|Both the New York Times and Washington Post have stories today about the dejection and bitterness engulfing some Hillary Clinton supporters who saw her candidacy as a triumph of feminism, and now see its defeat as evidence of the scourge of sexism.
First the Times:
“Women felt this was their time, and this has been stolen from them,” said Marilu Sochor, 48, a real estate agent in Columbus, Ohio, and a Clinton supporter. “Sexism has played a really big role in the race.”
Not everyone agrees. “When people look at the arc of the campaign, it will be seen that being a woman, in the end, was not a detriment and if anything it was a help to her,” the presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said in an interview. Mrs. Clinton’s campaign is faltering, she added, because of “strategic, tactical things that have nothing to do with her being a woman.”
As a former first lady whose political career evolved from her husband’s, Mrs. Clinton was always an imperfect test case for female achievement — “somebody’s wife,” as Elaine Kamarck, a professor of government at Harvard and a Clinton supporter, described her.
Still, many credit Mrs. Clinton with laying down a new marker for what a woman can accomplish in a campaign — raising over $170 million, frequently winning more favorable reviews on debate performances than her male rivals, rallying older women, and persuading white male voters who were never expected to support her.
“She’s raised this whole woman candidate thing to a whole different level than when I ran,” said Geraldine Ferraro, a Clinton supporter and the first woman to be the vice-presidential nominee of a major party, contrasting her own brief stint as a running mate in 1984 with Mrs. Clinton’s 17-month-and-counting slog.
Ms. Goodwin and others say Mrs. Clinton was able to convert the sexism she faced on the trail into votes and donations, extending the life of a candidacy that suffered a serious blow at the Iowa caucuses. Like so many women before, she was heckled (in New Hampshire, a few men told her to iron their shirts) and called nasty names (“How do we beat the bitch?” Senator John McCain was asked at one campaign event).
But the response may have been more powerful than the injury. In the days after Mrs. Clinton was criticized for misting up on the campaign trail, she won the New Hampshire primary and drew a wave of donations, many from women expressing indignation about how she had been treated.
And Mrs. Clinton seemed to channel the lives of regular women, who often saw her as an avenging angel. Take Judith Henry, 67, for whom Mrs. Clinton’s primary losses stirred decades-old memories of working at a phone company where women were not allowed to hold management positions. “They always gave us the clerical jobs and told us we didn’t have families to support,” she said. At a rally last month in Bloomington, Ind., she sat with her daughter Susan Henry, 45, a warehouse worker, who complained that her male colleagues did less work and made more money than the women did.
Decades after the dissolution of movement feminism, Mrs. Clinton’s events and donor lists filled with women who had experienced insult or isolation on the job. Moitri Chowdhury Savard, 36, a doctor in Queens, was once asked by a supervisor why she was not home cooking for her husband; Liz Kuoppala, 37, of Eveleth, Minn., worked as the only woman in her mining crew and is now the only woman on the City Council.
Ms. Kamarck, 57, the Harvard professor and a longtime adviser to Democratic candidates, said she was still incredulous about the time her colleagues on Walter F. Mondale’s presidential campaign, all men, left for lunch without inviting her — because, she later discovered, they were headed to a strip club.
In that piece, Geraldine Ferraro, perhaps the most bitter woman I've ever witnessed in public life, indicates that she might not vote for Barack in the fall:
Some even accuse Mr. Obama of chauvinism, pointing to the time he called Mrs. Clinton “likeable enough” as evidence of dismissiveness. Nancy Wait, 55, a social worker in Columbia City, Ind., said Mr. Obama was far less qualified than Mrs. Clinton and described as condescending his recent assurances that Mrs. Clinton should stay in the race as long as she liked. Ms. Wait said she would “absolutely, positively not” vote for him come fall.
Ms. Ferraro, who clashed with the Obama campaign about whether she made a racially offensive remark, said she might not either. “I think Obama was terribly sexist,” she said.
Cynthia Ruccia, 55, a sales director for Mary Kay cosmetics in Columbus, Ohio, is organizing a group, Clinton Supporters Count Too, of mostly women in swing states who plan to campaign against Mr. Obama in November. “We, the most loyal constituency, are being told to sit down, shut up and get to the back of the bus,” she said.
The "likable enough" comment comes up in the WaPo article too:
Lifelong Democrat Kathleen Cowley watches with disdain as huge crowds hang on Sen. Barack Obama's every word. She dismisses Obama's "intolerable logic." She turns the channel on pundits who chalk up Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's primary victories to little more than racism. And she doesn't much care for the notion that while Obama is fresh and inspiring, Clinton is, by implication, old and mean.The Washington Post piece points out that the bitterness over the campaign runs both ways, with African-Americans resenting HRC's camp as much as some of her older white women resent him.
"There's just been an attitude that if you aren't voting for Barack Obama, then you're a racist," said Cowley, 49, a mother of four from Massachusetts who has vowed to never back the senator from Illinois. "I just find that intolerable. I feel like when the members of the media talk about how [Obama's supporters] would react, they say, 'Well, we can't take the vote away from African Americans.' Well, excuse me, there's a higher percentage of women."
A Democratic race that a couple of months ago was celebrated as a march toward history -- the chance to nominate the nation's first woman or African American as a major-party candidate -- threatens to leave lingering bitterness, especially among Clinton supporters, whose candidate is running out of ways to win.
Some women, like Cowley, complain that Clinton has been disrespected and mistreated by the media and the political establishment. Many see Obama as equally condescending, dismissing Clinton's foreign policy role as first lady, pulling out her chair for her at debates and suggesting offhand during one debate that she was "likable enough."
"The sexist crap that comes out of people's mouths is really scary to me," said Amilyn Lanning, 38, a Zionsville, Pa., voter who supported Clinton in last month's primary. "There's a lot of the b-word being thrown about, even in jest by comedians. There's a lot of comments made about her pantsuits, and the way she dresses. There's a viciousness."
Odds are, most of Hillary's millions will return to the Democrats come November. It's hard to imagine these same feminists, for whom gender was so central to the campaign, rolling up their sleeves and voting for an old, white man who opposes abortion, for president. Wouldn't that be affirming everything they claim to oppose?
Meanwhile, the Clinton Agonistes are causing one hell of a schizm at NARAL:
With the clock running down on a long-fought primary, NARAL Pro-Choice America leaders sent state affiliates reeling this week by endorsing Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. It was seen as a gratuitous slap in the face to a longtime ally, and it sparked a fear even closer to home: that the move will alienate donors loyal to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
Many on this week’s conference call were stunned on learning the news, making urgent pleas for the group to remain neutral until after the June 3 Democratic primaries.
“It’s created a firestorm,” said NARAL Pro-Choice New York President Kelli Conlin, who was on the conference call. “Everyone was mystified ... saying, ‘What is the upside for the organization? And, frankly, [there was] a lot of concern about the donor base. ... There was real concern there would be a backlash.”
There was a backlash, and it was swift, starting with NARAL’s own website. At last count, there were more than 3,300 comments in an electronic chat about the endorsement, the overwhelming majority of them negative. “Shame shame shame!” read one, with many correspondents threatening never to support NARAL financially again. “No more donations from me!!!” wrote another.
In Washington, two dozen women members of Congress who support Clinton held a quickly organized press conference to tout her abortion-rights record Wednesday night. Ellen Malcolm, founder of the abortion-rights women’s fundraising group EMILY’s List, sharply rebuked NARAL for its endorsement. Two former members of Congress (and Clinton supporters) — Geraldine Ferraro and Pat Schroeder — jabbed at NARAL for endorsing before the general election. “Looks like some higher ups at NARAL are trying to get jobs in the new administration ... nothing else makes sense to us,” they wrote in a joint letter.
Labels: 2008 election, angry white women, Barack Obama, bitter voters, Geraldine Ferraro, Hillary Clinton, presidential candidates