Tags: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Melissa McEwan, sexism
In a medium that allows for infinite interpretations of reality, we can’t be surprised that the internet has facilitated some wildly different representations of politicians. At the beginning of the Democratic Primary, Barack Obama was either a wide-eyed, hope-mongering idealist, or a Bambi-esque neophyte without the strength or experience to be President. In turn, Hillary Clinton was either a smart and savvy politician running a flawless campaign or a power-hungry, say-nothing centrist who couldn’t articulate why she wanted to be President.
However diverse these portrayals were and however removed they might have been from reality, it’s important to remember that they weren’t just invented out of thin air; they were constructed by columnists, talking-heads and bloggers who built their own realities based on what they saw of the primary contest.
It’s a shame, then, that part one of Melissa McEwan and Maureen McCluskey’s CiF piece on the ‘destroying’ of Hillary Clinton in the liberal blogosphere doesn’t provide any background to indicate where this loathing came from. Even before her campaign for President, Clinton was never a popular figure: she was a leading member of the uber-centrist DLC, she voted for the war, she took money from special interests and her staff included union-busters and corporate shills. As her campaign began to smell defeat, she then started making statements that seemed unbecoming of a Democrat. She argued only herself and Senator McCain were qualified to become Commander-in-Chief. She fell short of confirming that Obama wasn’t a Muslim. She repeated the right-wing theme that her opponent was an ‘elitist’ – in spite all the years he’d spent working in poor parts of Chicago. Finally, in one of her last arguments about electability, she claimed the nomination should go to her because she won the votes of more white folks.
These actions prompted a smorgasbord of vicious, dehumanising and frequently sexist tit-for-tat responses, and McEwan recorded these diligently during the primary. But by ignoring the fact that genuine grievances existed, McEwan & McCluskey give the impression, whether intentionally or otherwise, that the prime motivation for attacking Clinton was sexism. Instead, I think the prime motivation was the poor conduct of her campaign, which incited a lot of anger and recrimination and all too frequently mutated into sexist attacks.
If I were them, I would’ve argued that even with genuine points of disagreement and disgust with the Clinton campaign, some previously upstanding members of the blogosphere still sank into the swamp of sexism, and that when seemingly decent, progressive people can still do that, there remains a long way to go before gender equality is achieved.
Image by Flickr user sskennel (Creative Commons)
A frank and fair assessment of a campaign that’s driven a wedge within the feminist movement and disappointed even some of Senator Clinton’s admirers with how eager she’s been to sow division for the sake of victory. The whole thing‘s worth a read, but it’s worth remembering some of the vicious misogyny she experienced a the start of the campaign which won her a considerable amount of good will.
In the course of Hillary Clinton’s historic run for the White House–in which she became the first woman ever to prevail in a state-level presidential primary contest–she has been likened to Lorena Bobbitt (by Tucker Carlson); a “hellish housewife” (Leon Wieseltier); and described as “witchy,” a “she-devil,” “anti-male” and “a stripteaser” (Chris Matthews). Her loud and hearty laugh has been labeled “the cackle,” her voice compared to “fingernails on a blackboard” and her posture said to look “like everyone’s first wife standing outside a probate court.” As one Fox News commentator put it, “When Hillary Clinton speaks, men hear, Take out the garbage.” Rush Limbaugh, who has no qualms about subjecting audiences to the spectacle of his own bloated physique, asked his listeners, “Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?” Perhaps most damaging of all to her electoral prospects, very early on Clinton was deemed “unlikable.” Although other factors also account for that dislike, much of the venom she elicits (“Iron my shirt,” “How do we beat the bitch?”) is clearly gender-specific.
She’s done a fair amount of the mud-slinging in this primary, but when you’ve had so much mud thrown at you in your life, it’s understandable if attack and counter-attack are pretty default defence mechanisms.
Tags: Barack Obama, Daniel Nasaw, Please Let These Elections Be Over Soon, Skinny Men, U.S. Politics
I remember being happy when the Arctic Monkeys made it big, if only because it meant girls might be more susceptible to my northern charms. Using the same logic, Daniel Nasaw argues for an Obama presidency on the basis that his skinniness might work in his favour the next time he’s flirting with someone on Facebook:
Full disclosure: I too am a skinny man. At 5-foot, 10 inches tall, I weigh in at 155 pounds, in a sopping-wet woollen suit, after downing a porterhouse. I’m drawn to yoga, not weight training. In high school I was an orchestra geek, not a ballplayer. If Obama is elected president, the politically minded young women of Washington will spend the next four years focused on a sex symbol with my build. Lots of them live here: census data show that in the 22-to-34 age range, women outnumber men by about 11,000, or 54% to 46%.
There you go, now there no reason to support Clinton! Vote for Obama and the scrawny boy-geek with the ‘Yes We Can’ badge gets laid! Now that’s Change We Can Believe In!
There are still 6 months ’til the end of these elections. Right now, that seems like a lifetime away…
Tags: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton
Andrew Sullivan, a Conservative who’s even more of an Obama partisan than some on the left, thinks the unthinkable:
His model in this should be Abraham Lincoln. What Lincoln did, as Doris Kearns Goodwin explained in her brilliant book, “Team Of Rivals,” was to bring his most bitter opponents into his cabinet in order to maintain national and party unity at a time of crisis. Obama — who is a green legislator from Illinois, just as Lincoln was — could signal to his own supporters in picking Clinton that he isn’t capitulating to old politics, he is demonstrating his capacity to reach out and engage and co-opt his rivals and opponents.
Done deftly, picking Clinton could even resonate with Obama’s supporters as a statesmanlike gesture, a sign of the kind of reconciliation he wants to achieve at home and abroad and energize his own party for the fall. It is consonant with his core message: that he can unify the country in a way few other politicians can. It would even help heal the gulf that has opened up between the Clintons and black voters in this campaign. It’s win-win all round.
I hesitate to propose this, but I do think it is now worth actively considering for the first time in this campaign. The test of a president is his ability to recognise his own weaknesses and adjust to them. If he can do that while strengthening his core message, and make his own election close to unstoppable, what would hold him back?
There are advantages to it, if only that it’d stop Clinton’s compulsion to continue destroying the Democrats’ best hope of beating John McCain.
At the same time, having Clinton on the ticket could be a serious handicap given the amount of animosity between them. How would Clinton be able to talk her way round the suggestion that Obama hadn’t passed the commander-in-chief theshold, whilst she and McCain had? How could Obama disown his statement that Clinton’s ‘totally obliterate Iran’ remarks’ resemble those of George W. Bush? These two have made enough negative statements against each other to give the media months worth of headlines, and all the while John McCain would get a free pass.
There are many others – like Jim Webb & Bill Richardson – who could bring as much political muscle to the ticket as Hillary can. They also happen to be better-qualified.
Photo by Jim Lehr’s Newshour (Creative Commons)
Tags: "crisis? what crisis?", Barack Obama
For those of you who’ve been following the “Obama in crisis” myth that’s been doing the rounds, Sunny rightly reubts by pointing out that unless a massive majority of the uncommitted superdelegates decide en masse to disregard the popular vote, alienate their party’s most dependable voters and ‘roll the dice‘ in favour of a woman with more baggage than Terminal 5 and a bigger electability gap than Gordon Brown, the Illinois Senator remains the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party.
Nonetheless, we shouldn’t underestimate the scale of the challenges Obama faces, nor can we easily-dismiss the weaknesses in his electoral coalition that’ve been exposed by both Clinton’s kitchen sink strategy and the Republicans’ nomination of John McCain. To be specific, his weakness among older voters, the white working class and hispanics, whilst exaggerated, is certainly large enough to be exploited by an opponent who enjoys considerable goodwill amongst these groups.
This isn’t something that’ll damage his electability too much if he balances the ticket with a Vice Presidential pick whose presence can win enough reluctant working class and/or hispanic voters who haven’t been impressed by him thus far. Unfortunately, there’s probably only one man in the entire party (aside from the Clintons) who can claim to have a genuine appeal amongst both groups, and electorally he’s something of a busted flush. Which narrows the choice down to these two men; both strong, experienced and effective politicians able to win over considerable number of voters in his weakest areas and not only be genuine assets to the campaign, but to the country once elected.
I believe they call this a win-win.
Tags: Hillary Clinton
In Michelle Cottle’s last piece on the infighting and instability within Hillary Clinton’s disastrous campaign, there was one part that made me chuckle:
Rife with big egos and competing centers of influence–veterans of Hillary’s First Lady days, relative newbies from her Senate office, Bill’s ’92 people, Bill’s ’96 people–Team Hillary has never been a comfortably cohesive group. In happier times, discipline was easier to maintain. But, as this race has grown longer and rougher, the staff’s nerves and relations have been badly strained by persistent financial troubles and constant turf wars, not to mention one increasingly unmanageable ex-president. Some days, it’s hard to remember that, just six months ago, the campaign was regarded as a highly disciplined machine. More and more, it resembles an unruly rock band plagued by dysfunction and public infighting.
I think we can do better than that. Rather than resembling an unruly rock band, I reckon they do a pretty good impersonation of the Wu Tang Clan. Also, I think they wrote a song that pretty much explains the Clinton campaigns whole ethos: Ain’t Nuthin’ Ta F’ Wit.
Tags: ABC News Democratic Debate, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton
So you thought you’d seen this campaign at its nastiest? That you’d seen the media at its most insipid and so obsessed trivialities that they forget the issues that actually affect people’s lives? Ah, my poor, squeamish, gunshy readers, you haven’t seen the worst of it. On the same day that Gordon Brown praised American television and its contribution to ‘culture’, today the viewers of the ABC Democratic Primary debate were subjected to a nasty clusterfuck of a contest that reveals just how destructive, depressing & alienating the media’s coverage of politics can be for ordinary people.
Anyway, here’s how the blogs reacted:
Tags: American Politics, Barack Obama, Bitter, Bitterness, British Politics, Great Political Scandals That Shouldn't Have Been, Hillary Clinton, Imaginary Gaffes, Jim Webb, John McCain
For those of you who haven’t been subjected to this spat already (otherwise known as the ‘I have a life’ brigade), last week Barack Obama made some comments to fundraisers about the problems he’s had selling himself to the people of Pennsylvania, the next key state in the Democratic Party’s primaries. Here’s part of what he said:
“You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And it’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
And thus another scandal was manufactured. His words were repeated breathlessly into television cameras, cut & pasted over countless blogs, disected in op-eds and debated over & over again on cable news shows.
Clinton & McCain went in for the kill. He’s an elitist! they cried. He’s out of touch with the common man! Never mind that with their combined total of over 40 years in Washington – only venturing outside when there are votes to be won – they can hardly sell themselves as men and women of the people, these comments showed Obama as a snide, condescending stuffed-suit who belittles working class people, their culture and their beliefs.
There’s no question that it was a gaffe – even Obama apologised for the infelicitous choice of words. But, in the tradition of history’s most damaging political gaffes, there happens to be a considerable amount of truth to what he said.
On a national scale, the people Obama’s talking about folks who don’t often vote for Democrats. Having endured many years of wage stagnation, healthcare costs spiralling, fuel & energy costs rocketing, jobs disappearing and communities losing their young people to places with greater opportunities, it’s no surprise that people in these communities have lost faith in politicians of either party to address economic inequality. But when a Republican comes along and claims that the Democrats will take their guns away, denigrate their religion and allow immigrants to steal their jobs, they at least believe they can vote on something that matters, something they believe in. As Senator Jim Webb – no one’s definition of an elitist – has argued:
“The politics of the Karl Rove era were designed to distract and divide the very people who would ordinarily be rebelling against the deterioration of their way of life. Working Americans have been repeatedly seduced at the polls by emotional issues such as the predictable mantra of “God, guns, gays, abortion and the flag” while their way of life shifted ineluctably beneath their feet,”
And so, election after election, they give power to those who rob them blind.
Why should this have any great resonance with this blog’s British readers? Well, in a year when the British National Party is expected to take its first seat in the London assembly and probably make gains in the national local elections, it’s in our interests to pay attention when leaders of other countries try to engage with the economically deprived and ask them what matters more to them: the frequent skirmishes in the culture wars or the challenge of making our countries fairer, safer and easier places to live and work. Now, I’m not for one moment trying to claim the Republican Party is as noxious or sinister as the British far-right, but what they both have in common is a tendency to focus on issues (God & Guns for the GOP, Immigation & Race-baiting for the BNP) that are not only divisive and exclusionary but also seem like absurd distractions from the very real hardships people face.
Following Obama’s initial misstep, the signs are encouraging:
The politics of bitterness can be overcome in both Britain and America, but it can only be overcome through dialogue such as this; dialogue that’s honest, empathetic and undaunted by the scale of the challenges ahead.
Photo of Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) by Flicker user Daniella Zalcman (Creative Commons)
Tags: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain
Clinton supporters appear to be somewhat more reactive than Obama supporters. Twenty-eight percent of the former indicate that if Clinton is not the nominee — and Obama is — they would support McCain. That compares to 19% of Obama supporters who would support McCain if Obama is not the nominee — and Clinton is.
This is neither surprising nor something Democrats should get too anxious about. With each day there are fewer undecided voters in the primary race, and the more emotionally invested a voter becomes with one candidate, the more likely they might be to threaten to act churlishly and vote for the ‘enemy’ if their candidate doesn’t win.
Also, I’d like to bet that a sizeable portion of Hillary’s base doesn’t regard McCain as a partisan ‘enemy’ in the first place. One demographic group she practically owns is seniors (or if we’re being uncharitable, Doddery Old White People), so it makes sense that if Hillary isn’t nominated, they might look more favourably towards the
Doddery Old White Man Sage Senior Statseman than the Uppity Negro Kid Charismatic Neophyte.
She also has a strong lead amongst Latinos, and given that John McCain is practically alone in his party for refusing to demonise hispanics/immigrants AND proposing sane, non-xenophobic immigration reform, they may be tempted to give him a fair hearing. None of which matters, of course, if Obama offers Bill Richardson the chance to be the first Hispanic Vice President…
Tags: Barack Obama, David Brooks, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, New York Times
I wouldn’t normally link to David Brooks for anything more than another example of worn-out right-wing orthodoxy, but for a hollowed-out Beltway hack, he writes better than most.
A few days ago, a Clinton aide confided to the Politico that Hillary had no more than a 10% chance of securing the Democrats’ nomination for President. Brooks argues that those odds have since halved and ponders the full extent of the harm she’s inflicting on her own party by doggedly pursuing that 5 percent chance:
Let’s take a look at what she’s going to put her party through for the sake of that 5 percent chance: The Democratic Party is probably going to have to endure another three months of daily sniping. For another three months, we’ll have the Carvilles likening the Obamaites to Judas and former generals accusing Clintonites of McCarthyism. For three months, we’ll have the daily round of résumé padding and sulfurous conference calls. We’ll have campaign aides blurting “blue dress” and only-because-he’s-black references as they let slip their private contempt.
For three more months (maybe more!) the campaign will proceed along in its Verdun-like pattern. There will be a steady rifle fire of character assassination from the underlings, interrupted by the occasional firestorm of artillery when the contest touches upon race, gender or patriotism. The policy debates between the two have been long exhausted, so the only way to get the public really engaged is by poking some raw national wound.
For the sake of that 5 percent, this will be the sourest spring. About a fifth of Clinton and Obama supporters now say they wouldn’t vote for the other candidate in the general election. Meanwhile, on the other side, voters get an unobstructed view of the Republican nominee. John McCain’s approval ratings have soared 11 points. He is now viewed positively by 67 percent of Americans. A month ago, McCain was losing to Obama among independents by double digits in a general election matchup. Now McCain has a lead among this group.
For three more months, Clinton is likely to hurt Obama even more against McCain, without hurting him against herself. And all this is happening so she can preserve that 5 percent chance.
When you step back and think about it, she is amazing. She possesses the audacity of hopelessness.
Tags: Barack Obama, Jeremiah Wright, Philadelphia, Race
How we ended up here: as much as it might anger his supporters – and indeed all who wretch when the bar of politics set so low that a body language interpreter could be considered an expert – a theme was developing around the Senator that he just wasn’t patriotic enough. He hasn’t worn enough shit-eating smiles under banners reading ‘No One Loves America better!’, spoken fondly of flogging flag-burners or sung merrily about bombing Iran. Worse, he’s frequently spotted without the standard-issue stars n’ stripes lapel pin and his wife made some awkward statement about having never been proud of her country until her husband started winning primaries. Add this to the Muslim smears and, finally, the Jeremiah Wright controversy and it becomes clear that he’s gradually being painted not just as an unpatriotic man, nor even an unpatriotic black man, but an unpatriotic, angry black man.
I haven’t seen any footage yet, but on paper, at least, it’s a magnificent speech, and one that should fulfil both his short-term goal of drawing a line under the negative stories and his longstanding message of reconcilliation, unity and post-racial politics.
Still, don’t just take my word for it. Below are some reactions from more seasoned politics-watchers than I, both left & right, pro & con.
Tags: Barack Obama, Rev Jeremiah Wright
Ever since the Geraldine Ferraro fiasco, Barack Obama has faced intense scrutiny over the divisive, inflammatory, and racially-charged rhetoric of his pastor, Rev Jeremiah Wright. Whilst Obama has denounced the comments and Wright has stepped-down from his campaign, the questions over their relationship, and what this reveals about Obama’s views his own country, has posed the biggest threat to his candidacy since voting began.
Today, in a speech in Philadelphia, he spells out his vision for America, his views on race, division and unity. The full text follows:
Tags: Andrew Sullivan, Barack Obama, Geraldine Ferraro, Hillary Clinton, Racism
On Tuesday we highlighted the stupidity and sinister undertones of Clinton fundraiser Geraldine Ferraro’s far-fetched claim that Barack Obama is damn lucky to be black. Being gracious enough not to judge someone’s character on the basis of one stupid statement, we gave her the benefit of the doubt and ruled out the possibility of race-baiting.
But rather than issue an apology, resign and retreat to the fringes of political theatre from whence she came, Ferraro saw fit to follow-up with another belch of noxious know-nothingness:
“Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let’s address reality and the problems we’re facing in this world, you’re accused of being racist, so you have to shut up,” Ferraro said. “Racism works in two different directions. I really think they’re attacking me because I’m white. How’s that?”
That’s right; he’s lucky to be black and she’s unlucky to be white. Then someone dug up a rather inconvenient quote to suggest Ferraro’s actually an old-hat at hatemongering:
President Reagan suggested Tuesday that people don’t ask Jackson tough questions because of his race. And former representative Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that because of his “radical” views, “if Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn’t be in the race.”
Since she’s been under constant fire from the anti-white racists who won’t rest until he’s inaugurated the first affirmative action President, Ferraro’s now resigned from Clinton’s finance committee in a blaze of self-righteous fury:
The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you.
I won’t let that happen.
Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do to make this a better world for my children and grandchildren.
TPM has a pretty humerous montage of her televised flame-out, but there’s a more serious question about the harm these slimeball tactics are not just doing to Obama, but to the Democratic Party in general. In a Special Comment last night, MSNBC’s liberal acolyte Keith Olbermann beseeched Hillary to put an end to it:
And this post from Andrew Sulivan explains what could be lost if Clinton’s ‘politics as usual’ succeeds:
The reason so many people have re-engaged with politics this year is because many sense their country is in a desperate state and because only one candidate has articulated a vision and a politics big enough to address it without dividing the country down the middle again. For the first time in decades, a candidate has emerged who seems able to address the country’s and the world’s needs with a message that does not rely on Clintonian parsing or Rovian sleaze. For the first time since the 1960s, we have a potential president able to transcend the victim-mongering identity politics so skillfully used by the Clintons. If this promise is eclipsed because the old political system conspires to strangle it at birth, the reaction from the new influx of voters will be severe. The Clintons will all but guarantee they will lose a hefty amount of it in the fall, as they richly deserve to. Some will gravitate to McCain; others will be so disillusioned they will withdraw from politics for another generation. If the Clintons grind up and kill the most promising young leader since Kennedy, and if they do it not on the strength of their arguments, but by the kind of politics we have seen them deploy, the backlash will be deep and severe and long. As it should be.
If John McCain has any chance of winning the Presidency, it’ll most surely come on the back of the mutually-assured destruction of the Democrats’ would-be challengers.
Photo: Flickr user robertrazrblog (Creative Commons)
Since the Clintons have been successfully brandishing a rather low brand of of divisive, victimised identity politics for the best part of two decades, there’s little surprise that one of her supporters has internalised Hillary’s supposed victim status to such an extent that she suggests Obama is winning the Democratic Primaries because he’s black.
Whilst we can probably accept that Ferraro’s comment is merely a supersized serving of idiocy rather than one intended to have racist undertones, there is a great difference between the intent of the comments and how they could be received, as DHinMI explains:
One can laugh at the ridiculousness of the statement, or ridicule the idea that African-Americans somehow have it easier in America than white men or women. But to do so misses how Ferraro’s statement will be heard by too many Americans.
The fact is, there are a lot of White people in American who believe they’re at a disadvantage, that Blacks get things handed to them. The idea may be foreign to some people, but I’ve heard it my entire life. I’ve heard it at family gatherings, in my neighborhood when I was a kid, from family friends and all kinds of other folks. It’s not a fringe belief. It’s at the heart of the belief system of the so-called Reagan Democrats—swing voters and even some Democrats who were cradle Democrats but defected to Reagan and have been up for grabs in most elections since 1992.
Some of these Reagan Democrats will hear Ferraro’s comment, and they’ll think about the job they didn’t get because, they believe, it went to an affirmative action hire. They’ll think about the guy promoted over them because, they believe, he’s black. And they’ll think “here we go again.”
Tags: Barack Obama, Geraldine Ferraro, Racism
If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.
Geez, these days it’s just so hard being white…
A reader responds:
That’s right Geraldine.
If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. He would not have gotten Secret Service protection as early as last May.
If Obama was a white man, CBS.com wouldn’t have temporarily turned off comments on Obama stories because of the volume and persistence of racist comments.
If Obama was a white man, his Secret Service wouldn’t rival that of President Bush’s.
If Obama was a white man, I doubt that the Somali photo would’ve resulted in the Secret Service investigating a right-wing radio show host threatening the Senator’s life.
This is just the publicly available stuff.