Obama/Palin: The Politics of Race Versus Gender

Saturday, August 30, 2008

In her speech in Dayton on Friday, when she was introduced by Senator McCain as his running mate, Governor Palin went out of her way to call upon women voters to help her, on their behalf, be elected Vice President. Now only 44, even if McCain were to serve a full 8 years, she’d only be 52 years old when she runs for President at the head of her own ticket.

“It was rightly noted in Denver this week,” she said, “that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.”

Her objective is perfectly clear. Women need to vote for me to quash the notion that there are limits to what women can do, to the authority and power they can command. Running the country isn’t something women can and will do eventually. It’s something they are ready to do now.

It’s a point which begs the question of whether or not she, Sarah Palin personally, would be an effective President. It could be a case of “right time, wrong candidate” which I’ve made in previous postings about Barack Obama’s campaign. It’s not that we’re not ready for a black President. It’s that Barack Obama, personally, is the wrong black candidate for the job.

Here we have Governor Palin encouraging women to vote for her because she is a woman. There may be other reasons, of course, but gender has got to be high on the short list. Hilary Clinton wasn’t quite so direct, but did frequently remind prospective women voters that her nomination and election would be historic. I’m sure they got the point.

Senator Obama’s nomination and election would also be historic, but for different reasons and, I think, to a lesser extent. From slave to President is a long road, the journey down which is a matter of pride for all Americans as an affirmation of our democracy, and of the self-correcting tendencies of a free society. African Americans are, however, a significant, but relatively small minority of our country.

Women, on the other hand, are half. Their having been discriminated against for so long, in the private and public sectors of our economy, is not only also unforgivable, it has been monumentally inefficient. The unfairness of it all notwithstanding, we have deprived the economy (and government) of the full capabilities of half the population. (It’s something pure capitalism would never have done. It had to be personal.) Fortunately, while discrimination against black and female Americans still exists, it is waning fast and quickly becoming a non-issue right before our eyes. Do we owe Barack Obama or Hilary Clinton anything for proving the point? No. They are just the current beneficiaries of changes in our society which were encouraged by activists, well known and obscure, throughout our history, who forced our country to pay attention.

Unfortunately for the Obama campaign, race doesn’t have equal status in politics. He can’t, as easily, stand up and encourage black people to vote for him precisely because he is black. There’s no point, and it could be counterproductive. Black Americans are going to vote for him anyway, as they have already demonstrated in the primaries. No, what he needs to do is dare white people not to vote for him on the grounds of his race. It’s a pitch which may have worked for many of his Rally People, not to mention an adoring media in the early stages of his campaign, but it’s a more subtle, negative argument which is a much harder sell to the electorate at large than the call to arms Governor Palin is making.

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2 responses to “Obama/Palin: The Politics of Race Versus Gender

  1. Let’s see…an ex-beauty pagent winner…with a undergraduate degree in jounalism…who does not believe in global warming…who does believe a woman should have no control over her own body and for 9 months should be viewed as nothing more than a baby container…who’s main attributes seem to be stubborness and vicious competiveness… who has had next to no experience in goverment…who has a currently very messy family situation given that she had recently given birth to a downs syndrome baby, has a 17 year old daughter who is unwed and pregnant and is facing investigation for using her political office to smear her ex-brother-in-law and get him fired (he is in a custody battle with her sister)…who seems to be in bed with big oil…who is running for VP…whose running mate is 72 and is a cancer survivor…who has no foreign policy background and in fact has only been out of the country twice…who may become President of the country I love at a time when it faces the most complex foreign policy issues, economic issues and domestic issues it has in decades…Why does this sound like a totally unbelievably bad novel???? I for one am terrified and can not understand what Mr. McCain was thinking!!!!

  2. Hi. Thanks for stopping by. I feel the need to respond. Couple of things…

    Our political system doesn’t nominate Vice Presidential candidates based on their ability to be President. Not really. If qualifications for the Presidency were the only criterion, the best system would probably be to nominate the person (Hilary Clinton for the Democrats, for example) who came in second during the primaries.

    No. Running mates are selected to “balance the ticket” and for other reasons to help get the nominee for President elected — so let’s stop kidding ourselves by asking whether or not the person running for Vice President would make a good President.

    Depending upon what any of us think we need in the Presidency, that is, what makes for a good President, it’s arguable whether or not Joe Biden would be any better at it than Sarah Palin.

    As for foreign policy experience, Senator Obama doesn’t have any — his primary reason for adding Biden to his ticket. Even his rhetoric on the subject is woefully lacking. (If you have time, please read something I wrote called “Reckless Endangerment” which challenges one of Senator Obama’s core assertions that he was correct in his early advice about our involvement in Iraq.)

    I’m fairly confident that it’s more likely that Senator Obama will actually be President if he’s elected, than it is that Senator McCain, if he’s elected, will die in office. The first is a certainty. The second is not. Senator Obama is all talk, and no substance. McCain, on the other hand, whether or not you agree with him, is the real deal — and he’s the one running for President, not Palin.

    While I have honestly not made up my mind yet, I’m worried that Senator Obama can’t manage his way out of a paper bag, if you know the expression. Other than promises and an astonishingly naive belief in concensus politics, domestic and international, what in the world qualifies him to be President? What, he delivers a good speech?

    Adding Palin to the ticket was a bold and, I think, brilliant political move — and this is, after all, about politics, and about winning the general election. The questions we should be discussing are about Obama’s and McCain’s qualifications, and the likely policy and other implications of having one of them, and his party, in office.

    Just between you and me — if everyone else wouldn’t mind looking away for a moment — given the problems I’m having with Senator Obama, the thought that Senator McCain may only be a one term President is a real point in his favor.

    Please stop back again when you have time.


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