I just read Rebecca Traister’s article on Salon.com about Hillary supporters. The title is “Why Clinton Voters Say They Won’t Support Obama,” and the subtitle is “The Attack of the PUMAs, Or A Dozen Reasons Why Clinton Voters Are Too Angry To Come Home.” I thought she hit the nail right on the head. And then I read some of the comments.
I was appalled at the ones which railed against white middle class Second Wave feminists as if we were a bunch of racists, just because we wanted Hillary to get the nomination. I wasn’t for Clinton because she was white and I wasn’t for her just because she was a woman. But her gender influenced me, sure. Are you going to tell me that Obama’s race doesn’t influence some voters (i.e., black ones) to vote for him? Why else would it be said that he has a loyal voting bloc among African-Americans? Oh, but it’s okay to want to be loyal to your race. What isn’t okay is being loyal to your gender!
I wouldn’t have voted for just any woman for President, although I admit that I would give a female candidate a little more leeway than I would a man, because I think it’s about time we had a woman president. So sue me.
So will I switch my vote to Obama? Yes, because as Traister points out in her article, there is nowhere else to go. There’s no way in hell I would vote for McCain. But that doesn’t mean that I’m happy about Obama, and it has nothing to do with the fact that he’s black or male. I feel that we (white middle class Second Wave fems) are having to settle for second best. I’m not a PUMA (“Party Unity My Ass”), because I will remain true to my party. But I’m still angry. I know I have to get over it in order to give Obama all the support he will need to beat McCain. But for now let me stew in my juices.
I’m still in mourning for Hillary. I feel like attaching a black ribbon to my Hillary campaign button, except that I don’t have one. I never bought a button, yard sign or bumper sticker. Partly because I’m cheap, but mostly because I was leery about announcing to the world that I was a Hillary fan. Let’s be frank: it was unpopular to be for Hillary. Especially where I work, which is on a college campus. To be aligned with her is to be tarred with the same brush. You must be a ball-breaking woman, or identify with one. If you’re a feminist, you have to be from the Second Wave, which translates to out-of-touch with the “New World. ” Or worse: you might be a racist, because why else would you prefer a white woman over a promising black man?
There has been surprisingly little written about the debate over which group suffers more discrimination: women or blacks. Most people would probably deny that Hillary’s loss had anything to do with gender discrimination–it just had to do with her. But if you reverse the equation, if a 47-year-old woman was running against a 60-year-old man, who do you think would be elected? There is no way that people would believe that a relatively young and inexperienced woman could have what it takes to be president, the way they’ve been willing to believe it of Obama.
I’m not saying that there’s no racial discrimination. There most certainly is and it may cost Obama the presidency. The Democrats may have waged a historic campaign, but as soon as it became clear that Obama and Clinton were the two contenders for the nomination, it must have made the powers-that-be groan, if not tear out their hair. Everyone has been so hyped up about Obama and Clinton fighting it out, that they’ve neglected to face reality about the effect that either type of discrimination would have on the national campaign. Democrats are put in a vulnerable position either way. There is no question that racial discrimination will play a major role in this election, but it would have been equally touch-and-go if Hillary had won the nomination. Either candidate would have had a handicap against a white “seasoned” male.
I’m fine with backing Obama, but I’m worried that he can’t beat McCain. I think Hillary at least had a shot at it, because of her age and experience, but I would have been just as worried about her. It’s hard to get most people to be honest about their prejudices. Sometimes it’s hard to be honest with yourself. We don’t like to think that we would base our decisions on race or gender. And I’m not saying that we will be, totally. There is also the issue of age–another kind of discrimination. McCain might be seen as too old, Obama as too young.
I think it will boil down to who gives us more hope for the future. It won’t be about gay marriage or abortion, or whether someone was a war hero or not, and ultimately it won’t be about age or race. But those prejudices will be part of the mix, you can count on that.