Yesterday, Hillary Clinton officially suspended her campaign and endorsed Barack Obama as the Democratic Presidential Nominee. She spoke on a variety of topics, and while I appreciated the overall message she carried, I was a bit disoriented with the sharp gear-shifts during the speech. It was somewhat awkward, seeming to be a half-dozen different speeches stitched together, though she often had that problem throughout the campaign.
But this post is not about the quality of her speech. What this post is about is disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters.
When this campaign started, I would not have voted for Hillary Clinton if you paid me. She was divisive, had almost no real experience, and honestly just rubbed me the wrong way. She had negatives in national polling hovering around 50%, which is not a good sign for a potential nominee. I was supporting Barack Obama, though before he got in, I was hoping that we'd get some of our other women leaders to join this race. Janet Napolitano, Kathleen Sebelius, Diane Feinstein, etc. We have quite a few women who have proven their political strength and abilities as Governors and Senators. Not as many as perhaps we should, but still a reasonable pool to draw from. I wanted them to join because I want to see a woman break that last barrier and become President of the United States. That would be a great day for America. I just could not take Hillary.
Bill Clinton has been arguably the best president in my lifetime. He did not significantly alter the political landscape, but he did bring the country 8 very good years. Our economy was strong, we were fairly well-liked around the world, and it was just a good time all around. My only problem was that Bill Clinton was one of the worst forms of politician. He would use minority groups, such as the African-American community, or the gay community to get himself elected, and once in office, he would ignore them, or even harm their interests. He had a long history of womanizing, and when it finally came down on him, it was beyond him to take any responsibility for what he did. It was all about the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. While I don't doubt that much of the actual problem resulted from the actions of right-wing talk radio, preachers, and politicians, the fact remains that Bill Clinton has never been able to admit his mistakes. It is always someone else's fault, and watching Hillary's campaign unfold, I've often felt that a similar principle applies at her campaign HQ. The whole of the Clinton administration was filled with high drama, and I wanted to avoid that.
But things have changed. There are plenty of new things I've found to dislike about Hillary Clinton over the course of this campaign. Her surrogates have really pushed the idea of Barack as being just a Black Candidate. Someone that white people can't and won't vote for. They've pushed the idea that the campaign coverage is sexist, and biased against her. Her campaign is full of some really questionable people; Mark Penn, Harold Ickes, Howard Wolfson, etc. Bill Clinton seemed to really lose it over the course of this campaign. But through all of that, I realized: I can vote for Hillary Clinton. I think it's actually Barack that convinced me. When he spoke of Hillary, he was always respectful, would talk about the things that she's accomplished, and about the similarities in what they hope to accomplish in the White House. When Barack won, he would acknowledge Hillary Clinton, and how hard she fought. When he lost, he would congratulate her, talk about the number of people turning out and the strength of the Democratic message, and keep his message positive. Hillary may not have always (or almost ever) returned the feeling when she lost, but it started to matter less to me. Barack had a strong underlying message, rarely ever brought to the surface, but always just under it, that if he was not the nominee, we still needed to pull together, and stop another term of these same ruinous policies that George W. Bush put in place, and that John McCain is largely promising to continue.
What I'm now concerned about is that apparently, many of Hillary Clinton's supporters, especially in the blogosphere, did not receive the same message. Hitting some of the big names (Hillaryis44.org, noquarterusa.net) yesterday, I found anger. I'd even go so far as to call it hatred. Pure vitriol being spewed in the direction of Barack Obama, the DNC, and the media. Barack stole the election, Barack will never get our votes, we're voting for McCain or we're writing in Hillary. Barack is a tool of the media, the media which hyped Barack Obama, and smeared Hillary with a campaign of misogyny and accusations of racism. While I'm sure that is something that Hillary supporters would like to believe, evidence would seem not to support it. First off, it felt to me as an Obama supporter, that the media was focusing almost entirely on digging up dirt on him to try to make him look as un-American and radical as possible. I actually stopped watching CNN entirely early on because I felt their anti-Obama coverage was so strong, and they favored Hillary so heavily. Geraldine Ferraro (who said that Barack had an advantage because he was black) recently wrote an op-ed for the Boston Globe which, among other things, asked that a study be undertaken by The Shorenstein Center at Harvard to determine how biased the coverage was against Hillary, and to determine what action should be taken to prevent this sort of thing. The thing is, the day before the op-ed was published, The Shorenstein Center released a study on just that topic. From the Press Release:
Barack Obama has not enjoyed a better ride in the press than rival Hillary Clinton, according to a new study of primary coverage by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University...
Clinton had just as much success as Obama in projecting one of her most important themes in the media, the idea that she is prepared to lead the country on “Day One.” She has also had substantial success in rebutting the idea that she is difficult to like or is cold or distant, and much of that rebuttal came directly from journalists offering the rebuttal.
So it would seem that both sides simply read what was mostly unbiased coverage (I'm sure you spotted as many Barack supporters on the air as I did Hillary supporters) as being against their own candidate. I suppose we never like to admit that our chosen candidates, which we have invested so much time, energy, emotion, and possibly money into have flaws. We would hear only the things that didn't fit what we wanted to hear: negatives about our choice, positives about the competition. I'm sure there was sexism to be found in the coverage. I suspect much of it was unintentional, some (such as what Ferraro suggests) is blown completely out of proportion after being taken out of context. There was also racism in the coverage, though a lot of it was restricted to FOX.
I'm seeing that Hillary's supporters are mad at the DNC, and the party leaders, because they took what was rightfully Hillary's. I'll grant that I also disagreed with the 69-59 split of Michigan. I would have accepted easily a 73-55 split. It would not have changed the results in the end. I'm seeing allegations that the DNC conspired to make sure Hillary couldn't get the nomination. If you're talking about the leadership, some of them (Nancy Pelosi, maybe Howard Dean) were probably for Barack, but there were also others (Harry Reid, Rahm Emanuel) that I saw rather convincing evidence were for Hillary. If you mean the superdelegates themselves, it's hardly a valid argument. Even if it were true, it was Hillary herself arguing that they should vote for whoever they feel like. Even her own supporters, people who advocated very strongly on her behalf were endorsing Barack Obama once he reached the required number of delegates.
I know that it hurts for your candidate to lose, especially after coming so close; we all remember Florida in 2000. What we can't do is let this turn into votes against Barack Obama. If Hillary's supporters decide to vote for John McCain, or stay home, or write-in Hillary, they're all in effect supporting John McCain. Some of them simply declare him the lesser of two evils, some say that we just have to suffer for 4 more years and then we can elect Hillary. I can assure you of this: If it seems like Barack loses this fall because Hillary's supporters voted for McCain or if there's a lot of Hillary write-ins, this is going to mean that Hillary takes the blame for Barack's loss. It's already possible. Don't make it reality. More importantly, don't make John McCain a reality.
John McCain, for his part, is about as bad a candidate as you could choose if you support the rights of women. Women for Barack Obama has a pretty good breakdown of his positions, and Salon (which has now been thoroughly parodied for its sometimes overly-strong support for Hillary Clinton) Also has a piece on McCain's positions on reproductive rights. Interestingly, referring to focus-group meetings in Minnesota and Virginia:
Even women who described themselves as "pro-life" said that the latter positions cast McCain as a man who is "unrealistic," "out of touch" and "stuck in the past," according to the memo. And those same women were especially disappointed because they had expected him to hold the moderate views that the media has so often ascribed to its favorite.
If you're looking for someone that the media loves, and ignores the faults of, it's John McCain. Since his 2000 run, he has been a media favorite, being very friendly with the reporters, and garnering largely positive coverage, even as he appears to have no idea about how many troops we have in Iraq (unless he was talking about the present as the past from the future, and simply doesn't know what year it is), or the difference between Shi'ite and Sunni, among other notable facts he seems to be lacking. Meanwhile, John McCain is staffing his campaign with people who feel that George Bush hasn't gone far enough in his prosecution of the War on Terror, or the wars in the Middle East. He is hiring on people who believe that the founding fathers wanted the President to have "near-dictatorial" powers.
Lastly, I'd like to say that Hillary Clinton, even if she doesn't run again is not the last chance for a woman president "in our lifetimes" as I've heard many a 30 or 40 year-old proclaim. At the start of this season, I was hoping for some of our other promising female politicians to run (Janet Napolitano being my personal favorite). Many of them are at least as qualified as Hillary Clinton, and hopefully next time one of them will be on the top of the ticket. Don't despair. Hillary is not the last, but the first.
Also, if you're interested in why you should vote for Barack Obama, I hope to get up a post on that topic. In the meantime, you can go to the Issues page of his website, or download his Blueprint for Change. I encourage you to do so.
Listening to: Paramore - Miracle