Sunday, February 17, 2008
A few days ago, I wrote a piece (“Endorsement,” 2/13/08) in which I made the argument that, if a white woman and a black man were perceived as equally qualified to be President, it was incumbent upon black voters to vote for the black man, and women to vote for the woman. (I didn’t address the quandary of black women. For the sake this particular piece, I’m going to assume that race trumps gender.) I said, without the least hesitation, and still believe that to do otherwise, would be “illogical and irresponsible.” Since then, a friend, whose opinions I respect, has commented that my argument is, basically, prejudiced. Even if the two candidates were equally capable, which he argues they can’t be because two people never are, a voter’s choice should be random. At the time, I gave him the last word, and moved on. Now that my candidate (Senator Clinton) is struggling, I feel the need to get back into the game, and make my point clear and more emphatic.
The objective of any decision is to maximize the benefit derived by the entity making it. Which entity is that? Could be Congress, a PTA, or Board of Directors, superficially at least, but it all comes down to the individual, to you and me. If, for example, we are a Senator highly motivated to promote the common good, then that will be our personal objective when we vote – even if it is against our own, personal best interests. Senator McCain actually campaigns on precisely that point, that he puts his country first, himself a distant second. Impressive in an emotional way, but it’s all semantics. His spin notwithstanding, Senator McCain is still maximizing his personal benefit. As my father once taught me, all decisions are selfish. The focus of the decision may be the public good, but only because, in the mind and heart of the decision-maker, maximizing the public good was the most important objectlive.
Alright, I am a black or white woman voter. There are differences between the candidates. One is a more experienced government policy “wonk,” admittedly with baggage, the other is an inspirational newbie. All things considered, you say to yourself, the country will be in pretty good shape whichever one wins, as long as the Republicans are out of The White House. (I happen to think Senator Clinton’s experience and policy development skills make her the superior candidate, and that I can always vote for Senator Obama 8 years from now when he’s more seasoned, but my personal opinion isn’t what I’m arguing here.)
So, you rationalize, Senator Clinton will make a good President. What she lacks in oratory, she’ll make up in productivity. We’ll be okay, and not appreciably worse off than if you elected Senator Obama, your feel good candidate. Well, ask yourself, which decision maximizes your personal benefit? Vote for Obama, or vote for Clinton and shatter, once and for all, any notion that women can’t manage, can’t do anything to which they aspire? It depends, doesn’t it, upon how much you care about the common good, about the half of our society that still commands less respect, in business and in government, that the other half.
As I argued in “Endorsement,” it could be a while before another woman, as qualified as Senator Clinton, is this close to being President. To those of you women out there who are undecided, and especially to those of you who were planning on sitting out the Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania primaries because you didn’t think it made that much difference, think again. It’s perfectly logical and responsible for black voters to support Senator Obama. What are you waiting for?