Although it might seem like ancient history for 20-somethings, it wasn’t so long ago when women had little chance of stepping outside the kitchen to make real differences in the public and private sector. Because of this, I was elated when Hillary Clinton, who personifies accomplishment and merit-based opportunity, emerged as a legitimate presidential candidate.
I hoped that the 2000-year bondage of women might end, so I resented Barack Obama’s entry into the race, which threatened that dream. When he won in Iowa, I wanted to be angry.
Obama’s moving speeches however, made it difficult to keep anger and disappointment alive. I recognize his magic: his intelligence, inspiring oratory and his themes of hope and change are what the nation craves. His appeal is intoxicating -- especially to young idealists-- but the dark cloud of questionable electability that faces Hillary also looms large over Obama.
Doubtless brighter and more articulate than George W. Bush, Obama has not used race as a crutch, and the media has not made race an issue (as they have gender). In lily-white Iowa, he transcended race. Then independent blue-collared New Hampshire leveled the playing field between the first-female or first-black potential president
The electability problems of a tough female like Hillary have been extensively debated. Yet if Obama heads the Democratic ticket, his race may also be a negative factor for many voters. For reasons of “political correctness,” people don’t reveal that they would prefer to elect the devil himself rather than someone they consider a “nigger,” but two weeks ago at a dinner party, an otherwise intelligent accomplished man actually said this. It terrifies me, but I believe he represents millions.
When a John McCain supporter referred to Hillary as “that bitch,” McCain never distanced himself from the insult to a Senate colleague and former first lady. If the questioner had used the N-word, would McCain have reacted differently?
While the word “bitch” barely causes a ripple, no one can deny the ongoing presence of a reservoir of racial prejudice, overt and subliminal, in this country. But to paraphrase Churchill, by November Hillary might be a warmer and fuzzier woman, but Obama will still be black.
Iowa Republicans chose folksy extremist Mike Huckabee over Mormon flip-flopper Mitt Romney. Democrats need to ask how many similar voters, along with others, will choose a Republican nominee whom they perceive as a bulwark against a black liberal in the White House.
We don’t know the answer, because no one wants to ask that question -- and because voters will never admit their bigotry to pollsters.
Despite the chorus that Democrats MUST win in 2008, lest the country be doomed, most voting Americans just want a president they can love; one with whom they feel comfortable and who, coincidentally, may guide the country to peace and prosperity. For Iowa caucus-goers that was Obama: in New Hampshire, women led a groundswell for one of their own. Now a black man and a woman—both pioneers- challenge a nation yearning for “change.”
Keeping our eye on the November prize, one blogger says it best. “Please, God,” she writes,” all I want for Christmas is a Democrat president.”
- ▼ 2008 (17)