Saturday, March 24, 2007

On voting and Hillary.

OK. So I read a couple* of "feminist" arguments (I'm not suggesting the authors aren't feminist, but I see nothing inherently feminist about these arguments and I'm uncomfortable using the adjective uncritically here) in favor of voting for Hillary. And they've been bugging me for a while, but I haven't wanted to get into it because, frankly, I'm not the most educated person when it comes to knowing exactly what Hillary and Edwards and Obama have been up to and what they stand for, and I didn't really want to publically display my ignorance.

But now I can't help but feel that it is being implied, if not stated directly, that it's inherently feminist to back a (White) woman over a (Black) man, and I just have issues with this.

I mean, first, there's the whole ugly rearing head of 'gender trumps race' yet again, not to mention the fact that this pretty much leaves women of color out in the cold if they want to argue against this gender solidarity that's being proposed. Why should we assume that a White woman would be any better equipped to deal with - or ready to recognize and address - the struggles of women of color than White men have been? I mean, really? Are we serious as a movement about addressing racism or aren't we?

But even leaving all of that aside, here's the thing.

I used to be very big on the whole vote-for-the-representative-of-the-group-you-want-to-see-represented. I really was. I would vote for the woman, the Black person, the lesbian, whatever. I thought it was brilliant strategy, even.

And then Clarence Thomas was appointed to the Supreme Court. And I should note that it was this fact, along with the way that Anita Hill was so vilified, that is probably most responsible for my going back to school and getting a Ph.D. And a few years later, I took a class in Critical Race Theory, in which we studied the Hill-Thomas Hearings in great, hairy detail.

I came away from that course with my belief in the vote-for-the-representative-of-the-group-you-want-to-see-represented strategy thoroughly shaken. I mean, let's face it: Clarence Thomas hasn't been good for anybody. What does it mean to have a Black man on the Court if he does everything possible to rip out the guts of any laws that actually advance Black people? Sure, some little kid might look up to him and think, "maybe I can be that person some day." And sure, it's amazing that a country as racist as the U.S. finally has a Black man on the Court. Except...that this is not progress. This is tokenism. This is actively harmful to the status of Black Americans (who, incidentally, protested his appointment mightily, though the media gave us a very one-sided view of who supported whom during that whole debacle).

And Hillary may be a woman, but that's about all that she and I have in common when it comes to most social issues. I wouldn't vote for Elizabeth Dole or Margaret Thatcher, either, and while I hesitate to put Hillary quite in that category, having a woman in power isn't progress if she's there simply to be a woman and not to have radical politics.

So, yeah, Obama is looking good to me, and yeah, the fact that he's a Black man is a plus (I haven't completely outgrown my earlier vote-for-the-representative-of-the-group-you-want-to-see-represented idealism even though I know rationally that it's bad, bad politics) because it's time to change the face of the "White" House, but what truly impresses me about Obama has nothing to do with race, per se, and everything to do with the fact that I think he's a leader, I think he will do everything he can to change things, I think he will help women and men and children and people of color and all people.

And if America isn't "ready" for a Black president - well, that's not going to stop me from voting for him if I get the chance.

You don't get real change by voting for the most electable, bad politician.

*There was one in particular that I wanted to link to on a blog that I otherwise like, but now I can't find it.

***UPDATE: Yesterday, I picked up an announcement about a local NOW meeting. The speaker, Kim Matthews, has helped to create the "Get Hillary Elected" group, and the purpose of the meeting is, in part, to "share what you can do to get the first woman of the U.S. elected President."***


Trinity said...

I never know what to say to this. I feel out of the loop about Hillary -- every once in a while I hear her say something I totally agree with that gets me so fired up for her and all excited... and then I check the blogs and she's said something really alienating of people I respect, something that I can't quite believe came from her.

I also feel a lot less like radical politics are the solution up high -- extremism got us Bush, and my own explorations of the radical left have shown me some scary shit. I feel like a turncoat for saying it, but I'm beginning to wonder if moderates make the most sense, since I've seen so much messes made in the name of radicalism.

I don't know as much about Obama, and what I do find... he strikes me as enthusiastic, caring, passionate, but somehow not presidential. Hillary has a poise that reads to me "I will take charge and I will not take bullshit" -- even though many of her opinions worry me lately.

SO I just don't know. I like her, in my gut, and I can't seem to erase that feeling. But I don't want to be guided by something so... silly-seeming.

So I'm torn, and don't post.

SallySunshine said...

Yes, Yes, and Yes. PF, you rock!

Obama is the person for the job. Thank you for this post. I see so many feminists who support Hillary just because she's a woman. And, really, it's not that I don't agree with Hillary on some of the issues, BUT, you are right, we need a total landscape/ideological shift in this country, RIGHT NOW.

And it's deeper than just women's issues only. I want to see an end to this horrendous war, and I don't see Hillary coming up with any real solutions/actions on this.

See Barack's plan:

(Barack has been speaking out against the war since the very beginning, unlike Hillary.)

When I first heard him speak at the Democratic 2004 convention, I got chills, the man is brilliant orator. But beyond that, he has a plan, and a practical one at that.

I'm through with the Clinton/Bush era, it's time to get some new blood circulating in the White House.

Go Obama!

Donna said...

I was so angry when Russ Feingold decided against running. He is the perfect candidate and everything he has done has been on principle and for the people. Why can't we get a candidate like that instead of "politicians"? That's what I don't like about the top candidates, Obama, Clinton, Edwards, they are all so politically calculating. I want them to actually believe in what they are saying and doing and stand by it. The best of the pack to me is the white guy Edwards, or even better Gore (fingers crossed about him entering the race). There was no waffling on Edwards part about gays not being immoral like Clinton. I didn't like his waffling on Amanda and Melissa though. He should have stood by them and not let the extremists on the right determine his staffing decisions.

I do want to see women and people of color in more positions of power, including president some day, but as you noticed with Clarence Thomas, some of them are stealth candidates for white male privilege. I'd still rather vote for the white guy who will do something for women and people of color than the woman or person of color who will not, who is only in it for personal gain.

ckh said...

I think that before making any choices to put someone in office you should definately know what they are about. I like Obama and think he'd make a great leader. He has charisma and I like his values.

I advocate Hillary in this race not because I want gender to trump race, but because I genuinely like her - flaws and all. It shouldn't be about a woman or a black man, but about candidate one more closely representing us than candidate two.

For me, candidate one is Hillary and that's my first choice. She represents me the closest. (With the exception of the war and that's another topic all together.)

When I wrote about wanting a woman president, Obama just happened to be the most likely candidate to give her a race. I don't think that Edwards is going to pull ahead of either of them. And I seriously wondered which candidate African-American women would prefer. How do they identify themselves primarily?

And I guess, in a perfect election win of 2008, I'd love to see Hillary as prez and Obama as the VP, but I'd be satisfied enough (for now) to see that order switched.

Anonymous said...

My opinion is that right now, we really really really really really need a democrat. With the BS war and the health care crisis, I think it's about time for a democrat with a really level head who can get down to business.
When John Kerry ran in 2004, the biggest mistake made was all the emphasis on gay marriage. Okay, I believe in gay marriage, too, but in times like these, do we really need to focus on that?
This time, it's going to be the black and woman issue, and I want to spit again. Don't make it all about that. Look at what needs to get done.
We're going to end up with another 8 years of republicans.

Anna said...

I am not 100% nuts abot either Obama or Clinton, honestly. One's as bad as the other.

Plain(s)feminist said...

Trin - yeah, I agree with you. I think that some of Hillary's alienating comments may well come from the fact that, as a woman, she has been targeted and attacked in ways that a man would not have been, and so she is carefully trying to remain "electable." And I agree, too, that radical politics and the current political system don't seem to work well, but more and more I think the current political system is what needs to change.

Sally - YES!

Donna - I think that in order to be a politician, one has to be politically calculating, and it is totally depressing. (There are some exceptions.)

CK - thanks for your comment and for clarifying your post. I like your idea about a Hillary/Obama ticket (I'd prefer the reverse order) because I think her conservatism would be held in check by him and would balance the ticket for conservative Democrats. However, IMO, Hillary has zero chance of winning because the Republican hate operatives will not allow her to be a viable candidate. They've been hoping she would run - openly wishing for it, stating this wish publicly for the last couple of years - because she is the most hated woman, if not person, in America, and they know that most Republicans would vote for anyone other than her.

Danielle - you could be right. It might be someone like McCain, who is better than Bush (but then, so is my butt, frankly), but if the Dems don't all decide to run positive campaigns and to focus on the real issues, that's what will happen, I think.

Anna - Ack. I hope you're wrong!

Donna said...

I hope they don't run a positive campaign. I hope they do run on issues but hit back hard when the Republicans go negative and you know they will. I want them to point out all the lies and corruption and cronyism we have put up with for Bush's two terms. I don't think it has to be an either or situation. I think they can run on thier platform and issues as well as point out Republican crap. I also think it's only Rush Limbaugh talking points bs that says Dems have to be positive because they don't want everyone reminded of ALL the negatives. Both positives for the person you vote for and negatives for the other person are motivators in my opinion.

Plain(s)feminist said...

Donna -
I meant positive with regard to the other Dems running in the primary. No point in tearing down the primary candidates so that we end up with a nominee we all feel lukewarm about, thanks to a smear campaign. I agree that they should be firm about the problems Bush and the Republicans have mired us in.

Anonymous said...

I'm voting for Obama, because Hillary has strayed too far from her "it takes a village" ideals for me to agree with her anymore./

andi said...

Personally, I don't like either Obama or Clinton well enough to vote for either. I don't know enough about any of the other canidates to form an opinion, YET. My research has just started.
If I had my druthers I'd be voting for Dennis Kucinich because I can agree with his stand on 9 of 10 key issues. He stand next to no chance at all tho'. Gender and color are not issues for me, ideas are.

Donna said...

I love Kucinich too, Andi, but I don't think he has a chance either. The reason why? His looks. Another reason to hate American politics. Last election I sent out information on DK to a bunch of my friends and family and of those who responded almost to a person they made fun of his looks. "He's like a leprechaun". Could people possibly be more shallow? Why yes, they can. My sister told me that she voted for Gore in the 2000 election because he was cuter than Bush. GAWD! She had no idea what the platform was for either. She voted on cute.

Donna said...

I see what you are saying PF. I agree that I hope they don't tear each other down during the primaries, but I also know that when it comes down to the wire they will.

belledame222 said...

why did Wellstone have to die. sigh.

Ravenmn said...

It is my profound wish that none of you amazing activist, fascinating women expect anything at all from the politicans running for President.

It's nonsense and distracting. I vote and think everyone should vote. But I expect nothing.

Real change comes when you and I make connections and do what we can for each other.

Kelsey said...

I was sort of shocked to see all these women at the NCWO conference this weekend, speaking out endlessly against the war, but supporting Hillary. Just being a woman doesn't overcome the many issues I have with her. I honestly think running Obama will get us closer to having a female president that running Hillary will.