won’t be the case), then the press and the US population will, in varying degrees, be dealing with issues regarding racism. Healing old wounds. Finishing the job that was started during the Civil Rights movement. Making great strides forward in the area of race relations. It’s inevitable, even if Obama doesn’t make an issue of it.

The pundits will be talking about who wouldn’t vote for an African-American under any circumstances, and why that’s the case. (And, being pundits, they’ll also be speculating breathlessly about how that might change the electoral map and so on and so forth. But I digress.)

By being part of the national dialogue, poverty and segregation and education will be thrust into the forefront and (at the risk of being labeled an idealist yet again) may finally be resolved in a meaningful way that makes lasting changes in our society, all for the better.

But if Clinton is the nominee, then the press and the US population will, in varying degrees, be dealing with issues regarding sexism. Healing old wounds. Finishing the job that was started during the Women’s Lib movement. Making great strides forward in the area of gender relations. It’s inevitable, even if Clinton doesn’t make an issue of it.

The pundits will be talking about who wouldn’t vote for a woman under any circumstances, and why that’s the case. (And, being pundits, they’ll also be speculating breathlessly about how that might change the electoral map and so on and so forth. But I digress.)

By being part of the national dialogue, pay equality and work-life balance and sex-role stereotyping will be thrust into the forefront and might actually be resolved in a meaningful way that makes lasting changes in our society, all for the better.

Whether we end up focusing on issues of racial equality or those of gender equality, there will be cataclysmic changes in the offing, all of which have been long overdue. But it’s unlikely that, even with a Democratic White House and a Democratic Congress, we’ll be able to address both racial and gender equality in the span of four (or eight) short years.

I want desperately to see a woman be President of the United States during my lifetime. I’ve been (and continue to be) on the receiving end of gender discrimination, and it’s not pretty. In fact, it sucks. Since I’m white, I haven’t experienced racial discrimination, but I expect it feels just as shitty.

I don’t happen to share many of the Clinton supporters’ views that the media has been far more sexist than racist during this primary season. But I also accept that I may be biased in that view because, once Edwards dropped out of the race for the nomination, I’ve been a clear supporter of Obama.

And here’s the thing: I don’t think that makes me sexist, anymore than I think Clinton supporters are racist. For me, it’s not about identities since, if it were, my loyalties and sympathies pretty clearly lie with other women.

In fact, while I understand the fervor of Clinton’s supporters to see issues of gender equality pushed to the forefront (and share that fervor, by the way), the campaign isn’t really about sexism versus racism.

It’s about what will serve the country best in the long run. And for that, we need a candidate who, first and foremost, can win the White House because the alternative is just truly too awful to contemplate. And once we have a Democrat in the White House, I would want to see a long laundry list of issues addressed, one of which is equality and equal opportunity for all Americans — black or white, male or female, rich or poor, Mayflower descendants or recent immigrants.

One Response to “The Proxy Battle”

  1. Bostondreams says:

    A great post. Well said, and your insight is appreciated!

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