Oh, my word, the digital ink being spilled over the issues of race and gender in the Democratic primary.
There is all manner of bizarre speculation about how these factors play into the decision making processes of the electorate but – even disparaging as I am about the average American’s knowledge of and interest in politics – I think they’re not giving us enough credit.
The dumbest of these ponderings has to be Gloria Steinem’s Op-Ed in today’s New York Times, which so certainly will be one of the most talked-about editorials in the entire political cycle, I won’t bother to review it in detail other than to say, whuh? Where does Steinem get off claiming that “Women Are Never Front-Runners”? Has she forgotten that up until last Thursday, and for about the last year, Hillary Clinton was “the front-runner”? And, as I write, she is ahead of Obama in the New Hampshire returns and so may be again?
Does she think we’ve all been living in some sort of vacuum and only discovered a week ago that we had a black man and a white woman in the race and started changing our opinions because there’s some unspoken agreement that black men get to be president first?
I also really can't fathom the suggestion that white folks are supporting Obama because "it's time" we had a black president. After 7 years of President Bush, with all of the problems facing this country (economy, war, security, civil rights), no one is saying "let's try a black guy." We're saying, "We need someone who can fix this country." We'd vote for a Martian, if s/he had a convincing plan for getting us out of Iraq, saving the environment and restoring our global credibility (and if it weren't unconstitutional). Obama's skin color is merely a bonus, a milestone on the long national road toward reconciliation after our shameful past. The same goes for Clinton's gender: a nice, and important, milestone. We'll get there, this year, or some other year. But right now, we've got bigger problems.
I am glad that Clinton did so well in the New Hampshire primary, honestly. Our electoral system has some pretty enormous flaws, and it would be a tragedy if the nominee was crowned after one primary and a really silly caucus. There's a lot of campaigning left, and that's a good thing.
Hillary Clinton is a totally viable candidate. She's smart enough, she's experienced enough, she's tough enough (and that's not a sexist comment; I'm sure we can all think of men who couldn't handle it, either...hi!), and she's got solid policies. I wouldn't let her drive my car, but she's capable of governing the country.
So, on to the next primary, and may the best man win.