I have said it before and I will say it again, Barack Obama is pretty fucking impressive. I am not one of the folks who will critique him as being all style and no substance. On some level, when he starts out his more recent speeches, such as the one after Tsunami Tuesday, by saying that he is speaking to the folks who want to believe that change is possible, he is talking to me. I haven’t been shy in my assertion that if he wins against Hillary, I will gladly support him in his quest to become the first man of color to be President of the United States. That said, this primary season has been ridiculously frustrating for me.
Can we talk about Hillary Clinton for a minute? Here is a successful female attorney who has risen to the top of legal and political life. Here is the first woman to have anything resembling a chance to become President of the United States. The reality for those of us paying attention is that there isn’t exactly another woman positioned behind her to try again in four of even eight years.
Hillary Clinton, much to the chagrin of the haters, has been successful. This doesn’t mean that her campaign has been successful or even that she will become President of the United States. It does mean that we have to wonder about the price of success on her level for any woman. Are the poll-driven, triangulation based decisions and intense, unrelenting focus on her experience and qualifications responsible for her being as successful as she has been?
When Clinton shoots from the cuff and expresses her more human side as she did in New Hampshire the voters seemed to respond well. The pundits and her fellow candidates did not. They mocked her and most progressive bloggers have at least implied that she faked her tears. I think that crying or not crying during a town hall discussion has little to do with being a good president. I also think that Hillary probably cried because she was probably pretty sad. Just like any of us would be if we were losing. If change that we had spent our lives fighting for was coming and potentially tragically leaving us behind as it moved forward.
I want to give a nod to the fact that I don’t think becoming the first person of color to be a serious candidate for President is a small accomplishment. I believe that it is huge. I also believe that there is something to be gained from speaking honestly about sexism without it being qualified or silenced. Hillary Clinton’s career from day one has been faced with the hurdles that the patriarchy consistently places in front of women.
All the pant suits, haircuts and stylists in the world can’t change the fact that during the initial years of Bill’s rise to political prominence Hillary wasn’t pretty enough, was too bookish, too engaged and too present for the taste of many voters. When Bill claimed that theirs would be a “two-for-the-price-of-one” special the country was not pleased.
Hillary knows the issues better than the other candidates and has in many ways met the unreachable standards that a woman has to meet in order to be a serious candidate. However, meeting those standards has not been enough in the face of such a talented orator as Obama. This whole post was largely inspired by an article over on Boston.com about feminists feelings about the Clinton Campaign failure.
I think I would feel a little better about all of this if Michelle Obama wasn’t placed into the role of keeping her husband real and left outside of substantive policy conversations. I like Michelle. I like the idea that her voice and ideas would be a part of leading our country if Obama wins. I would like it even more if the Obama campaign wasn’t relegating a strong intellectual successful woman to the role of caretaker and emotional grounding for her husband.
I know, I know, Hillary Clinton is a poll-driven, kitten eating, baby hating, racist partisan to many of you, but to me I see a woman who has done the best she can to support social change, good causes, the country, children’s rights and her husbands career. I am proud that I have been a Hillary fan for more than a decade before Barack took his Senate Seat.
When I was younger and Hillary was still a hotly unloved first lady by many, I asked my mother if she thought Hillary would ever run for President. My mom told me no. That it would be a long time before we would see a female President. Every night that there is a primary my mother calls me to tell me how she thinks Hillary's campaign is going and how worried she is that she isn’t going to make it. I have stopped reassuring my mother because I am pretty sure she isn’t going to make it as well.
I wonder if change doesn’t mean that a candidate is allowed to be human, that a woman can run for and lose the Democratic Nomination for President without being said to “use her claws” or to be moody if she decides to engage in negative campaigning. When Obama and Edwards flanked Hillary and beat her and her experience back from frontrunner status no one worried that it was because they were moody. We might as well argue that she is hysterical for wanting to win.
Hillary Clinton has not had an easy life as a woman, doing the work that is important to her. Her husband hasn’t exactly been perfectly respectful of her with the eyes of the country watching. All in all Hillary hasn’t done too badly.
Might I suggest that if Obama is your candidate, as he may be mine soon enough, that it doesn’t mean we have to bash women, applaud sexist language, or ignore the fact that Hillary Clinton has fought many of the fights that matter. I, for one, hope that, nomination or no nomination, she continues the important work she has done. Maybe losing will give her a change to be more honest than she has been thus far in her political career? Maybe she will tell some the men to kiss her ass? Then again, maybe not.