Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Beyond Sex or Race

I'm really trying to minimize comments in this blog on the presidential campaign, from an underlying belief that the United States holds "demonstration elections" in which no candidate is allowed to compete who would really have the power of changing anything. In particular, I don't pay a lot of attention to the Clinton vs. Obama slugfest because I see fundamental weaknesses in both candidates.

Nevertheless, Marcia Pappas of New York National Organization of Women stirred me from my stupor Jan. 29 with her profoundly stupid comments railing against Ted and Caroline Kennedy for backing Obama. Both Hillary and Barack insist they have no interest in playing the sex or race card - they just let others, like Bill Clinton, do it for them. In the case of NOW, Pappas acts as though working for another candidate than Hillary is a fundamental betrayal of women.

I have news for Pappas and NY NOW - Hillary Clinton is a very flawed candidate for reasons that have nothing to do with her sex. Like her husband, Hillary is a triangulator. Rather than reach her positions from a passionate commitment to core values, she tries to decide where a majority is on the basis of polling, and positions herself accordingly. In particular, her key consultant Mark Penn, author of the book Microtrends, epitomizes for me everything that is wrong with American politics. If Clinton wants to be treated seriously, she has to get rid of Penn and the very concept of triangulation, develop a platform based on consistent and passionately-held positions on issues, and operate accordingly. Pappas and NOW need to realize that until Clinton is willing to do that, she will not be treated seriously by many who would love to see a woman president.

Obama is far from an ideal candidate. Caroline Kennedy's comments in The New York Times comparing Obama to her father would be laughable, if I didn't think that JFK himself was so highly overrated. Later this year, we can argue over whether Clinton or Obama shows the most superficiality. But for now, we can insist that endorsement of Obama scarcely constitutes a vote against women.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

True. I think that's been one of the most interesting aspects of this campaign: how gender and race issues have played out with some irony.

Unfortunately, I don't think candidates will ever hop off the fence of people pleasing as long as we have a primarily two party culture.