Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Clinton wouldn't be winning if she weren't a woman"

Just a few years back, before the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, there was a strong possibility that both the Sox and Chicago White Sox would go to the World Series in the same year. This meant that one of them would finally break their bad streak and the other would be left fuming at yet another lost opportunity.

Fortunately, for the peace of the baseball world, this didn't happen. The Cubs didn't make it and the Sox, while they lost that year, did eventually go on to break the streak. The world-ending showdown to end all showdowns was avoided.

Would that the same thing had happened in the race for the presidency.

The dream of a woman president and the dream of a black president are both powerful forces in America. They are dreams that many people who lived through the worst of the civil rights and women's liberation movements maybe never thought they might see in their lifetime. So it is natural that both constituencies would be excited at the prospect of the first serious candidate to fulfill each dream.

What nobody expected was that both would happen within the same campaign. It was a situation guaranteed to produce a lot of hurt feelings and, justified or not, a lot of ill will.

It is that, more than anything, that I think is fueling the bizarre behavior of Geraldine Ferraro (and other Clinton supporters). Being of an earlier generation, she may suffer from latent racists tendencies that her palpable disappointment has brought to the surface. It doesn't mean that she *is* a racist. She is just letting her disappointment override her reason.

But those in the Obama camp who are quick to jump to the conclusion that Ferarro is a flat-out racist (and that Clinton, by extension, shares the same guilt) might benefit from asking themselves what would be happening now if the roles were reversed. What would the their reaction be if the dream of the first black president were falling to the dream of the first woman president?

We simply cannot say how Barack Obama would react to this development. Would he be more gracious in the face of mathematical defeat than Clinton has been? Impossible to tell.

But, statistically, we can be sure that some members of Team Obama, including Obama staffers, might not be so gracious. Just as their may be latent racism in Ferarro's subconscious, there is most certainly latent sexism within the minds of some Obama people. Given a similar but opposite situation, those supporters might be equally tempted to make comments like, "Clinton wouldn't be winning if she weren't a woman."

Anyone who is honest about the human condition has to admit that this would be happen. Disappointment is a powerful emotion that even the strongest would have difficulty controlling.

(And the possibility that some Obama supporters might make similar statements is no more a sign of inherent sexism in Obama than are Ferarro's comments a sign of inherent racism in Clinton.)

I say this in the hope of talking people out of going to far in their accusations of racism (possibly already to late). Obama himself has talked about the need for people to understand the hopes AND disappointments of people who are opposed to us. Our ability to empathize with the disappointments of others is what makes us better than the cockroaches who are the real enemy. I know that Democrats, both Obama and Clinton supporters, are not as divided as this campaign makes us appear. But we will begin to match our surface appearance if we allow ourselves to lose sight of the greater fight before us.

Walk a mile in the other gals shoes and ask yourself how would you feel. Then maybe you can honestly assess Clinton's motives.

(disclaimer: I support Obama. It shouldn't be necessary for me to say that. But we all know that it is.)

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