Hillary Clinton is smart, energetic, immensely knowledgeable, and, as she likes to say, hard-working. I’ve been appalled by the misogynous vitriol (and mean-girl snark) aimed against her. If she is the nominee I will work my heart out for her.
But right now, I’m supporting Barack Obama. On domestic politics, their differences are small– I’m with her on health care mandates, and with him on driver’s licences for undocumented immigrants; both would probably be equally good on women’s rights, abortion rights and judicial appointments. But on foreign policy Obama seems more enlightened, as in less bellicose. Maybe Hillary Clinton’s refusal to say her Iraq vote was wrong shows that she has neo-con sympathies; maybe she simply believes that any admission of error would tar her as weak. But we already have a warlike president who refuses to admit making mistakes, and look how that’s turned out. The election of Barack Obama would send a signal to the world that the United States is taking a different tack.
When Obama won Iowa, I was surprised that I was glad. Much as I would love to pull the lever for a woman president — a pro-choice Democratic woman president, that is –I realized at that moment how deeply unthrilled I was by the prospect of a grim vote-by-vote fight for the 50 percent+1 majority in a campaign that would rehearse all the old, (yes, mostly bogus or exaggerated) scandals and maybe turn up some new ones too. I wasn’t delighted to think success would mean four more years of Bill Clinton either, or might come at the price of downticket losses, as many red-state Democrats fear. Democrats have nominated plenty of dutiful public servants over the years — Humphrey, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry . They have always lost (or in Gore’s case, not won by enough to not lose). Obama may not be as progressive as we wish over here at The Nation– and maybe someday we can have a serious conversation about why Edwards’ economic populism, promoted for years by important voices at the magazine, was such a bust. But Obama is a candidate in a different mold. He’s a natural politician who connects with people as Hillary Clinton, for whatever reason, just doesn’t, and appeals to the better angels of their nature. He sparks an enthusiasm in people–independents, the young, the previously disengaged. An Obama victory could have big positive repercussions for progressive politics.
I usually resist words like “hope” and “change.” But with Supertuesday barely 36 hours away what I think is, let’s go with the charismatic candidate this time. Let’s go with the candidate voters feel some passion about. Let’s say goodbye to the Clintons and have some new people make history.
Plenty of feminists support Obama, by the way. for example Kate Michelman, former head of NARAL, and Ellen Bravo of Nine to Five. I signed a letter from ” New York Feminists for Peace and Barack Obama.” Other signers include the historians Linda Gordon, Alice Kessler Harris and Ros Baxandall; the sociologist Judith Stacey; the political scientist Ros Petchesky,and writers Margo Jefferson and Meredith Tax. You can read it and, if you are a New York feminist, sign it, here .