Sunday, March 09, 2008
The Election continued...
I remain undecided between Clinton and Obama. My horse was Edwards. Still is. I don't feel particularly inspired by either Clinton or Obama. It goes without saying that I feel either are better than McCain. McCain is scary. He's out of touch. I'll be disappointed in anyone who votes for him just like I think those who voted for Bush (especially in 04 when they knew what they were getting) owe the American people an apology for what he's done to our international reputation, our economy and our morale. But I digress....

I feel that my lack of strong support for either candidate gives me a unique perspective into the election. My only agenda is to see a Democrat take office in 08. So some thoughts...

1. If people truly want change. Truly? They would take a stand and not vote for either of the two major parties. I still don't understand why Obama and Clinton are out "changing" one another. I really don't understand how Obama gets to claim this narrative of change. As illustrated by the negative tone of the campaigns, the amount of money needed to participate and the airwaves being dominated by the pundits rather than the "common" people, politics is politics. Obama is not an outsider. Clinton isn't either. Both are entrenched in party politics. Both want to win. I think it is naive to assume that the only way to inspire is to claim outsider status. I am inspired by a politician (with experience) looking out for the middle class. I'm inspired by someone who has an understanding of the game of politics while playing it fairly. I'm inspired by someone who maintains a position of privilege maintaining a stance that shows they also stand on margins to fight for fairness and rights for those who often are overlooked.

2. I still have a hard time distinguishing between politics and sexism. I do think that Obama gets a free pass on many issues. He's treated better by the media. He's romanticized. Is that because Clinton's policies stink or is it because we have a deep seated distrust of women? I can't distinguish. I do know that more often than not Hillary is accused of being manipulative. She is accused of being calculated. We all know that there is nothing in any campaign that isn't calculated. I think it is more acceptable to accuse a women of playing games than it is a person of color. Don't get me wrong, racism is alive and well. When people go into that voting booth alone with their biases, I think racism could rear its ugly head. Sexism just gets to be alive and well in the open public sphere. I know a lot of smart and progressive people who pull for Obama who reek of sexism. I'm talking about the comparison of Hillary to Tracy Flick (in Election fame). I'm talking about the people who criticize her use of emotion (of course they never accuse Obama of "manipulating" the African American speaking style of past heroes). People who critique her role as mother (she isn't a "good" mother, she uses Chelsea) as if it matters to her potential job as President.

3. The newest thing to really piss me off? The claim that Clinton really has no "foreign" policy experience. It isn't that she has no foreign policy experience. It is that her foreign policy experience mostly deals with women's rights abroad. Not surprisingly, these efforts go unnoticed and are cast aside as not important and not "real." It goes without saying that it is a mistake for Obama to get into a "credentials" battle. I'm not sure why he is going there. However, even if it wasn't, the media would do it for him. Sexism.

4. The "war" issue. To be sure, neither democratic candidate is anti-war. Neither espouse a pacifist paradigm. Neither were actively trying to change American foreign policy until the 08 election approached. Neither would be afraid to use force. If someone is truly anti-war, they probably feel by the false choice of either Clinton or Obama. This is an issue I'm really struggling with in 08. I don't feel at home with either democratic candidate. Will I support the nominee? Yes. But it isn't exactly because they are "anti-war." They are other things. They uphold other policies that I hold dear. But they don't represent an anti-war alternative. Clinton, who I know to be intelligent, was "duped" by the Bush Administration. Obama, who is anti this war has threatened a Pakistan invasion and, by most accounts, over-sold his plan for Iraq troop withdrawal.

I want the primary to end soon. I'm getting annoyed at both candidates, the media, and the dogmatic fans of both candidates. In true hyper-competitive political fashion, we're splintering the party. We talk about the differences between Obama and Clinton (which are slight) instead of priming the American public for the larger issues of differences we'll see in the general election.

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Blogger Matt said...

My biggest scare about the democratic nominee, honestly, is the healthcare issue. Lord help me if this means that I'm becoming more "red", but it scares the hell out of me that universal coverage is about to be extended, with no mention of the ability to FULLY pay for it. Yeah yeah, they talk about repealing Bush's tax cuts, but will that really cover the whole cost?? I'm ignorant of the ins and outs of medical plans, but why not first (or simultaneously) tackle the exploding cost of simple health coverage? I'd be much more comfortable shelling out for universal health care if there was a way to control the costs of coverage.

Also, what REALLY upsets me about Obama is the whole issue about him being Muslim or not. I want either him to stand up and say "who the hell cares if I'm Muslim or not, there are millions of practicing Muslims in this country. To say that every Muslim is a dirty rotten terrorist is to believe that every Christian is modeled after the cult groups from Waco and Ruby Ridge." For real, just stand up and call people out on their ignorance already.

I, too, am ready for this primary to be done. And I want someone to balance the budget and start paying down the debt. Call me crazy.

Blogger kristen said...

Agreed...I prefer the former. He just needs to be like "WHO CARES IF I'M A MUSLIM." 100% in agreement. To continue to deflect and act outraged that someone would "even accuse him of it" is to imply that something is wrong with being a Muslim.

Great point, Matt.

I'm in favor of universal in a huge way. And I'm in favor of raising taxes to get it.

Blogger kristen said...

I'm cross posting some discussion from a Facebook discussion with my friend Dave. I suspect others agree with him so I'm posting it here as well. Thanks, Dave....

I think you're right about most of the things you say in your note. I agree there is blatant sexism both in media coverage of this election re: Hillary and that there is popular sexism amongst voters. I think you underestimate the degree of racism in the campaign, only because it happens more subtly than sexism. You're right it's more socially acceptable to be sexist, but it's not like racism is only gonna "rear it's ugly head" in the voting booth. So here are a few examples and things that piss me off:

1) Criticisms that Obama's campaign is "just words" or "mere rhetoric." Granted you're right about Obama's claim about "change" being a campaign strategy that I don't buy, but I also don't like the Clinton campaign's continual criticism of Obama along the lines of "he's nothing but flowery speeches, he doesn't have any real experience or ideas." First of all, Clinton may have spent more time in the Senate and in the political "world," but it's not like Obama is an outsider (which is why his narrative of change wrings hollow). He is a political insider as well with lots of experience on fighting political battles, just different ones than Clinton and McCain. Second, I think this line of criticism (which is perpetuated by pundits and media as well) strikes of subtle racism - the idea that black candidates (a la Sharpton or Jackson) are stirring orators and motivators but aren't really equipped to govern. It could even go back to racism extending to the black minstrel shows, etc.

The idea that African Americans are suited for show and for emotion but not for substance.
Arguing that Obama's campaign is nothing but words is silly since at this point all of the campaigns are just words and empty promises. The candidates all have "plans" on health care, the war, etc. But to say Obama doesn't have a 'real' plan while Clinton or McCain do is silly because they all feature the same promises of what he will do if he's elected which don't translate to much when you've got low public support and a divided Congress. I think this is one instance where subtle racist attacks are popularized because we don't realize that they are objectionable.

2) There's been a lot of criticism recently, which they talked about in the last debate, about Obama's church and his affiliation with political figures like Farrakhan. I think this is another area where there is racism going on. First of all, I think Obama distanced himself enough from the racist comments of Farrakhan and others, and I don't understand what else he's supposed to do. I mean a person loosely affiliated with McCain's campaign said some racist stuff about Obama and McCain just said "I don't support that" and everybody forgot about it, so what gives with Obama? Second, there's all this craziness about the church he attends being too Afrocentric and racist towards whites.

Lots of other people have debunked this more than I could such as here: But the basic idea is that these criticism are racist and ignore racial history and the history of the black church. If a black church says it's pro "black values" that doesn't mean they are racist but that they are trying to affirm and support the African American community. Nonetheless, lots of pundits and bloggers criticize Obama and say that he is subtly racist against whites, which seems to echo fears about a "racial backlash" and racial organizing which go as far back as the era of slavery and before then. I think this is another area where racist comments are more subtle so we often don't see them as clearly

3) There's definitely a lot of Islamophobia going on re: Obama. There were those pictures circulated of him dressed in 'traditional' Somali clothes which caused a big deal. There's the continual stuff about his middle name "Hussein." There's the rumors that circulate about how he's a "secret" Muslim, an anti-Semite, or how he was educated in a madrasah. All of this because his dad is from Kenya and was/is a Muslim. It's obvious why Islamophobia is sanctioned in American society, because Muslims are the collective enemy #1 in the war on terror. But these kind of attacks are not only damaging politically, but also seem to justify the racist fear of and violence towards all Muslims.

So anyway, I just wanted to match your rant with a rant of my own. I agree with you that media coverage of Clinton's campaign has been wrought with sexism. I also think that there has been ample racism in the discussions of Obama's campaign. Maybe we shouldn't expect anything different, though it's sad that we can't. I agree with you about your larger point. I don't have a horse in the race either; I just want one of the two to beat McCain. I also agree I wish the primary would be over, or at the very least they would stop with the negative campaigning which is only going to strengthen McCain and be used against the Dems this summer/fall.

But, I just wanted to throw in my two cents because I have had a lot of conversations with people (maybe not you yet) about how Clinton has had to face a lot of sexism in her campaign (which is 100% true), but a lot less people have been willing to concede that Obama has had to face racism. I think that is because there's a popular belief among a lot of Americans (evidenced in my class, for example) that racism is by and large over, the progress we've made is great, there are only a few racist crazies left, and that Obama's campaign is the epitome of the triumph against racism. When in fact, I think racism does still exist, not just in people's minds or hearts but in institutions and in the public sphere.

Blogger kristen said...

OK. Here is my response.

FIRST AND FOREMOST-- I want to state that I think racism is alive and well. I think it will rear its head sometime. I just think that publically it is more accepted and even encouraged to be sexist. To be certain, it isn't critiqued in communities besides the feminist ones.

Anyway, on to my response

OK. I'll concede some of the "racist" stuff. But I want to make a few points.

1. I don't think that the racism is at play as much as the sexism about the style of speaking. If it was equal, there would be CONVERSATIONS about how Obama is manipulating his speeches to mimic some of the black men who have come before him. People are admiring his style. It is winning him kudos. Yes, the angle that "all he is capable of" is flowery language is problematic. Agreed.

2. However, Obama has the option of bringing up his campaign experience which he does INfrequently to say the least. It isn't a double bind for him. He can get out of the "flowery" language ridiculousness but actually giving some POLICY speeches. Or at the very least fielding some questions after his speaking engagements. Clinton cannot escape the double bind. She's either emotional or not emotional enough. The heart of oppression is the double bind. I just don't see the double bind working for Obama.

3. I think Obama continues the Islmaphobia. And this continues a conversation my friend Matt Harms and I are having so I gotta give him props. When the media accuse him of being Muslim, why doesn't he just stand up and be like "WHO THE F CARES?!" But instead he's all like "What?!?! I'm not MUSLIM!! How dare you create this smear campaign where you accuse me of being MUSLIM?!?! How DIRTY OF A WORD." This seems to imply that there is something wrong with being Muslim. There is a VERY easy out to this Muslim argument.

Blogger Nicole said...

This post is case-in-point that my best friends are engaged, thoughtful, and kick-ass citizen scholars. I feel so proud of myself for choosing these friends. Go me!

Oh, yeah, go you too:)

Thanks for the thoughtful and provocative posts... it gives me much to consider as this race drags on.

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