Pause over this…

Not so long ago it looked like we were in for a vicious general election. The Republican candidates kept trying to one-up each other on how anti-immigrant and unwelcoming they could be. The Democrats were put on the defensive about not being vitriolic enough. It seemed like we were in for an election that was all about why we should bar the door against foreigners and strangers.

As the Democrats, pulled along by Edwards, moved more toward worrying about  poverty and those in need, the Republicans seemed to move even further right than Bush in blaming those in need for their own fate. As the divisions escalated, we seemed to be in for a hell of a divisive fight.

The amazing thing now seems to be that the American people wanted none of this crap. We have the evidence: the Republicans chose the most conciliatory, pro-immigration, anti-ideological of its candidates. The Democrats rejected the party standard-bearer in favor of a new voice wanting to reach out across ideological differences. It is actually conceivable, though maybe not advisable, that each nominee might choose as a V.P. candidate someone from the other party. And it is quite likely that they’ll even share the same ride to their debates. Has that ever happened?

I am not saying that McCain and Barama are alike. They are as different in policy means and goals as any two candidates could be. As a Texan, I’d vote for a yellow dog before I voted for McCain. And I hope any other Democrat would do the same.

What I am stunned by is what the voice of the American people seems to have uttered: we want candidates who are so willing to solve problems that they will cross party lines; we want a politics that will bring people together; we want a politics that is welcoming, conscientious, and accountable to citizens rather than lobbies.

Just as there were many themes that Obama and Clinton shared, there are many that Obama and McCain share. There’s plenty that puts them apart, but we should take time to pause now and marvel at this new turn of events and what it says about what the American people want: a different kind of politics, a country that is welcoming and a model for the kinds of values that have sparked admiration around the world. Part of the credit for this climatic change goes indeed to McCain and Obama, but I’d like to suggest that the bulk of it goes to the American people, fed up with politics as usual, ready for a different kind of politics.

The Hillary Lesson

In today’s New York Times, Peggy Orenstein writes an important piece about what “The Hillary Lesson” is for our daughters:

One recent morning, as my 4-year-old daughter and I strolled to our favorite diner, she pointed to a bumper sticker plastered on a mailbox. A yellow, viraginous caricature of Hillary Clinton leered out from a black background. Big block letters proclaimed, “The wicked witch of the East is alive and living in New York.”
“Look, Mama,” she said. “That’s Hillary. What does it say?”
Let me state right off that I don’t consider Senator Clinton a victim. Her arm is so limber from the mud she has lobbed during her political career that, now that the whole president thing is doubtful, she may have a future as the first woman to pitch for the Yankees. So it is not the attacks themselves that give me pause, but the form they consistently have taken, the default position of incessant, even gleeful (and, I admit it, sometimes clever) misogyny. Staring down the sightline of my daughter’s index finger, I wondered what to tell her — not only at this moment, but in years to come — about Hillary and about herself… (continue)

I’m with Orenstein on not revering Clinton, but I am also with her on worrying about how the vitriol against Hillary has often been totally sexist and extremely offensive. One offensive jab that came through my own liberal neighborhood’s email list compared HRC to a certain Kentucky Fried Chicken assemblage. To my neighborhood’s credit, after this post many other people responded expressing how offended they were by his “joke.” To this he replied:

Doesn’t anyone have a sense of humor or believe in FREE speech…I see that anyone’s future comments can be silenced depending upon one person’s point of view… is this America ???? Or do we have to conform to editors….what does that remind you of….I have not liked comments made by certain people but I have NOT complained or tried to silence them…..Happy New Year and get a life !!

Free speech, speech free to attack women? Is that America? Not my America.

The best thing about this campaign, to my mind, is that it has allowed all of us to support people for their positions regardless of their skin color or gender. This isn’t really possible when it’s a campaign between a bunch of white guys and one white woman, or a bunch of white guys and one black man. But in a race between a black guy and a white gal, both of whom are progressive people with good values, then the scene changes considerably. I can lean to Barack more and Hillary less, but not because of some deep sexist stuff but because it’s finally possible to glean, however hazily, a post-sexist and post-racist future. But clearly there are still plenty of people caught up in old mind games over sex and race that still make this campaign a truly fraught one. And it’s only going to come to the fore more once the general campaign begins.


According to Paul Begala, the core of the Democratic Party are hardworking white Americans. And according to the Clinton-camp logic, hardworking white American women should line up behind Hillary. It seems to take a Republican, namely Peggy Noonan in today’s Wall Street Journal, to point out the logic of what’s happening to the Democratic Party if people like me—hardworking white American women—don’t speak up.

I am a hardworking American. I am white. I am a woman. And I’d like Hillary Clinton to bow out now.

But maybe Paul Begala would like to say that having an education negates my American credentials. But to that I’d remind Paul that we first met when he was student-body president at the University of Texas at Austin. Yes, even the Clinton folk have their share of degrees.

Irregular Americans

The Democratic Party stretches over but is divided by two different demographics, upscale liberals and the working class, notes David Brooks on todays’s New York Times‘s op ed page:

We’re used to the ideological divide between Red and Blue America. This year’s election has revealed a deep cultural gap within the Democratic Party, separating what Stuart Rothenberg calls the two Democratic parties.

In state after state (Wisconsin being the outlier), Barack Obama has won densely populated, well-educated areas. Hillary Clinton has won less-populated, less-educated areas. For example, Obama has won roughly 70 percent of the most-educated counties in the primary states. Clinton has won 90 percent of the least-educated counties. In state after state, Obama has won a few urban and inner-ring suburban counties. Clinton has won nearly everywhere else.

This social divide has overshadowed regional differences. Sixty-year-old, working-class Catholics vote the same, whether they live in Fresno, Scranton, Nashua or Orlando.

Likewise, younger upscale liberals across the country are voting for Obama. There are lots of factors involed: rural vs. urban, income, age. But the main factor seems to be education. The more educated, the more likely to lean toward Obama.

Oddly, among Democrats (and Republicans, for that matter), being favored by the educated is nothing to brag about it. To the contrary, Clinton brags that she represents regular Americans, meaning, I suppose, those with at most a year or two of college. According to this logic, I gather that every degree I’ve gotten (and I have racked up several) has made me less and less regular or less and less American. Is this the land of the free and the home of the quasi-literate?

Oops. Sorry. I’m being elitist.

Perhaps we’d be better off in the world if we started valuing intellect instead of trying to hide it.

Five Years

Enough is enough. We are so over Bush. I hear his voice on the radio, his speech on this fifth anniversary of our war in Iraq, saying he doesn’t regret it even though 70% of the American people do. Enough.

This is an all-too-familiar sensation. Most of my teenage and adult life I have had enough—of Nixon, later Reagan, then Bush, even Clinton, and then another Bush. Enough.

I hope this is the end of an era, a bad one, a long one, of politicians who ought to apologize for taking benefits away from poor people, destoying the lives of innocent people, tarnishing America’s name in the world. I’m not naive about the chance that corporate America will relinquish its stranglehold on American democracy, but it would be nice to have some resistance.

I’m hoping.

The Better Candidate

What a delight to vote yesterday for the candidate I liked the best rather than, as in years past, the candidate that I didn’t dislike more than the other.

Obama’s huge success in Virginia, a state with an open primary, seems to show that independents are drawn to Obama more than they are to McCain. Note how tight the race was between Huckabee and McCain. I suspect this was because conservatives rallied around Huckabee and many moderates and independents voted in the Democratic primary.  If it ends up being a race between Clinton and McCain, the conservatives may come out to vote against Clinton.  But if it’s a race between Obama and McCain, the conservatives may stay home, the independents may go with Obama, and the Democrats will finally take back the White House.

Blacks v. Women

This is the best of times. We have an African American man running for president, with a real chance of winning, and we have a woman running for president, with a real chance herself. And we have more than one white man running with seriously progressive politics.

And this is the worst of times: we have to choose.

I’m saddened by the vitriol coming out in all corners — from the front pages of major newspapers to the listservs of feminist philosophical societies — pitting women against men, white women against black men, black men against white women. My kids are thrilled to pieces; they just wish, like many of us, that there was a black woman running for president.

Oh, we did have one of those — where’s Angela Davis when you need her? Angela Davis could give us the black creds of Obama, the feminist creds of Hilary, the progressive creds of Edwards and even Kucinich. But Angela Davis wouldn’t be a viable candidate for president now, for all these reasons.

This is the best of times and the worst of times. We have to choose. But let’s not choose on the basis of race, gender, or ideology, but on the basis of which of these progressive people seem to be right for the job — and the run for the job — right now.