Sunday, February 3, 2008

Sunday Presidential Politics

The L.A. Times reports that someone is doing push-polling for Hillary Clinton in California (I just typed "for the Clintons" and had to fix it; damn you Bill). I don't know that the Clinton campaign is behind it; it could be any sympathetic party trying to help her. Still, this kind of stuff may work in the short term but I think that it ultimately hurts the campaign it was meant to help. I heard a Louisiana pollster on local talk radio the other day talking about how reputable firms don't do push polling and how LA has laws requiring all pollsters to be registered with the state. He says other states need to do the same (geez, on how many subjects are we ever ahead of national trends?).

I just noticed that in the reader comments section on that article, someone suggests the Obama people could be behind the push polling just to make Hillary Clinton look bad. It isn't implausible. Karl Rove would do it. I just hope Democrats wouldn't.

I notice that the photo of Clinton used at that L.A. Times story is also an extremely unflattering one. There is, of course, precedent for news outlets using unflattering photos of candidates they don't favor. I remember some of John Kerry especially that were just the worst they could find, and on SmirkingChimp someone pointed out a few years ago that one could tell press opinion was finally turning against Bush because all the photos of him used in mainstream media were suddenly all bad photos. Still, in a culture in which a woman's looks are assumed to be the measure of her value and appeal, I find the tendency of some outlets to publish the harshest photos of her, with emphasis on her wrinkles (life trails), upsetting. Her looks shouldn't matter, but since they do, I just want to point out that I've met her and she's beautiful. I noticed that, since one of the things her misogynist critics like to do is paint her as a witch, as ugly.

There was an Obama rally in Los Angeles broadcast on C-Span just now. Onstage were Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy, and Michelle Obama. I turned the channel and found the show after Kennedy had already spoken, but I saw Oprah's remarks. I was uncomfortable with her comments about making her voting choice as a "free woman." I think I understand what she was trying to say, but something about the context in which she made the comment suggested to me a "postracial" or "postfeminist"/"postpatriarchal" conception of the culture in which we're voting. We are NOT postracial, nor are we postpatriarchal. The insistence that we are suggests, to me, either privilege or some willful reluctance to see the social and economic forces that conspire to constrain people's lives. We don't actually come to this election as "free women," Oprah. Yesterday on this blog, I wrote at length about "living while female" and what dealing with constant street harassment is like. When you think about that aspect of our lives alone - and there are many OTHER ways besides just street harassment that gender constricts our lives - it is clear that we are NOT free. Although I recognize that Oprah Winfrey certainly was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth, that she worked damn hard and overcame racism, poverty, and abuse to get to where she is, hearing someone with the economic privilege she now has talk about being a "free woman" makes me cringe. Many, many women are just as smart as she and have worked just as hard as she and are still not economically privileged enough to rightly be pronounced "free." It just bothered me.

Michelle Obama's speech was much better. I really, really like her. Her speech was, as her others have been, about race and gender and class much more than her husband's are. I think that reflects the reality that if candidates discuss those things, they get accused of playing various "cards" and being divisive, so Barack Obama, like Hillary Clinton, is mostly forced to avoid those subjects. Michelle Obama, however, talks about growing up poor, not getting into Princeton because her test scores were too low, about Harvard saying they weren't sure she could handle their demanding program, about being the child of a disabled blue collar city employee and one of only two out of four siblings to go to college. She talks about racism, sexism, and classism and says, "See, I wasn't even supposed to be here." She says disadvantaged people know they have to be smarter and tougher and quicker. I appreciate that so much because few things annoy me more than the great American meritocracy myth. Michelle also talks a lot about women balancing their many roles. I like her so much. It makes me wonder why I can't vote for her. And it pisses me off that I don't see Hillary being as free to say the very same things. I bet Hillary would if it weren't such a guaranteed vote loser for the actual candidate. And I also worry that, should Obama get the nomination, there will come a time when the media or the Rethugs finally catch on to some of the wonderful radical stuff Michelle's been getting away with, as the lesser-known spouse of a primary candidate.

Maria Shriver decided, literally, at 7 this morning to make her way to the event in Los Angeles and endorse Obama (Barack, that is...damn!). It's interesting to see how this election cycle women have been speaking out as never before. Maya Angelou and Maxine Waters are for Hillary Clinton, but Toni Morrison and Oprah Winfrey are for Barrack Obama. Charlie Rangel may be for HC, but Alma Rangel is for BO. Within the original field of presidential wannabes, all of the female spouses have been incredibly accomplished and brilliant women (with the possible exception of Fred Thompson's wife; I was never able to get much sense of who she was, but maybe that was because of all the male-dominated media's salivating emphasis on her as a Hollywood actor's arm candy). John Edwards may have been "just fundamentally uncomfortable with gay marriage," but Elizabeth and daughter Cate let it be known that they didn't agree. Mitt Romney may be against reproductive choice for women, but Ann makes no secret of the fact that she has given time and money to Planned Parenthood. I love these women. I love it that they are speaking up. If this keeps up, maybe eventually we will get to actually have choices among multiple female candidates.

Marc Cooper on Obama, Hillary, and the clock running on Super Tuesday here.

Gary Hart on the Iraq war resolution vote and on saying you're sorry:
For those in the process of deciding between them for super Tuesday and beyond, they should be urged to consider this question very seriously. Those who decided to grant George W. Bush virtually unilateral authority to invade Iraq now must accept responsibility for its consequences. Votes have consequences. The consequences in Iraq are well over 30,000 American casualties [casualty: killed and wounded], possibly one million Iraqi deaths, and at least a trillion American tax dollars spent on restructuring (much wasteful and corrupted) and not spent on U.S. schools, hospitals, and infrastructure.

On issues such as this, it is not enough to say, We all make mistakes. One of the remaining candidates cannot even bring herself to say that. Why not, at least, say, The president misled me? Given how tragically wrong that vote was, such an admission would be at the very least a signal of humility, responsibility, wisdom, and character.
Consider these two questions when deciding how to vote on Tuesday and beyond: Why did Senator Clinton give George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq; and why can she not bring herself to admit she was wrong? Regarding the first, she now says that she was only authorizing war as a last resort. Others who voted as she did and now admit error, including Senators Biden, Dodd, and Edwards, do not make that argument. They admit they were wrong. As to the second question, the plausible excuses are few: she still thinks it was right; she thinks the operation was mismanaged; she clings to the hope that this vote and continued support for it will serve her well with conservatives in a general election; she believes it is a symbol of "strength." more

I agree that the war vote remains extremely troubling. Still, Hart is a man, and the other candidates who have said they are sorry are men. What about the argument that it's almost impossible for a woman to stay successful in politics while voting against war and almost impossible for her to admit to a mistake? That's reality as patriarchy has made it. On the other hand, other women in Congress DID stand up against the war from the beginning. And then, back to the old first hand, those women have no chance of becoming president either; they were completely marginalized. In fact, as Susan Faludi's new book "Terror Dreams" shows, anti-war women were targeted for especially viscious criticism after 9/11 (shocker, I know).

More on the "prose versus poetry" theme here.

The "Yes We Can" video and its creator's story.

overt racism finally goes mainstream regarding Obama - it was just a matter of time

This article about the power of grassroots organizing in Obama's campaign points to a wonderful trend. I don't care who gets the support. I love the idea of an emerging power in grassroots organizing, finally! And turnout is up over 30% for Democrats, which is very exciting.

Mandy Grunwald tells a reporter from Britain's "Daily Telegraph" that she has an "I only speak to American journalists" policy. “I just have this, like, you know, it’s my job to talk to people who print papers in states where we have voters - don’t take it personally but I’m going to answer his question first,” she said. Mandy, what are you thinking? more here

Hillary on the Hallmark Channel tonight. I hear she's talking about domestic violence out there on the campaign trail and that her New York office is full of women employees who can, for instance, take an afternoon off to get a sick kid to the doctor without getting criticized for it. What a concept!

And, finally, the U.K.'s "Guardian" does a great job covering our presidential race. I was living in England when Michael Dukakis ran against Bush I, and the news we got there was so much better than the news in the States.

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