Over at the Daily Howler, the indefatigable Bob Somerby points to an article by John Judis at the New Republic. The article is called "The Autopsy Report," and it's supposed to be an analysis of why Hillary Clinton has lost.
Now, I'm not including this here because of the past tense -- lost. Nor am I including it because of the way that the word "autopsy" feeds in to the "kill the beast" narrative that we've seen crop up lately. No, I'm including it because it sums up a lot of what we've seen in a way that stunned even Somerby, and me too.
Here's the key moment: Judis is talking about the way in which the Clinton campaign decided, at a certain point, to start attacking Obama in the usual way in which candidates go on the attack. Judis admits that "going negative" is a perfectly normal part of politics, and that everyone does it. But:
Obama [...] was, and is, history—the first viable African-American presidential candidate. Yes, Hillary Clinton was the first viable female candidate, but it is still different.Let me give you a few minutes to soak in that pair of sentences. Go ahead, I'll wait here.
This is, certainly, not as instantly, outrageously horrible as, say, the cartoon in Part 99. But in a way it's even worse, because the poison is hidden in polite, analytical prose.
Notice what Judis is admitting here? He starts out by noting that Obama's candidacy is of major historic importance because of America's history of racism -- and that is true. But then, he turns to Clinton, and, despite America's history of sexism, "it is still different." It's not historic. Why?
Race is the deepest and oldest and most bitter conflict in American history—the cause of our great Civil War and of the upheavals of the 1950s and '60s. And if some voters didn't appreciate the potential breakthrough that Obama's candidacy represented, many in the Democratic primaries and caucuses did—and so did the members of the media and Obama's fellow politicians. And as Clinton began treating Obama as just another politician, they recoiled and threw their support to him.Astonishing, isn't it? Notice the specific claims Judis is making here, and their converse implications:
1. Obama's not just another politician because he's of historical importance.
2. Clinton, presumably, is just another politician, and is not of historical importance.
3. Race is of great importance in American history.
4. Gender is not.
5. The civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s mattered.
6. The feminist movement over the decades -- well, it doesn't even get a mention.
Furthermore, as Somerby notes,
According to Judis, the Clinton campaign failed to “appreciate” something that journalists did understand. They failed to see that Obama “was history” (in a good sense)—that he was in a different category from all the regular pols. It was one thing to go negative on McCain/Romney/Clinton—and it was a “different” thing to do this to Obama! And according to Judis, “members of the media” understood this. “As Clinton began treating Obama as just another politician, they recoiled and threw their support to him.” [...] As far as we know, they didn’t tell you they were doing that—nor did they tell you why they had done it.Now, I'd never deny that Obama's candidacy is of major importance. Clearly it is, for all the reasons that Judis gives. But Clinton's candidacy is of major importance, too, and for pretty much the same sorts of reasons. The failure to recognize this -- in fact, the vigorous denial of it -- has been a major problem throughout this campaign.
So there's the underlying narrative in a nutshell. Never mind that both racism and sexism are deep and ongoing. Never mind that they are by no means mutually exclusive. Never mind that both of these candidates are historic figures. Nope, never mind. One of them is history. The other is not.
"It is still different."
Some people have been complaining about what they call the Oppression Olympics, the alleged comparison between the importance of racism and the importance of sexism; but what Judis admits here is that the game has, to a large extent, been both staged and rigged for the duration of this primary season by those who most influence our discourse.
[Hillary Sexism Watch: Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty, Twenty-One, Twenty-Two, Twenty-Three, Twenty-Four, Twenty-Five, Twenty-Six, Twenty-Seven, Twenty-Eight, Twenty-Nine, Thirty, Thirty-One, Thirty-Two, Thirty-Three, Thirty-Four, Thirty-Five, Thirty-Six, Thirty-Seven, Thirty-Eight, Thirty-Nine, Forty, Forty-One, Forty-Two, Forty-Three, Forty-Four, Forty-Five, Forty-Six, Forty-Seven, Forty-Eight, Forty-Nine, Fifty, Fifty-One, Fifty-Two, Fifty-Three, Fifty-Four, Fifty-Five, Fifty-Six, Fifty-Seven, Fifty-Eight, Fifty-Nine, Sixty, Sixty-One, Sixty-Two, Sixty-Three, Sixty-Four, Sixty-Five, Sixty-Six, Sixty-Seven, Sixty-Eight, Sixty-Nine, Seventy, Seventy-One, Seventy-Two, Seventy-Three, Seventy-Four, Seventy-Five, Seventy-Six, Seventy-Seven, Seventy-Eight, Seventy-Nine, Eighty, Eighty-One, Eighty-Two, Eighty-Three, Eighty-Four, Eighty-Five, Eighty Six, Eighty-Seven, Eighty-Eight, Eighty-Nine, Ninety, Ninety-One, Ninety-Two, Ninety-Three, Ninety-Four, Ninety-Five, Ninety-Six, Ninety-Seven, Ninety-Eight, Ninety-Nine.]