Hillary Clinton: Does anyone really care about electing a woman President?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

“Why aren’t more women supporting the Clinton candidacy with something approaching the levels of black support for Senator Obama?”

In the midst of the most recent news about Pastor Jeremiah Wright, his preaching, publications and relationship to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton managed somehow to divert the attention of the media, and the electorate with it, by her confusion over conditions when she visited Bosnia as First Lady.  This had to be a moment of legitimate confusion.  To consider it purposeful misrepresentation, in light of how easily the facts could be checked, is ludicrous.  Not surprisingly, fraudulent campaigning is how the Obama campaign would have us see it, and the way the media tended to report it.

I get the feeling sometimes that many ordinary voters, professional politicians, and pundits are looking for any excuse to find fault with Senator Clinton’s campaign.  Barack Obama has the temerity to defend his 20 year affiliation with the likes of Pastor Wright and walks away, figuratively speaking, unscathed.  If Hillary Clinton so much as burps in public, it’s breaking news.  She’s down two points in the polls.  Her campaign, so she’s told, is a losing cause.  Why not give it up for the good of the Party, and to make Howard Dean happy?  Democratic process is apparently only a good thing if it nominates Senator Obama without the mess of an open convention.

Whether or not he’s in the lead, Senator Obama’s affiliation, by close proximity if nothing else, to the opinions of Pastor Wright, his spiritual advisor until he became too much of a political liability, should have crushed him in the polls.  That he would claim to have been generally unaware of these offensive beliefs during 20 years of attendance is a ridiculous notion that laughs at the gullibility of his supporters, and mocks the lectures he continues to give us on the new politics of Obamism.  And yet the effect of all this on his standing in the polls was minimal, and only temporary.

What’s going on?  Is it Hillary or, heaven forbid, that she’s a woman?

It’s one thing to wonder whether there are men out there who, consciously or subconsciously, might feel uncomfortable having a woman President.  It’s another to ask the same question about American women in general.  My mother, sadly no longer with us, was a big Bill Clinton fan but would have never bought into the notion that his wife – however accomplished in her own right – or any woman should ever be President.  It was an idea that was, at best, on the periphery of her vision, limited as it was by the times of her upbringing.  I’ve got to wonder if there aren’t still remnants of the same mentality in women of my generation and younger.

Barack Obama has gone out of his way to remind us, at every opportunity, that he’s black.  He’s using his race in a way similar to how JFK used his Catholicism in 1960, to shame some voters, and galvanize others into voting for him.  (See my own “Channeling JFK” posted March 14.)  He wants people to vote for him because he’s black – black people because he is of the same color and shared experience, and white people because, to do otherwise, would be evidence of prejudice.

Don’t believe he’s using the issue of race?  Consider Senator Obama’s recent speech about race.  If I may borrow an observation from Professor Walter Williams’ recent column in The Examiner, the question to which the speech was supposed to be responding had nothing to do with race, per se, but with his long term affiliation with Reverend Wright.  (See “Quote of the Day:  “Is Obama ready for America?” posted March 27.)  Instead, what Senator Obama chose to talk about race, race, and more race.  Okay, I get it.  He’s an American of mixed ethnicity who identifies with the black experience while, at the same time understands all things white.  (I’m exhausted by his omniscience.)

So why isn’t Senator Clinton opting for the same strategy based on gender?  She’s also an American of mixed parentage – one man, one woman – who identifies with the female experience.  It’s perfect.  And haven’t women suffered their own struggle for equality?  Women are half the population.  Black Americans, only 13%.  Even considering that black Americans are almost universally Democrats, there are still more white women Democrats.  You’d think there would be no way she could lose.

Why aren’t more women supporting the Clinton candidacy with something approaching the levels of black support for Senator Obama?  Possible explanations include:  They’d love to support a woman, but not Hillary.  They believe it’s more important to nominate the right candidate than a one of their own gender.  The latter would be nice, but they perceive the differences between the two candidates to be too great in Senator Obama’s favor to vote their gender.  They’ve arrived, so to speak, and don’t feel like they have anything, in particular, to gain or prove by electing a woman President.  Or, yikes, a significant number of them are not all that keen on having a woman – any woman, not just Hillary Clinton – in The White House.

Maybe electing a woman President just isn’t that big of a deal after all.

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