Someone on Ezra Klein’s blog recently linked to this post by a Hillary Clinton supporter, detailing why Hillary supporters should not support Barack Obama.
And, well. Here we go.
Several of us have tried over the past couple of months to explain why that won’t happen, but the Obamabots don’t seem to understand. And I know why: it’s because they don’t take sexism seriously. When women say we will not reward misogyny, we’re laughed off. The Obamabots just tell more jokes and hurl more insults and write more crass articles about how the little lay-dees have their little pan-tees in a twist.
By and large, the pro-Obama sites I’ve seen have been either civil towards Hillary Clinton or denigrating in a non-gendered way. (John Cole at one point notably got drunk and lost his shit with Clinton for a few posts, but then the next day regained his temper and said he would vote for her were she the nominee.) I will, however, freely accept that there are sites out there that are both pro-Obama and misoygnistic in tone; after all, it’s far from unrealistic to assert that there are anti-HRC voters who “just don’t want that bitch in the White House,” and will vote for Obama or McCain or Nader or Larry Flynt or Happy the Magic Elf rather than vote for Clinton.
But even if those Obama supporters exist, to refuse to vote for a candidate based on supporters who are quite obviously fringe is ridiculous. Believe me, when I vote NDP, I do so knowing that there are elements within my party who desperately need to be punched in the face. But that’s the nature of big-party politics.
Imagine this scenario:
The shoe is on the other foot, and Obama, not Hillary, is the punching bag of the media — a media that is blatantly and unapologetically racist. And I do mean blatant. Jokes every night on the cable news shows about Obama’s hair and his fondness for fried chicken. Pundits laughing about what a problem uppity Negroes are.
Across the country, racists openly ridicule Obama and his candidacy. In mainstream stores there are gag gifts playing on racist themes: maybe a (water)Melon Baller with Obama’s head on the handle, maybe a Barack Obama Shoeshine Set — you get the picture. 501c groups invoke the most grotesque racist slurs with their advertising; T-shirts say “Quit Running for President and Shine My Shoes!” Anybody who protests is branded a fool and a spoilsport.
On the one hand, the media treatment of Hillary Clinton has been unapologetically and blatantly misogynistic. Chris Matthews’ behaviour alone would confirm that, but yes, the repeated attacks from the right wing based purely on a combination of Clinton’s gender and the strange, fervid fantasyland Rush Limbaugh inhabits have been disgusting.
On the other hand, although the racism pointed at Barack Obama has been less blatant and phrased more in terms of codewords – mostly because social norms have evolved to the point where open racism is worthy of condemnation and open misogyny can still be gotten away with, more often than not – it has not been any less constant nor any less virulent on the part of the media, particularly so for the last two months.
Online, Hillary’s supporters constantly refer to Obama and his supporters as n—–s and c— -s and all the other epithets I refuse to type out. Blogger Boyz blog about those stupid lazy Negroes who are still wallowing in memories of the Civil Rights era, too dumb to get with the program and vote for Hillary.
Again, with the exception of message board/blog trolls (who, by their behaviour, lose the right to any protection the presumption of civility might otherwise afford them), I’ve never heard Hillary Clinton’s supporters so denigrated, not once, without it being followed up with condemnation from myriad other Obama supporters not wanting their support to grow ugly.
Again, I concede that there are potentially hordes of openly misogynistic pro-Obama blogs and boards I have missed. But look – I’m online a lot. Like, just about constantly. I write for three separate blogs, all of which essentially force me to be reasonably conversant with current events from a multitude of perspectives, and I purposefully try to avoid surfing exclusively in likeminded areas. I think I say with some authority that the major pro-Obama sites have been by and large extremely respectful of Clinton’s supporters.
And the lies: Obama is constantly lied about, belittled, demeaned. His record is distorted, his character impugned. Every day the pundits and the Blogger Boyz urge him to drop out of the race, to remember his place, to give up his seat to the white woman. All in the interest of “party unity.”
Firstly, you don’t have to create an ironic fantasy where Barack Obama has constantly been lied about, belittled, impugned and demeaned, because it happened. Intensely, and with great frequency.
Secondly, the calls for Clinton to drop out of the race again have had little to do with her gender, and more about the fact that she is behind in the pledged delegate count, the overall delegate count, the number of states won, and the popular vote, and that it has been evident since early March that she would not be able to come from behind on any one of these metrics – not due to her abilities as a candidate, but simply by virtue of sheer numerical impossibility.
I freely admit that even then, there was still a rationale for continuing her candidacy – that, in the face of devoted media scrutiny, that Obama’s campaign would collapse. This was, much as some might not like to admit it, a valid reason for extending a campaign that otherwise had no real basis for victory: if Obama faltered, someone had to be there to pick up the pieces. (I would respectfully submit that if Clinton had dropped out and Obama become damaged goods to that extent, that the Democratic party would have turned to HRC anyway, because really, who else would they go with? John Edwards? Whatever, not happening.) But as the campaign continued and Obama didn’t collapse, that rationale grew progressively flimsier.
And nary a word of reproach from Hillary herself. No denunciation at all of the relentless racism. In fact, she actually cracks a few racist remarks herself, albeit subtle ones.
I wonder if this is a reference to the “periodically” scandalette, probably one of the weakest and most overstretched attempts to seek offense I’ve ever seen in any political campaign ever. Or the “you’re likeable enough” flap, similarly pushing the boundaries of sexism to new levels. (The “claws out” comment caused offense that was, I think, entirely valid – but to dub Obama a “misogynist” for one poorly-chosen comment is hyperbolic to say the least.)
Regardless, this bit of the passage is perhaps the most telling, because when frenetic discussion of Barack Obama’s “lack of patriotism” and “elitism” – which were extensively codeworded for “angry black man” and “uppity black man,” respectively – Hillary Clinton didn’t just refuse to denounce such idiocy. She jumped in feet-first and encouraged it. When asked if Barack Obama was a secret Muslim, she responded with “There’s nothing to base that on – as far as I know.” When you denounce something, you don’t offer a backdoor like that, which disavows responsibility and just encourages the rumour.
You saw the ABC debate – for every question about Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers and every other stupid bullshit non-issue that came up, Hillary Clinton was ready and willing to state that these were indeed grave issues and maybe a reason not to vote for Obama. Just for the sake of comparison, at that same debate, when Hillary Clinton was asked about the Bosnia sniper “scandal” (which, while a stupid – and, let’s be honest, entertaining – mistake on her part, is far from being a reason to not vote for her), Barack Obama’s response was thus:
“But, look, the fact of the matter is, is that both of us are working as hard as we can to make sure that we’re delivering a message to the American people about what we would do as president. Sometimes that message is going to be imperfectly delivered because we are recorded every minute of every day. And I think Senator Clinton deserves the right to make some errors once in a while.”
Incidentally: it’s worth remembering that by all accounts, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton didn’t like one another much before this campaign started, and the campaign has likely only exacerbated that dislike. They do their best to hide it in the name of party unity and their own respective electability. But it’s worth remembering: they don’t like each other, and the the occasional ill-chosen word from either party has its roots in that, not because Obama is a sexist or Clinton a racist.
And when she makes speeches about American values, she talks a lot about women’s rights but never mentions civil rights. She’s strikingly silent on the subject.
Except when asked point-blank at the Compassion Forum about his views on abortion, at which point he says plainly that he supports a woman’s right to choose and to have access to contraception and that there should be safe-sex education in schools. It’s almost like he has a position on the issue in question.
Even when she delivers a major address on the importance of rooting out bigotry, she neglects to mention racism at all.
Other areas of discrimination not mentioned in Barack Obama’s historic speech on race: sexual orientation, physical disabilities, mental disabilities, age, sizeism, anti-furry-fandom. Clearly, Barack Obama is a homophobic ageist who hates fatties, cripples, furries and Corky from “Life Goes On.”
Just to make the analogy even more apt, let’s further imagine that some key civil rights issue is on the table — say, voting rights. For forty years the Democrats have been on the side of the angels with that one, but Hillary goes out of her way to say how much she admires and respects those Republicans who don’t think African-Americans should have the right to vote. She says judges with a record of opposing voting rights are good candidates for the nation’s benches — even the Supreme Court.
Again, from his site:
Barack Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women’s rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as President. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in that case.
Alternately, you could go watch this interview, where he cites Ginsburg, Breyer and Souter (all pro-Roe) as the sorts of justices he would seek to appoint as President, and expresses strongly the conviction that Supreme Court justices must be able to sympathize with the powerless – kind of the opposite of, say, Samuel Alito. (Interestingly, Jeffrey Toobin predicts that Obama would name either the dean of Harvard Law School or the dean of Yale Law School, but that’s just a ballpark guess.)
If Barack Obama and his supporters become the new Democratic party, then the Democratic party will no longer be the party of women’s rights. There will still be women in the party, naturally, but basic respect for women as citizens will be a dead letter. It will be the party of John Roberts and anti-choicers and the most virulent outbreak of public misogyny I’ve ever seen.
(It is worth noting that Barack Obama voted against John Roberts.)
And it’s not just women’s rights at stake. Social Security
…where Barack Obama is on record as wanting to increase the payroll tax cap so that rich people pay more into the system, in the hopes of stabilizing it. This isn’t a terribly controversial position among progressives, you realize. (The Cato Institute hates it, big shock.)
…where the difference between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s respective healthcare plans, as laid out currently, is that Clinton wants a mandate (without any provision for enforcement, mind, but) and Obama doesn’t.
Speaking as someone who’s read a fair amount on healthcare policy, both of their plans are mediocre at best, and I have no doubt that this is intentional as an electoral tactic for both candidates: a truly progressive and universal plan, like Germany’s care funds, France’s two-tier system, or even Canada’s flawed-but-still-better-than-the-US pure single payer system would all give John McCain a lot of room to attack. Most of it would of course be on spurious grounds, but that’s mattered when exactly?
Complaining about healthcare policy proposals now, before the inevitable mashup that’s going to happen in Congress, is asinine. What matters is this: both candidates want to achieve universal health care. They simply disagree on the best way of getting to that goal and selling it.
sticking up for the working class
Oh, lord, please tell me this isn’t about the gas tax holiday bullshit.
Because it was bullshit.
EDIT TO ADD: You know, it occurs to me that I completely forgot about Andrew Sullivan when writing this. Fair is fair: his insane dislike of Clinton is, well. Insane. But not unmatched on the other side by similar.