Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Sour Grapes: Hillary's Supporters and Identity Politics
In watching this video it is clear that the majority of Hillary's supporters don't have a clear reason as to why they refuse to get behind Barack Obama's run for the White House. Let's face it, folks: the numbers just didn't add up. Hillary Clinton ran a hard-fought campaign, but she lost.
Let's go through a couple of the arguments that Hillary's most ardent supporters use to justify their refusal to get behind Obama and directly, or indirectly, support John McCain.
The first argument that I hear most often is that Hillary was disrespected by the media who gave Obama a free pass. Well up until Super Tuesday, Hillary was billed by her campaign, as well as the media, as the "inevitable" candidate. After Obama won the first contest in Iowa, that inevitable perception was tarnished which put the Clinton campaign on the defensive. This created a negative storyline that dominated the news cycle up until Super Tuesday. When you lose the media will pounce on you...period.
The Clinton campaign assumed that she would still win the primaries on Super Tuesday and, thus, failed to retool the campaign in time to stop Obama's momentum. Obama won 13 straight contests and that pretty much sealed the deal. From there SHE became disrespectful towards Obama and rolled out her "kitchen sink" strategy (which he is still battling today). The point here is that she didn't have a Plan B and had to go extremely negative. She even admitted this fact recently when her campaign memos were released a couple weeks ago, highlighting an unorganized campaign plagued by the wrong message in a "change"-driven election year.
The next reason given by angry Clinton supporters for not supporting Obama is that he doesn't have experience. The flaw in this argument is that there have been plenty of unsuccessful Presidents with a wealth of experience and there have been unexperienced Presidents that have had wildly successful terms. Bill Clinton had no Washington experience but had two successful terms. Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood actor and is praised by Republicans as the greatest President ever. Dick Cheney has been in Washington for decades and look at where we are (...yes, Dick Cheney is the President).
Also, what direct experience has Hillary had that trumps Obama's? She was the first lady, but so was Barbara Bush. She has one term on him in the Senate, but her experience pales in comparison to Bill Richardson's, Joe Biden's, Dennis Kucinich's, Mike Gravel's and Chris Dodd's, all of whom ran against both Hillary and Barack in the primaries. If experience is the issue, why was there no support or outcry by these die-hards for those experience-heavy candidates that lost in the primaries?
The list goes on-and-on.
The real reason I suspect that these folks won't vote for Obama is identity politics. The fact is that the majority of Hillary's supporters that refuse to support Obama are middle-aged to older White women who take it personally that their candidate lost. These are women who never thought that they would have the opportunity to see a woman President, and in many ways they vicariously feel like they, themselves, lost.
Notice that even though Barack and Hillary are almost identical on their major policy positions, neither of these guys in the video acknowledge that. Issues don't seem to matter. It's all about identity and we are all guilty of it.
I can understand their position, as I'm sure that if the shoe were on the other foot, Black folks would be very reluctant to vote for Hillary in the aftermath of such a close race. There's no doubt that many of us would feel that the election was rigged and that "they just didn't want to see a Black man become President."
Unfortunately, somebody had to lose. Clinton just happened to be outflanked by an extremely organized and innovative campaign with the right message at the right time.
When are we going to get past divisions and stand together to vote in our best interest?