Monday, May 12, 2008

Clinton supporters get the bad news

Over last weekend, I spent a good stretch of time among people who had been Hillary Clinton supporters in the Presidential primary. These are good, progressive people. They'll be on board with the Democratic nominee in the fall. But this week, they were in pain about how the campaign has gone. You see, they had just learned that Clinton was not going to win. This was new news to them -- they didn't know until the media told them after North Carolina and Indiana. And they have grief and confusion still to process.

These folks voted for Clinton in their primaries and it made them feel wonderful. They are feminists of a particular, honorable sort; many have broken ground and held places in male-dominated institutions themselves. It's been a tough road. Many seem to me to hold on to a belief that I can't share, that women in positions of power will do things differently (and better, more fairly, more lovingly even) than men. And they didn't learn that Clinton had lost for a very long time.

They aren't political junkies. They didn't see that winning the nomination was about amassing delegates. They had no idea that the Clinton campaign had dug itself into a hopeless hole by failing to contest the caucus states. They had heard rumors that the campaign was running through its money -- but the scale of money raised and spent in the entire campaign mostly just horrified them. The fact that Obama has raised so much actually weighed against him with them. "What a waste..."

Their champion, candidate Clinton, had no incentive to teach them the truth about what was happening. So until recently, they've been living inside a different reality, a false picture of the campaign in which Clinton could somehow earn the nomination.

But these are good, progressive people. They'll be on board with Obama in the fall, if not among his core cheerleaders.

Another of these people's leaders did them a disservice in the Washington Post over the weekend. Feminist political fundraiser Ellen Malcolm offered a Clinton-boosting column entitled "Quitters Never Win." It included this barb:

"The first woman ever to win a presidential primary is supposed to stop competing, to curtsy and exit stage right."

Hey, wait a minute. The first African-American and the first woman to win a presidential primary was Representative Shirley Chisholm in 1972. Chisholm took 66 percent of the vote in New Jersey. Talk about erasing a champion of women ...

H/t to hilzoy at Obsidian Wings for pointing to the Malcolm column.

1 comment:

sfmike said...

Great piece of analysis. And I also have no illusions that women will be better leaders simply because of their gender. Still, your description of Hillary's supporters is poignant.

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