I can’t keep up with my thoughts…
But I do think Palin was a shrewd choice for McCain. From my perspective, the angriest Clinton supporters frame Clinton’s loss as a) a more experienced woman being by-passed for a less experienced man and b) this choice to eliminate Clinton from the running as made by a Party that insulted and derogated her and her supporters by association, incl. by silently witnessing sexism and misogyny as well as participating in it.
McCain’s choice of Palin suggests that the GOP PARTY is a) more committed to investing in woman’s leadership and development and b) is willing to more broadly interpret the “experience” required to lead by giving Palin - a relative unknown - a chance on a national ticket, but has done so in an intelligent way.
Palin has been in elected office for presumably about as long as Obama, plus is (or is assumed to be) the primary caregiver of a large family, and people will have to be careful not to criticize this experience in sexist, demeaning terms. What’s ok for our POTUS nominee should be ok for the GOP VP nominee. Furthermore, the GOP lined it up McCain-Palin, indicating that the less experienced but promising candidate can learn from the more experienced one. This fits nicely for those Dems who thought we should have run Clinton-Obama so that he could assume the mantle in 2016.
For me this race is going to focus on the intertwined framings of gender and experience. I’m really curious to see how Palin is attacked for being inexperienced. Remember Clinton was a professional lawyer, women’s and children’s rights advocate and senator for 35 years and people consistently dismissed her as “just a First Lady.”
While on hiatus, Weboy nonetheless sent along via email his thoughts about Sen. Clinton's speech. With all the hoopla, stagecraft and more speechifying that went on yesterday, his words may seem dated already. I beg to differ, and am posting them here. He elegantly sums up the major issue for us Clinton diehards following Clinton's speech, her gracious handling of the delegate vote and roll call, and the fierce oration from Bill Clinton last night - not to mention John Kerry, and even the old fuddy duddy Joe Biden (the BBC acknowledges his "Irish passion" and "Irish temper." Long live stereotypes!) The point: the ball is in Obama's court. Will he win us over fully, so we're not just voting against McCain, not just voting the Party line, not staying home or only voting down ticket on election day? Will we actually vote for the candidate himself?
The majority of delegates at this convention are women for the first time. 44% represent minority communities (CNN stat, not sure of definitions). 24% are African-American, the highest ever. These are the types of diversity I want to see in my party. What I don't want to see is a Republican nominating our Party's candidate for President at the roll call (Yes, that happened). I'm with Weboy here: Will Obama earn my vote? The Clintons have all but delivered it to him: the rest is up to him.
Last night, Hillary Clinton did "everything she was supposed to do" and more. As one of her supporters, I know I am gratified that people got to see what I have known all along - that Hillary Clinton, in the process of campaigning, became an impressive speaker and one who is one of the best able to synthesize the ideas of what it is to be a Democrat into a coherent presentation of how these things all fit together.
That's not "bitterness" or "why can't we have her" talking. That's just the appreciation I have for who she is and what she's accomplished. And what she accomplished tonight was to convince me - a reluctant Democrat still not fully behind Barack Obama - that it was probably time to make the shift.
That's not the last part of closing the deal, however.
All along in this " we must have unity" discussion has been an underlying misunderstanding of what "unity" entails. Unity comes from the work of both sides, not just one. And what we saw, again last night, is that the divide between the two sides is real... and deep. And hard to bridge.
Consider that, even after her speech, there were many who were surprised that a) she throatily endorsed Obama and b) that she made a sustained, pointed critique fo the reasons why John McCain isn't the man to be the next President. I knew she would do both, as I think anyone who really understood her run did. Because she believes in the Democratic Party ideals, and has spent her life working for them. Because she is a team player who can see the bigger picture, not just her own success.
Fundamentally, the support for Hillary Clinton in the primaries came down to one thing: do you believe her, or not? Like many I started the campaign skeptical of her motives, her intent, her purpose. She had to have an agenda. It had to be "about her." It was, I admit, in New Hampshire, during her "gewnuine" moment of tearing up, that I realized... I believed her. I believed she meant what she was trying to accomplish, That she meant what she was saying about what moved her, what drove her to run.
Just as fundamentally, many of the deepest Obama supporters have never believed her - they don't trust her; in many cases they don't like her, have never liked her. Obama won - to the extent that what happened in the primaries can be called winning - in no small part because he became the consensus choice for a generalized antipathy to anything, and anyone, Clinton. That, as much as anything, is what has to do with the "superdelegate" movement to crown hum over her - a decision to try and move the Democratic Party away from dominance by the Clintons.
Last night, Mrs. Clinton did all that was asked of her. She accepted the result. She provided the bigger picture. She made it clear that she, and anyone who supported her because they believed in the things she talked about, should get behind the person who can get the things done that we care about. And that person, this time, is Barack Obama.
The rest is up to Obama.
I've long thought that what Barack Obama needs to do to appeal to someone like me - a lifelong Democrat who ebelieves in the things we stand for - shouldn't be so hard. I think Obama's campaign, for a long time, wasn't aimed at someone like me. It was aimed at people who needed to be inspired to share the goals I see as basic, and it was built around a notion of personal charisma. I've never been enamored of the Personality approach to politics - the can you like him, would you have a beer with him, or even does he inspire you personally notions of how to pic a candidate.
Tomorrow, Barack Obama needs to reach out to the people who are not invested in his charisma, to lay out an argument about why a Democrat not just "why him", why his notion of what it is to be a Democrat is the right one to lead us. It's not, necessarily a hard thing. But it needs to go beyond the usual messages of vaguely defined "hope" and "change" that he has offered, ceaselessly, since he started running. And it surely needs to go beyond the occasionally creepy overtones of cultshness that have sprung up around him. I don't think it's hard... but I am not necessarily hopeful. Outside of Mrs. Clinton, few people up on that stage have been especially inspiring at this moment; few have been able, as she did, to weave the ideas of the things we stand for and the things that need to be done, into a coherent, and appealing whole.
I would include Michelle Obama in that group. Along with rejecting personality politics, I am leery of embracing the trotting out of "Family Tableaux", and the "just like us" presentations. Families are unique entities, in many ways, and I admire more the people in public life who shield their kids from attention, rather than court it. No evidence of the wisdom of that was clearer than last night's appearance of a calm, poised Chelsea Clinton, who has, amazingly, a private life. I worry for Sasha and Malia and such a public life of being on display. Moreover, I think Michelle Obama continues to be sold as something she is not: clearly, she has a far more active role in her husband's political life and opinions of her own. Without spelling out the role she wants for herself as First Lady, she plays into traditional expectations of a silent partner, seen but not heard (much), diminished and secondary. I don't think people understand, as my mother mentioned, the truly "equal partner" nature of the marriage they have. Not explaining it will lead to misunderstandings.
Though he will, probably, sell himself more than anyone or anything else tonight, Bill Clinton is likely to provide yet another powerful moment at this convention, and a full throated support for electing Barack Obama. Obama hasbeen gven the gift he needs to bring all the elements together. The question is... will he? And does he even, now, understand what that means? Does he understand the people who truly are not like him, who don't see what he sees, or share the need for exhortation to a sense of inspiration they already have for the things we believe in? It's an open question, and how he answers it, tomorrow night, is the real test of whether we have come together behind one man, one candidate, one promise... or not. Hillary Clinton did what she was supposed to do, what she had to do... what I think she was called to do. The rest... is still unwritten. [link added]
As previously announced, the NYC Weboy will be on a hiatus from blogging here for the rest of August. Please scroll down, as it's likely that J in Baltimore and RedStar may fill in the gaps with musings, links and photos of their own. You may also find me blogging some critical things over at newcritics. I will not be checking this blog on any kind of a regular basis, but I can be reached via e-mail (nycweboy at nycweboy dot com)... and I do welcome correspondence. I will resume blogging the Tuesday after Labor Day. Yes, that means I will not blog about the Democratic Convention... but just assume I liked Hillary's speech, that the VP selection is not my favorite choice, and I wasn't all that impressed with Obama's speech.
Have a great summer. Enjoy.
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It was bound to be the case that the issue of race would follow us into this election. Had Barack Obama not succeeded in... well, I can agree to "cornering" the nomination, at any rate... we'd still, I think, be dealing with an ugly aftermath of accusations and finger pointing.
But he's the nominee, and given our painful, difficult ways of talking about race in this country, it's no surprise to me that the undercurrent of everything in this campaign is about race. It's also not surprising to me that what's been said about race, and racism has largely been ugly... and unhelpful.
What has surprised me - though probably shouldn't - is that it remains impossible to challenge some notions of how we talk about race now. And without challenging some of these preconceptions, I think, the discussion we're having - and not having - is really going nowhere, fast. And just as crucially, I think what we're saying about race and racism and how it relates to Barack Obama are setting up a lot of ugly conflicts to come.
I don't know what it is, exactly, that's helped to shake David Brooks out of his usual torpor; i suspect it's some combination of an election season that favors his kind of muddled moderation, a sense that any change from Bush is worthwhile, and in no small measure, the vague inspiration of Barack Obama, which suits the vague intellectual-isms Brooks pretends to.
Brooks has been turning in a string of fairly sensible, notable columns, and yesterday's was up there. It was one of the most reasoned examinations of the election from the Republican perspective I've seen, and if Democrats were smart, they'd pay attention, especially to this:
McCain and his advisers have been compelled to adjust to the hostile environment around them. They have been compelled, at least in their telling, to abandon the campaign they had hoped to run. Now they are running a much more conventional race, the kind McCain himself used to ridicule.
The man who lampooned the Message of the Week is now relentlessly on message (as observers of his fine performance at Saddleback Church can attest). The man who hopes to inspire a new generation of Americans now attacks Obama daily. It is the only way he can get the networks to pay attention.
Some old McCain hands are dismayed. John Weaver, the former staff member who helped run the old McCain operation, argues that this campaign does not do justice to the man. The current advisers say they have no choice. They didn’t choose the circumstances of this race. Their job is to cope with them.
And the inescapable fact is: It is working. Everyone said McCain would be down by double digits at this point. He’s nearly even. Everyone said he’d be vastly outspent. That hasn’t happened. A long-shot candidacy now seems entirely plausible.
I think Brooks is more on to the dynamics as they're playing out right now than almost anyone... certainly Frank Rich, who's become the best example of the muddled political thinking of blind faith Obama supporters - suggesting that "if people only knew who McCain is, Obama would be running away in a romp" misses just the point Rich makes early on in his column: that people feel they've been exposed to a lot of Obama... and still don't seem that thrilled with him.
This isn't my "I now see how McCain can be attractive to a voter like me"; quite the opposite - I think Brooks is right that McCain's getting his act together, and it's working. And it scares me to death that he could succeed at something - succeeding George W Bush from the GOP side - that should be hopeless. But that, I think, is the real indication of where we are. And Democrats - the ones in the True Believer mode, anyway - ignore this stuff with a complacency that is I think most dangerous of all. But I'll finish that thought in a moment.