Maybe it's just because I'm feeling all protective of Senator Clinton these days, but I'm having a lot of trouble with Amanda Marcotte's thoughts on strategic voting. Not because I'm opposed to an Obama/Edwards ticket -- that would be tits -- or because her proposed strategy for getting that seems unsound to me. But because of the reason she gives for saying that "getting Clinton out of the race" must be the first order of business for democrats.
Essentially, it comes down to electability. Hillary is polarizing. Too many people hate her. There's a chance we could end up with a Republican president if we run her. Etc. Everything we've been hearing since well before she announced her candidacy.
Amanda goes into more detail than that (and let me be clear that I think her argument has some merit):
Let’s look at the most likely people to abandon the Republican party and refuse to vote in the general—supporters of the spoilers Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee. In other words, right wing conspiracy theory cranks and Bible-thumpers. These folks share between them a distinct loathing for women and a dedication to a strict, religious patriarchy. The only difference is probably levels of racism and sort of a philosophy on how best to control women, with the thumpers seeking government control of women and the libertarian cranks arguing that if you remove government protections, you can leave the control of women up to individual men. Obama might bring out the Ron Paul supporters to vote for whatever candidate the Republicans run, but a lot of the Bible-thumpers will stay home. But both the cranks and the thumpers will stand in line for hours to make sure that no slithery, vagina-possessing, apple-eating daughter of Eve ever symbolically castrates them by holding an office that they have no hoping of ever having. And doubly because she killed Vince Foster, you know.There's truth in that. There's maybe a ton of truth in that. Unfortunately, I still see two problems with it.
1) The assumption that Paul and Huckabee supporters -- let alone loads of other Americans -- aren't every bit as racist as they are sexist. Race might not be what everyone's talking about this week, but do we really think it won't be a gigantic fucking factor if Obama gets the nomination? The whole progressive blogosphere jumped down Gloria Steinem's throat this week -- and rightly so -- for suggesting that sexism is more damaging to a candidate than racism. But a day later, Clinton's unelectable because there are too many misogynists out there, yet we assume the racists will just stay home if Obama's the candidate?
I don't buy it. I think they're playing (relatively) nice with Obama right now, because the short-term goal is knocking Clinton out. Once that's done, we'll all be reminded of just how much they hate us -- and of just how racist this country really is. Sure, the talking heads might not sound as blatantly racist as they have sexist lately, but you can bet they'll be talking about all those terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad racists of whom they totally don't approve so goddamned much, we will still get to hear every one of the racists' talking points ad nauseam.
Whether Clinton or Obama will play better with right wing jerks is immaterial. If you want a candidate who won't be vociferously opposed by bigoted slimebags on bigoted grounds, then the only logical strategy is to vote for Edwards and hope he picks a white male running mate. And, you know, preferably a white male running mate who reads a little less fruity.
Which brings me to my next problem...
2) Though I am, as I said yesterday, a cynic and a pragmatist when it comes to elections, here is where I draw the line and stand not only on principle but on ideals: I will not base my vote on fear of bigots.
I really can't understand the objections I've heard to both Clinton and Obama that go like this: "I would love to vote for a woman/black man, but I just don't think the rest of the country is ready." Translation: I'm not a sexist/racist -- I'm just willing to let those assholes own my vote.
Do people really think it's going to be any different, any easier, if we have an African-American and/or female candidate next time around? 20 years from now? 50? Do we really think that if we just let our culture progress a little more, with a few more white male leaders shepherding it along, someday America actually will be unequivocally ready for such a change, and race and sex won't be huge, historic issues the way they are today? Seriously?
Somebody's got to go first. And without wanting to rule Edwards out prematurely, the way things are looking right now, somebody will be going first this year, whether it's a black man or a white woman. Which means bigotry and hatred are going to be inescapable, defining issues throughout this campaign and -- if all goes well -- throughout our next president's term(s) in office. We can't avoid that. It will not go away if we just wait a little longer to vote for a person of color and/or a woman. Whoever goes first, whenever it happens, will have a hard and lonely road to walk. That's the problem with voters having clearly based their decisions on race and gender for over 200 years, even if we're only getting around to talking about "identity politics" now.
I have no faith whatsoever that the racists will be less active at the polls than the misogynists, or that the nation's soppy love affair with Obama will continue if he gets the party's nomination and finds himself running against no one but a white man. But that's no reason not to vote for him, either. If we base our votes on the assumption that hateful dickheads outnumber thoughtful, compassionate people, then we've given them control of the outcome before we've even had a chance to test that assumption.
By all means, if you don't want to vote for Clinton or Obama -- whatever your reasons -- don't do it. But for pete's sake, don't vote against them just because you believe that's what assholes will do. If we do that now, at what point does it become rational to start voting for candidates we all know bigots will hate? At what point do we say, okay, now the country's ready for this kind of change, even though we've still never had a woman and/or person of color as president, so really, we have no idea how it'll play out?
The fact is, we can't know who's electable and who's not, because this country is big and complicated -- and because we've never tried to elect an African-American or woman president before. Trying is the only way to find out if that's possible. That means giving up the safety net of nominating a white man so we can sidestep the issues of racism and sexism. It means facing those issues head-on, and having faith that the bigots will not win. It means thinking about all the people who will vote for this candidate, and dismissing all those who would vote against him or her solely on the basis of sex or race as the bigoted fuckwits they are -- not deserving of our mental energy, much less our fear.
It might mean finding out we're wrong. It might mean finding out there are more of them than we think. And believe me, I know how high the stakes are in this election.
But I will not base my vote on fear of bigots. I'm not sure if I could live with another four years of Republican rule. But I am damn sure I couldn't live with myself if I voted according to which candidate I think a bunch of sexist and/or racist assholes would find most palatable.