I may hate myself later for doing this; in fact, maybe I already do. But I seem to have lost the struggle against my better judgment, so will say a little bit today about the Democratic presidential primaries.
I have been trying to view the candidates by two criteria: the content of the policies they are promoting, and whether I think they can actually win the election. As far as policy wonks go, I tend to take my cues from Paul Krugman, who in his excellent columns has pretty clearly laid out the difference in the candidates’ health care plans, economic recovery policies, and so forth.
I opined briefly last year about distrusting Hillary and Obama because they were too centrist for my tastes, and in the last few months I’ve been pulling for Edwards despite the fact of the historic opportunity here for us to elect either the first Black or the first woman president. As the media decided a two-way race was easier to report on and let the Edwards candidacy sink in terms of media coverage, his withdrawal from the race seemed all but assured.
The question for me then became, which of the two front runners gets my vote? The guy who is going all Camelot on us, or the woman with the unfortunate husband?
To my surprise, Hillary is the one whose health care and economic plans, thanks to Edwards’ challenge, are the most progressive and inclusive. She’s got a lot of negatives, but the positive about her negatives is that they are known. There are not many lower blows she could suffer that haven’t already been heaped on her publicly since the 1990s; she’s been through vicious personal attacks from all sides and still keeps her eye on the ball. That is what I call formidable strength, and barring the unforeseen I think it is enough to get her through the election and into the White House.
Obama is an inspiring guy. He’s a talented, skillful, strategic thinker who has a great career ahead of him. But I am dismayed at his calls for a “new type of politics.” That naive rhetoric, combined with the fact that his actual policy proposals are weaker than Hillary’s, lead me to believe that we will be very disappointed at what he is actually able to achieve should he reach the White Houseâ€”all the more so because his powerful message has been so uplifting to so many progressives.
Also, consider how many Republicans are pulling for him. He is the darling of many conservative pundits (even Oprah is more a businesswoman than a progressive, let’s remember), and I suspect that if he wins the Democratic nomination they will quickly reverse their public adoration and proceed to tear him to shreds. The problem with Obama is that he has not yet had the shit kicked out of him by a right wing that will do anything to stay in power. He will if he becomes the nominee. Not only that, but every skeleton in his closet will be revealedâ€”and because he’s a relative newcomer, these are all going to be shocking revelations. I am not convinced he could win against such odds.
The final straw for me came after two events. One was watching footage of John McCain answering a question from a woman in the audience who asked, “how do we beat the bitch?” Instead of immediately saying that such ad hominem, sexist attacks are out of bounds in a presidential campaign, McCain laughed nervously and answered the question.
The second was hearing about the Republican operative who is launching a “new group” to defeat Hillary. Oh, and there’s more. If these were racial slurs aimed at Obama, the public outcry would be fast and furious. But because Hillary is the woman we love to hate, somehow these attitudes are given a pass.
You know, Hillary Clinton is not my favorite person. I have some serious concerns about her close ties to lobbyists, her vote on Iraq, and so forth. But she is dedicated, competent, smart, and knows how to win. In the end, I am appalled at the degree to which misogyny is allowed to exist in our political dialogue in this country. This same kind of minefield will await any woman who dares to run a serious presidential campaign, and it will continue only until one of them actually succeeds. I think it should be sooner rather than later.