MAYBE IT'S JUST THAT A CLINTON IS NEVER A FRONT-RUNNER
Or that the media never wants a Clinton to be a front-runner. I think that plus sexism plus some of her own weaknesses plus a desire on the part of voters for a big break with the past explains Hillary Clinton's current struggles, not -- as Gloria Steinem says in today's New York Times -- pure misogyny:
Women Are Never Front-Runners
THE woman in question became a lawyer after some years as a community organizer, married a corporate lawyer and is the mother of two little girls, ages 9 and 6. Herself the daughter of a white American mother and a black African father -- in this race-conscious country, she is considered black -- she served as a state legislator for eight years, and became an inspirational voice for national unity.
Be honest: Do you think this is the biography of someone who could be elected to the United States Senate? After less than one term there, do you believe she could be a viable candidate to head the most powerful nation on earth?
... If the lawyer described above had been just as charismatic but named, say, Achola Obama instead of Barack Obama, her goose would have been cooked long ago....
I can't give a definitive answer to the question of whether "Achola Obama" could have made it to the Senate, or to the top of the Democratic heap in the presidential contest, but to me, yes, it's imaginable. I'm a quarter-century younger than Steinem; by now, I'd say I've spent most of my life in a society in which female accomplishment (and acceptance of at least a select few members of many "outsider" groups) seems normal. (And I'd point out that Carol Moseley Braun was recorder of deeds in Cook County, Illinois, when she was elected to the Senate.)
I'll note that a black woman with a funny name did, in fact, make it to the top of a Marist national poll of Republicans in February 2006:
Republicans' top picks for their party’s presidential nomination also include a woman: Although Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said she is not interested, she is a top contender for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Most Republicans would like to see her on the campaign trail in 2008 and would back her candidacy against the current Democratic frontrunners....
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice receives 22% among Republicans and Republican leaning independents as does former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Senator John McCain. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Governor Mitt Romney, Governor George Pataki, Senator Bill Frist, Senator George Allen, Senator Chuck Hagel, Congressman Tom Tancredo, and Senator Sam Brownback trail....
And although she lost to Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in a hypothetical '08 matchup among respondents surveyed, she beat John Kerry.
I'm not advocating a competition for who has it toughest. The caste systems of sex and race are interdependent and can only be uprooted together. That's why Senators Clinton and Obama have to be careful not to let a healthy debate turn into the kind of hostility that the news media love.
Except that by writing this piece and sending it to The New York Times, Steinem is helping to stir up precisely the kind of friction the news media love.
And I don't agree with this:
But what worries me is that he is seen as unifying by his race while she is seen as divisive by her sex.
I'd say she's seen as divisive by her Clinton-ness. I'd say her critics start with that, then pile on whatever's at hand, both legitimate criticism of her as an individual and, yes, a hell of a lot of boilerplate sexism. But Clinton-hate is the seedbed.
Nor do I agree with this:
... What worries me is that some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system; thus Iowa women over 50 and 60, who disproportionately supported Senator Clinton, proved once again that women are the one group that grows more radical with age.
I'm sorry, but Steinem is living in the past -- yes, it's an overdue breakthrough that we finally have a woman who could really be elected president, but that doesn't make voting for a woman a radical act. What's happening is that the groupthink of the system has caught up with the mood of the country, a large portion of which doesn't think having a female president is a radical notion.
This country can no longer afford to choose our leaders from a talent pool limited by sex, race, money, powerful fathers and paper degrees. It's time to take equal pride in breaking all the barriers....
Well, we simply can't break all the barriers at once -- no candidate who's currently running is non-white, non-male, and non-establishment.
Actually, Condi Rice comes closest -- but I sure as hell am not going to vote for an architect of Bush's foreign policy, if she emerges from a brokered GOP convention as the nominee, just so I can help break some barriers. And I trust Steinem feels the same way.