June 07, 2008

I surely can't be alone in having sympathy for Hillary Clinton, in understanding completely why she chose to fight to the bitter end -- and in respecting greatly how very close she has managed to fight the race despite all the obstacles in her path, obstacles few seem to wish to acknowledge.

The Obama tsunami is maybe more interesting to watch from outside. I have seen it before, but perhaps never used quite so effectively: how relatively little experience and significant accomplishment can be disguised as a cult of innocence and a fresh face.

(And yet secure competence, let alone exceptionality, continues definitely to be distrusted, and almost to be feared. I sometimes think the last president to have been elected at least partly on that basis was Eisenhower ... who may have assessed his times and surroundings a little too accurately and a little too openly.)

From the beginning there has also been a huge, unspoken game of chicken going on in the background: but Clinton's staffer broke first and dared to say that some of the votes Obama gained were specifically due to his race. (Call it, in part, the Oprah factor? It did not take much work for Jay Leno to track down people who were willing to say that they were voting for Obama because Oprah said so.) The pattern reminds me of Godwin's Law -- and the net effect is that certain things Must Not Be Said (whether or not they happen to be true).

Is it not curious that the gender factor won't -- cannot -- work the same way? Anger is the flip side of passion, but women are persistently conferred lower status for displaying anger, even by other women. The only way around this is to explain the cause of the anger, but even then that explanation has to be one the listener accepts. Yet at the same time, the current Democrat tactic and overall policy seems to be primarily anger at the current establishment.

Thus the Democratic race is as close as it is, not counting states such as Indiana where Republican voters can vote strategically in Democratic primaries, despite
To surmount all this, to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that all this hangs over you through no fault of your own and drags you down like a millstone around your neck each and every day, to watch so many jumping on a blind bandwagon of "Change!" without any indication of understanding, to know duced well that many are choosing the black candidate for no other reason than because he is black (and never be able to breathe a word of it), and at the same time to discover that people can mock your gender at every opportunity with signs such as "Iron My Shirt" and the people and the media alike shrug and say, "So what did she expect?" --

No, do not mock what Hillary Clinton has accomplished, and why she chose to fight to the bitter end. Maybe one day she will yet be seen as a trailblazer, and just maybe she may yet reap the fruits of the harvest she has so bitterly paid for.

And should Barack Obama end up as president on a platform of sheer inertia and blind faith: well, he is untested, untrained, as yet unchallenged, an uncertain factor in every way, but seemingly full of determination to change the things that are not one man's to change, that he will have to work with House and Senate and a deeply entrenched justice system to change. Some in his position have risen to the challenge. More have slipped.

Here is to hoping that if he is elected, he will be remembered positively for more than being the first black president.


August update:

I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values.
- Mark Penn, Clinton's top campaign strategist


Yet another reason to respect Hillary Clinton has just come to light. After a shocking loss in Iowa to someone who until then had been an unknown, Clinton had been advised to take the campaign negative, to paint Obama in no uncertain "un-American" colours. She refused. Quite probably it cost her the campaign.

Had she taken that advice, she might still have lost and she might have won ... but at what cost to American tolerance and American unity?

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