Thursday, May 22, 2008

Peculiar argument

I'm actually a little tired of parsing the Clinton campaign, of posting about it. My take in a nutshell: she ran a bad campaign, one predicated on the idea that it would be a cakewalk. It was never going to be that easy, there were too many things working against her, perhaps the most notable being a real hunger for change; she's simply too much the insider, and ran that way. Now we see the spectacle of someone who's lost who simply refuses to give up. Some find that admirable, but most people simply see it as embarrassing and somewhat pathetic. Hillary has once again become the thing that probably rankled the most during the years following her health care failure: irrelevant.

And this has apparently unhinged some people. Marie Cocco of the Washington Post has written an odd column, The 'Not Clinton' Excuse. She begins by dismissing the very real concerns of millions that Hillary is not the right choice for president as "a platitude," as "a rationale":
It isn't the woman part, the rationale goes. It's the Clinton part: that "polarizing" persona and "unlikable" demeanor. The unappetizing thought of President "Billary." The more inspirational quest by Barack Obama to become the country's first black president.
This is one of the more curious conceits of those finding their refuge in sexism, that no one could possibly be against Hillary unless they're obsessed with her gender. This is, of course, a slap in the face to everyone who looked at what the candidates offered, and decided that other-than-Hillary more nearly matches their hopes for the leader of the country.

Then Cocco spins off into a concern that "no woman will seriously contend for the White House for another generation," and that this represents a serious deficiency in America's politics. She laments, "which woman, exactly, would be acceptable?"

There won't be any, because we resist the rise of women based on family connections - just look at all the world leaders who used that route. She cites Corazon Aquino, Benazir Bhutto, inexplicably missing Eva Peron. None of these quite supports her case that we should clear the way for Elizabeth Edwards or Chelsea Clinton to move into the Oval Office tomorrow (to be fair, she also mentions Gandhi, who was at least a credible leader, but did far too little to move India forward). She sneers at those who trot out the "dynasty" argument; after all, we elected George W. (who is exhibit #1 as to why Americans are now especially reluctant to anoint families).

Cocco then trots out the arguments that we've heard a million times:
No woman on the political horizon possesses the portfolio that Clinton brought to this campaign: National name recognition. A record as a prodigious fundraiser -- for herself and scores of other Democrats. Winner of two Senate races in New York, a rough-and-tumble state with a trove of 31 electoral college votes and Democratic donors with deep pockets. And a huge, loyal base of support within her party.
Yes, impressive, though not quite as impressive as the record Hillary claims for herself. But, so what? She lost, it's over.

What is Cocco saying here? That we should stop, roll back the actual campaign, and hand the nomination to Hillary because: 1) she has this remarkable track record (one which is matched or exceeded by others), and 2) there will never be another woman who will have a chance?

This is downright loopy. I don't think we'll ever know for sure whether sexism or racism is the larger force in this campaign, but they both apply, giving Barack a pretty good excuse if he had lost. And, as for Cocco's concern that no other woman will emerge for another generation, no one predicted the meteoric rise of Obama, so there could well be some woman, currently low-profile, who will be a contender in the next decade.

So I can answer Cocco's final question, feeling pretty comfortable that I'm speaking for millions:
Is it something about Hillary, or something about us?
It's something about Hillary (and not that she's a woman).

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