The Broad is Back!

June 8, 2008

Hillary and the Women’s Vote? What’s with that?

Filed under: Democratic primaries,New Broads,politics — by maggiec @ 8:12 pm

As most of the Western world now knows, Hillary Clinton has dropped out of the Democratic primary race.  And now, many pundits are asking, “who will get the ‘women’s vote’ now?”  I think someone forgot to pass me that memo–the one that said I had to vote for Hillary because she’s a woman and I’m a woman.  I didn’t realize that’s the way it works.  Silly me.  I thought I was supposed to vote based on issues and beliefs.  Oh, and in case you didn’t get the memo, either, black people are supposed to vote for Barack Obama because he’s black.

Does that mean that white men all have to vote for John McCain?  That can’t be right!  That would have meant that for the past 232 years of American democracy, only white men could have voted.

Naaaa, that only lasted till 1869 when black men got the vote.  White and black women got the vote in 1920.  So blacks and women have been voting on the issues for the past 88 years.  While it’s nice to have someone “like us” to vote for, I don’t think that can be the only criterion.

Seriously, though, I know that this was an historic primary in the US.  It’s the first time a woman was a viable candidate, and it marks the first time a black man will be a viable candidate–the candidate of one of the two major parties.  I think that’s wonderful, of course.  It’s added proof for my belief that America is finally, finally, after almost 400 years of history, transcending race and gender as issues.  It’s a great “first” for the history books, but do race and gender really matter anymore?  They shouldn’t.

There’s the rub, of course.  They shouldn’t matter, but of course, they do.  I like to think that America has moved beyond race and gender, but one minute’s viewing of television, and I know my country has not.  All I have to do is live my life to see the reality.  But since when has the best of America been about reality?  It’s about the ideal–the “more perfect union.”

To be fair, I have yet to see a place where race, gender, or even class don’t matter,  but that’s not my point here.

My point is that I don’t want to be lumped in the “woman” group.  I’m a woman, but that’s not all I am.  In fact, if you asked me to describe myself in 8 nouns, woman wouldn’t be one of them.  It’s part of who I am, but not all, not by a long shot.

When I used to teach in NYC, when we’d be discussing the triumvirate of educational “hot buttons,” (race, gender, class), I used to ask my predominantly non-white students if they saw me as white or a woman or a teacher.  They almost always answered “teacher.”  But when I asked how they saw me on the first day, the answer was always “white,” with the implied “of course” in their voices.  I would argue that I didn’t see them as their color, and I didn’t, but we came to the conclusion that I didn’t have to.  I was in the power position no matter what their race or gender, so I could ignore it.  But put me in a room with strangers, and I can immediately tell you the man-woman ratio.  I’m not always in an adversarial relationship with men, but the potential danger is always there, and I have to be ready for it.  That’s reality.

I know I seem to be contradicting myself here, and on some levels I am, but not totally.  One-on-one, gender matters.  In terms of safety or power struggles, gender matters.  In administrative decisions?  In who is best to run a country?  I don’t think that gender matters.  Nor does race.

As a woman, I’ve not had the luxury of being able to vote for people just because they are women.  I’ve voted for plenty of women in the past, but I can honestly say that I’ve never voted for someone because she was a woman.  I’m much more likely to vote for someone based on party lines than gender or race lines.

And Obama has had my vote since Kucinich dropped out of the race.  Pundits might have predicted I’d vote for Hillary, but I didn’t.  Of the people who know me, one summed it up best when she said, “Of course, you’d be voting for the dyed-in-the-wool idealist.”  Obama got my vote on the second bounce based on the issues.  Of the people left standing, I think he’s the best for the job.  I still think he’s too young and too untested–he doesn’t have that much experience of politics on the national level–but maybe that’s a good thing at this point.

Today’s CNN headline says that some of Hillary Clinton’s 18 million voters are hesitant to back Obama.  According to a CNN poll, 17% of Clinton supporters now say they will back McCain.  I don’t get it.  Clinton and Obama’s stands were so close that I agonized over my decision.  The deciding issue for me was the war in Iraq.  Perhaps those 17% like McCain’s plan for the war, but I have to wonder if there’s not a more nefarious reason.

I started out wanting to complain about stereotyping and the media lumping people together, and here I am, starting to do the same thing.  Scary.

At the ending of my musing, I get back to Hope.  That word is a key one in Obama’s campaign, and I think that’s what he does represent.  Many of my students don’t vote.  They are vocal about not voting because
“what’s the point–it doesn’t change anything”.  And yes, that’s a quote from students.  Maybe the young people are starting to see that it does make a difference.  Don’t vote for someone because of their race or gender, but voting does make a difference.

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