Will Women Vote For Barack Obama?

Aquarian Weekly 5/21/08 REALITY CHECK

THE GREAT DIVIDE Race, Gender & The New Frontier

The cultural landslide that has sprung from the 2008 Democratic primary race is nothing short of historic. Nothing about it can be measured by the past.


The failure of the general press coverage to grasp this has rendered the entire industry impotent. Metric geeks endlessly pour over voter trends and intra-party splits, swing state exit polls and traditional supporter blocks. Skewed commentary prattled by pathetically debased punditry try in vain to corral some sense of this outlandish idea that a woman and a black man are not merely running for the highest office in the land, but the victor may hold a very real shot to compete as a heavy favorite. The whole idea has crippled the media and sent voters into a feeding frenzy rarely witnessed by hardened professionals that are paid not to blink.

Suffragette CityBut a story without precedence is death to journalism. It removes the air of certainty from events. When the schematic is smashed to pieces, there is terrible panting and grasping for answers where there are none. But alas, one certainty has emerged; there is no sense in continuing to postulate any kind of Kumbaya-hand-holding détente between warring factions inside the Democratic Party now that Illinois Senator Barack Obama is its presumptive nominee.

Not this time.

There is a Great Divide in the party that goes beyond anything or anyone preceding it.

Way beyond.

This is not JFK vs. LBJ in 1960 for the liberal center of the Democratic Party or Goldwater vs. Rockefeller in ’64 for the Republican Party’s conservative soul. It is nothing like the personality battles in the Republican Party between Ford and Reagan in 1976 or the one within the Democratic Party between Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter four years later.

These were ideological, philosophical battles or skirmishes over national “electablity” and backroom party politics. Baby stuff. The kind of stuff you come back from.

You can shake off Lyndon Johnson accusing Jack Kennedy of drug addiction or Kennedy calling Johnson “a dumb hick”. Small potatoes. Before long they were on the big ticket stealing the White House from Tricky Dick.

It was business as usual when Teddy refused to shake the president’s hand at the convention or Goldwater used insider muscle to paint Rockefeller as a Commie lunatic. Shit, when Ronald Reagan called George H. W. Bush “a wimp” and Bush coined the phrase “voodoo economics” it lead to twelve years of Republican dominance.

These were, after all was said and done, still Anglo-Saxon, protestant old-time political robots – with the grand exception of JFK, who was at best a buffet Catholic. They had constituencies that ran long before the Civil War, demographics that included big labor and gun lobbyists, industry moguls and congressional favor-trades. These were entrenched factions that had run unchecked over the body politic since the rich colonial merchants thumbed their noses at the English crown and riled up the illiterate peasants to shed the blood of revolution.

It was been-there/done-that, over and over and over again.

If a staunch supporter of an also-ran had to compromise or trade in their devotions for a lesser deal, it came easier, because there would be another one just like them entering congress to beat their drum or at the very least a carbon-copy waiting in the wings to fight on in four years. There had been two centuries of lily-white, silver-spooned, Anglo-Saxon swinging dicks that had come before and were more than likely to come again.

So I ask my fellow compatriots of the Fourth Estate: Where exactly do these women, who viewed Hillary Clinton as their first and maybe only legitimate shot at the big prize, go after the smoke clears?

These candidates did not in any way, shape or form, resemble Hillary Rodham Clinton, a woman, or Barack Obama, an African American. Not one of them hailed from a gender or race that was made to bear centuries of discrimination, condescension, social and cultural pandering, rejection, assassination, or recrimination.

Again, barring Kennedy, who, along with being Catholic had to overcome the taint of Irish blood, which for over a century had lived uncomfortably at the corner of despised and shunned. But lest we forget Kennedy, an insanely rich blue blood, cheated the electorate and was murdered before finishing what he started, so let’s not get all giddy about that anomaly.

So I ask my fellow compatriots of the Fourth Estate: Where exactly do these women, who viewed Hillary Clinton as their first and maybe only legitimate shot at the big prize, go after the smoke clears? Do they just sigh forlornly and forget that a one-time junior senator with fifteen minutes of experience shoplifted their girl’s long and painful road of political theater all leading up to this signature moment?

If things turned out differently, the same could have been said of Obama’s hardcore African American support, which watched in abject horror as the Clintons suddenly turned from sweet-talking sympathizers to blurting the same tired subtle racism of the past.

What is happening now inside the Democratic Party is literally historic. This amazing run of ’08 could very well be the final tolling bell for an African American or woman candidate in the presidential arena for a long time. Think about it: A weak sitting president lording over an unpopular war and a sinking economy representing an opposition party at its all-time low, tanking special elections in Mississippi and fighting off one criminal allegation after the next. This is the outsider’s one genuine shot, even if it is still a long shot, and I remain one who will believe it when I see it. But even I know that if not now, when?

The real question this fall is not about working class white men or swing states or the general unpopularity of the Republicans, it is how Obama manages to carry November in a party dominated by women if the women either stay home or turn to John McCain to free up a Hillary comeback in 2012?

This is not about politics now. It is not about parties or platforms. This is a culture war, plain and simple. It is about being unlucky in timing. If it were merely Obama, then there would have been a groundswell from the bottom up, as all good revolutions move societies. If it had been a woman, alone, fighting from the nether regions of American politics, it would have been the sole story of the early century. But there were two in a contest that requires only one representative. One of those representatives, whose constituency has waited forever to be heard on this kind of stage, will have to see The Dream die.

All these women, many of them, in fact, almost all of them, over sixty and showing up in record numbers, recall all too clearly a time when they were worth half of a man’s salary in the workplace, if they could work at all. They were told they were too limited in mental and emotional scope to be doctors, lacking in cerebral temperament to practice law, and far too weak to serve in the armed forces. Some even recall not being granted the right to vote at all or being able to emerge from the kitchen to make a stand, politically, socially, sexually, or professionally. And if they don’t remember, their mothers and grandmothers certainly told them all about it.

So what will the women do once the crusade’s shut down?

And how, in this season of discontent with the status quo, does The Change Candidate rally the troops enough to make history?

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