Saturday, February 16, 2008

Election Iconography 2

The day Hillary Clinton lost eight primaries in a row I suffered acute distress – which was really insane. I can’t vote. I’m one of the million backlogged at the INS; it’s likely I will be forever backlogged and will have to retire in Antarctica, since I take democracy seriously and practice it whenever I can – something power structures don’t like. I watch U.S. elections as intensely as any citizen nevertheless, because I have to live under the term of office of the successful, as much affected as any citizen. Once in a while, I think of the Boston Tea Partygoers who dumped tea leaves into the harbor, with the battle cry “no taxation without representation.” This election, with the opportunity to have either the first African-American or female president, my interest is ten fold. Hillary losing despite the great wave of female pride that greeted her candidacy was a bad nightmare. Has The Cause died, who/what did it in? The last two weeks I’ve kept eye and ear on her, fascinated by the on-going malversation of a huge political capital. She was, after all, the double-digit lead; unstoppable, possessing a war chest of $100 million and anointed by the party hierarchy when the primaries started.

The more I watch and listen, the more I am at a loss to get a handle on her. Her speeches are thematically all over the place, without structure (writers know how important structure is to message), though full of specificities; her replies to critical questions fudging and verbose. The contrast was vivid when she and Obama were asked whether undocumented aliens should be allowed to have driver’s licenses. She took what seemed a minute to reply and I still don’t know what her position is. Obama said one word: “Yes.” On the Iraq issue, there she went again, round and round the mulberry tree. “If I had known then what I know now” doesn’t wash – because you are supposed to know, then and now. Hey, the vote for war was wrong; say it, say it, say it.

What happened to the feisty woman who took on, during her husband’s first term of office, the health care behemoth of an industry? Was she pummeled too much, did the scaffolding of risk-taking and derring-do give way? Or did she, after such a brutal treatment, submit to have her personality calibrated, to avoid the accusation of being divisive, to get the approval of those in the party hierarchy? Oh hey, I could’ve told her that no matter what, strong, intelligent women with ideas of their own will always be called divisive. The whole women’s liberation movement has been called divisive time and again.

The first part of this blog (see below) brought me responses, which can be grouped into a) you gender traitor; b) it’s not the candidates, it’s the issues; and c) it doesn’t matter because what’s needed is radical change.

When the candidates’ positions regarding issues are not too far apart (or as they say, not much daylight in between), one is forced to look at other reasons for choosing: what they represent and their style. Choosing between the first African-American and the first female candidate for the presidency is difficult, since both belong to the same class stratum. One is left with style. Hillary speaks in specifics but her message isn’t consolidated; I get the impression she’s making it up as she goes along. Obama speaks in general phrases, some resonating strongly (“We are who we have been waiting for!”). In the matter of organization, Olivia of GABNet NY, told me of this guy who went to volunteer at the Obama campaign center. He could write, he said, and could issue an endorsement. No, he was told; he should visit every building in his neighborhood and find one person within who would endorse Obama. And he did, door to door, turning his neighborhood into a virtual Obama campaign center. For Hillary, I get an emailed letter from probably the richest Filipina around.

So, the first African-American president or the first woman president? Is it fair to use candidates as objective correlatives? I have no idea and am thankful I will not have to resolve this quandary, which drives some of my friends into a tizzy. Truth to tell, what fascinates me with the primaries is how Obama grows, how Clinton becomes more elegiac, and how, as Obama gains delegates, I feel like a character in a Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, specifically Chronicle of a Death Foretold. I am poised between the certainty of the story’s ending and the unfolding of that end, and yet hoping that there will an intervention somewhere, so it doesn't end the way one suspects it will end. Now I read that the Nobel Prize laureate Doris Lessing has reached the same conclusion, which probably underscores the depth of cynicism this culture has bred in those of us who are not of it. -- #

1 comment:

Alessandro Machi said...

Hillary Clinton didn't actually lose 8 primaries in a row.

She allegedly lost 11 in a row, but approximately or 6 of those were "caucuses" that required 88% less voters to elect each delegate.

The result was Barack Obama won 16 caucuses by a 2-1 margin, but HIllary Clinton actually won more delegates in the primary states, even when Michigan and Florida are not counted.

Probably ACORN had a hand in the caucus results, but at the end of the day, the caucuses in the 2008 democratic campaign did not fairly reflect the intent of the voters in those caucus states.

In other words, Hillary and Barack were probably actually tied Barack Obama in those caucus states if those states had had primaries instead.

Hillary Clinton ultimately would have won by a slim but impressive margin based on winning 9 of the 12 biggest states in the union and showing strength East to West across the entire country.