It’s kind of bizarre reading about supposed “feminists” who are reportedly claiming they’ll vote for McCain rather than Obama, now that “their” candidate, Hillary Clinton, is out of the running for the presidential nomination.
First of all, John McCain is clearly the candidate of the anti-abortion crowd, but that’s not the half of it. He’s also the candidate who says Anthony Scalia, John Roberts and Sam Alito are his kind of judges. We’re talking here about guys (yeah, guys) who think a woman’s place is in the home, and who only recently ruled that if she’s discriminated against on the job, and doesn’t learn about it for a decade or more, a woman can’t do anything about it, because the original offense of underpaying her happened more than 180 days ago. McCain is also the guy who, after his wife suffered a serious car crash and became disabled, dumped her for a younger, richer woman. A feminist’s dream, this guy.
And how about Hillary Clinton? When she was supposedly getting her “White House experience”—you know, the “co-presidency” she was supposedly part of during the eight years her husband was president and she was First Lady—she and Bill oversaw the “end of welfare as we know it.” What that fine piece of legislation did was limit people to five years on the dole. That’s for life. It doesn’t matter what misfortune befalls you later on.
Now many single women left to raise kids by fathers who either ditch them or who never stepped up to the plate as fathers in the first place, have a hard time, between lack of adequate child care facilities and discrimination on the job, keeping the rent paid and food on the table. Many of them need government assistance well beyond that five years—a period of time not long enough to even get one kid into full-time school, much less two or three. That didn’t matter to Hillary, the great champion of women. She and Bill were busy triangulating and figuring out how to keep their White House position, and that meant selling out poor people, and especially poor women with kids. Welfare had to go.
Even on abortion rights, Clinton has been a waffler. In 2000, running for Senate in New York, she said she would be a staunch defender of the right to choose. But by 2004, she was saying abortion was a “tragic” choice, and was supporting parental notification laws for minors seeking abortion—a position she continues to hold. But abortion isn’t a “tragic choice” for everyone. For some women—rape and incest victims, or women who are victims of abuse come readily to mind—abortion may be a blessed relief. For some, it may be no more tragic than an appendectomy—and it should be no harder to get, or to pay for than one either. There is a reason why the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) voted unanimously to endorse Obama, who has said abortion rights are about more than just women’s right to control their own bodies, but are about basic issues of equality.
What the cries of “McCain, McCain!” by disappointed Clinton backers really represent is an example of sour grapes, as well as of a certain perhaps hidden element of racism. It is as if blacks, had Obama been the loser in this nomination battle, were to say, “That’s it, we’re voting for McCain!”
Obviously, African-American candidates have had to endure this problem for years. When their candidate, whether it was Jesse Jackson, or Shirley Chisolm, or Ted Kennedy, was defeated, they have had to look to their broader interests and decide whether to vote Republican, sit out the election, or just shrug and vote for the winning Democrat. Consistently, they have chosen the third option, disappointment after disappointment.
Blacks are supposed to stick with the Democrats, no matter what. Clinton backers, however, don’t feel handcuffed in this way. Some of them, apparently, feel free to abandon all their liberal principles and vote for a right-wing, anti-abortion, fundamentalist Christian-coddling warmonger if they don’t get the candidate they want from the Democrats.
If these grousers and poor losers in the Clinton camp thought honestly about it for even a moment, they’d realize that had Clinton won the most delegates, and if African-American and liberal, educated white backers of Obama, in response, were to adopt their position and bolt to McCain, Clinton would be a historical asterisk, with no chance of being elected.
In the end, I suspect that most of the whining and the threats to switch to McCain represent only a small, if vocal, minority. The truth is, in the course of 54 primaries, Obama won a majority of female voters—a point rarely made in media reports on this contest. The same can be said of those “white—hard working white” voters who supposedly went for Hillary Clinton in states like West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In fact, numerically speaking, Obama won more of those white, working class voters than did either John Kerry or Al Gore before him. Meanwhile, many of those male voters who voted for Hillary Clinton are probably people who were going to vote Republican in the fall anyhow. There was an organized campaign, after all, by Republican activists, to throw the election to Clinton, who was seen as being easier to defeat in the fall than Obama. That effort almost certainly gave Clinton her narrow win in Indiana, and padded her margins in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
As for Clinton’s fallback position of trying to make herself the vice-presidential candidate on a “dream” Obama-Clinton ticket, Obama would have to be crazy to go for it. Clinton brings nothing but disaster to the Obama campaign. He doesn’t need her to win New York, New Jersey or California, all of which he will win by a landslide without her in November. He doesn’t need her for Illinois (her home state, whatever efforts she made to try to pretend she was a rural Pennsylvanian during that state’s primary). She certainly doesn’t help him in the south, with the possible exception of Florida. She doesn’t bring any “balance” to the ticket, given that both senators have almost identical voting records on domestic issues. And as for the swing states—Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Mexico, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, etc.—she may do more damage than good, given the number of independents and Republicans who have been drawn to Obama, but who have negative feelings about the Clintons. Moreover, with the right vice-presidential candidate—and it’s not Clinton—Obama may even have a shot at not just Virginia, but also North Carolina and even Mississippi—states where the percentage of black voters is high enough that, with an energized black voter turnout, the liberal Democratic vote could be enough to turn the trick.
The Hillary Clinton campaign has all along been about entitlement. She began her race for the White House acting as though it was a coronation—something she deserved after enduring eight years in the White House as second fiddle to husband Bill. Now, having been defeated, she’s acting like she deserves second fiddle. But the truth is, Clinton, by her shabby appeals to racist voters, by her resort to red-baiting of her opponent, and finally by her refusal to denounce and apologize for her shameless and calculating backing for the invasion of Iraq, has rendered her unfit for a spot on the Democratic ticket.
Obama can do much better than that. Yes he can.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net