Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have retired their daggers to turn their eyes towards the November election, but a happy reunion may be a bit harder to weather for some Clinton supporters
The announcement of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama’s joint stumping for his campaign June 27th gave the pundits and Kumbaya-lovers what they’d been asking for — a grand Hollywood ending featuring the two political heavyweights. Beaming, standing astride each other and full of praise they were. Even if critics said it wouldn’t be sincere and would take the negotiating techniques of an attorney to pull off, they still wanted it and they got their show.
All applause. All smiles. All over.
Once Obama became the presumptive nominee many Democrats were ready to put away the ammo and move on to the next challenge, all except some who’d fought hard and lost.
While a lot of Clinton supporters are choosing to back Obama, some are having a harder time getting excited about the senator. Others are still steadfast against voting for him.
Out of curiosity and a desire for better understanding, I reached out to some Clinton supporters to better understand what were the issues that caused them to view the Democratic Primary the way they did and why they would or would not support Barack Obama for president. Two female bloggers, Red Queen and Redstar who post at The Hillary 1000 blog, responded, answering my questions about how an individual can go from seeing the primary’s two biggest stars as a double-positive to a negative net loss.
Both women, strong progressives with Liberal leanings, picked Clinton over Obama because of her mental toughness, age and experience with Redstar admitting that because of the candidate’s similar stances Clinton’s gender was a deciding factor. But in the beginning both women liked the candidates.
“I, like many, thought a Clinton/Obama ticket could set us the Dems up nicely for 16 years,” Redstar wrote. “(A) female candidate and a person of color candidate? AWESOME. I sent them both $100 in July 2007, and proudly wore a Clinton pin and Obama sticker at the Congressional Black Caucus annual conference in September 2007.”
“I was excited,” Red Queen wrote. “(OMG a black guy and a white women- how freaking awesome is that!) Even though I was an Edwards supporter.”
Redstar wrote on her blog favorably of both Clinton and Obama’s agendas for families, but as the campaign wore on she preferred how Clinton “tacked pretty hard to the left” and “emerged as the more progressive of the two candidates.” She also liked the fact that Clinton relentlessly attacked the Bush Administration “no holds barred,” adding that she has “always preferred (Hillary’s) partisanship to Obama’s message.”
“I’m a partisan animal, and want justice, retribution, payback and aggressive partisan leadership after the Bush oligarchy,” Redstar wrote. “Seriously, our world is a TOTAL mess and I cannot for the life of me imagine playing nice with the GOP.
Late last fall, Redstar felt herself becoming disenchanted with Obama. His message of unity, hope and change fell on deaf, cynical ears.
“Post-partisan/bi-partisan rhetoric NEVER worked for me,” she wrote. “Obama lost me in part because I felt set up, i.e., his rhetoric didn’t match up with his record as a politician (all his “present” votes, for instance didn’t leave me with a lot of faith in his leadership potential).
“Furthermore, and I think this had a big impact on me, the ethnic/gender compositions of the Presidential campaign staffs were released (for Dems and GOP). Clinton’s staff was majority female and majority non-white. Obama’s in comparison was 80% male and 60% white. I think I just fell out of love early on with him as another typical (politician), and likely in part because he was running as an atypical (politician).”
For Red Queen it was also Clinton’s fighting spirit that inspired her.
“In late December I saw a clip of Clinton on Wall Street Week where she laughed in the face of Maria Barteromo,” she wrote. “When Clinton started talking about plans for the helping people in foreclosure, I remembered why I liked her. The more I heard her plans and saw her speak, the more I liked.”
Both were disappointed by Clinton’s loss. Redstar has decided to begrudgingly support Obama, struggling to get excited about the campaign.
“He’s the nominee. And I keep reminding myself that I would have been excited to vote for him if I hadn’t gotten so excited about Clinton,” she wrote me in an e-mail exchange. “I may still be excited on Nov. 4th, who knows. I’m also ninety-five percent sure I’m going to vote for him, but there’s still a part of me that wonders if in the privacy of the voting booth I won’t.
“I doubt it, but there’s a nagging voice in my head that I should be taking a stand over the misogyny leveled by the media and tolerated by the (Democratic) Party and used to advantage by Obama. I’m honestly conflicted over this, but I can’t really imagine not voting for Obama. I’d really like to see his family in the Oval Office more than I’d like to see him govern.”
The level of sexism in the media and the trench warfare of the primary was a huge issue for both bloggers. Both were surprised how insults lobbed at her were tolerated. Red Queen, who said she would not vote for Obama, could not get past a statement he made about women “periodically feeling down” in reference to Clinton. She felt it was code for women being too emotional.
“The misogyny in that statement made me start questioning,” Red Queen wrote. “The more I looked into Obama and the less I liked him.
“Had he come out and apologized for it, I might not have gone through the trouble of looking more closely into his views and campaign tactics. But once I did, I knew there was no way i could ever vote for him.”
Red Queen felt her views and concerns were being shoved aside for Obama’s political ascension, leading her to not support him as a protest of the Democratic Party’s silence, and to her, endorsement, of sexism.
“(I)t is against my own best interest to support a party that uses misogyny as a campaign tool,” she said. “I have been stalked and harassed and called more sexist insults by Obama supporters than any Republican. Then there is the classism. I’m a poor working class white woman. Obama has made it clear that the only thing the Dems have to offer me is threats and insults if I refuse to vote the party line.”
Redstar, while working to get over the loss, also repeated the same themes of shock and disappointment over the party’s lack of defense for Clinton.
“My biggest source of ambivalence about voting for him in the fall is less about him and more about the way the (p)arty app
aratus lined up around him and stood too silently about Clinton’s treatment in the media … (E)ven a few participated – Steve Cohen, for (example),” she wrote.
“All of this post-Clinton suspension discussion of the sexism during the campaign, and her role as a sacrificial ground breaker for future women is really salt in my wounds. Right, now it’s safe to talk about misogyny and gender. Spare me. I really think the Party has calcified and is headed in the wrong direction with politics generally in this country, and Obama hasn’t brought any new faces or ideas into the mix, from what I can tell, other than young voters.”
Asked if there was an issue or an action Obama could partake to win them over, Redstar said she would, “really love to have him reach out to the most angry, entrenched Clinton supporters who don’t plan to vote for him.”
“I’ve seen nothing to indicate that he’s paying attention to these voters, and that he considers them anything other than fringe, emotional lunatics (and women) who need some time to cool off,” she wrote.
“His campaign gives off the impression that this is either a) Clinton’s responsibility or b) not necessary because he doesn’t need these votes to win. I think this is hard-headed and irresponsible. Would it honestly take so much to schedule a conference call with these diehard supporters? If McCain can do it (shamelessly), can’t Obama?”
But while Redstar can bridge the gap, for Red Queen there’s nothing Obama could do to win her over, writing that “(a)t this point, that ship has sailed. I don’t reward sexists, racists or classists with my vote — ever.”
“I’m voting for Cynthia McKinney of the green party. I’ve always liked the Green platform and I thought McKinney was a fiery and awesome presence in the house,” Red Queen wrote. “I don’t feel that a vote for McKinney is wasted (or a vote for McCain). Strong, progressive leaders need to be rewarded with our votes, even if it doesn’t lead to their actual election.”
In this primary things went from politics to personal and while the winners can hold their heads high in victory, the longer race cannot be won with members of the Democratic coalition divorced from the process.
If healing is to begin the concerns and feelings of the former opposition can not be dumped aside with the reasoning that time heals all wounds. All wounds could turn to old wounds that fester and become sore with every poke and provocation. The sexism that attacked Clinton yesterday has its sights set on Michelle Obama today. The party made a fatal error in seeing sexism as a phantom menace because of Clinton’s political potency.
It is a relief that the Democratic Primary is over. And while the Kumbaya moment of Clinton and Obama together may have settled some concerns, no matter what is said on TV we are still some way to go before love conquers all.