Saturday, May 10, 2008

OK, I Have to Start Thinking about It

One of the other things that former Arkansas State Representative Joyce Elliott said that resonated with me was that we need to stop putting down politics and our political system. Paraphrasing Dale Bumpers, she noted that while the system was flawed, it's all we have right now. She encouraged us to work towards change from the inside.

I am guilty of simultaneously expressing scorn for the infighting within the Democratic party and symbolically washing my hands of it, as if I'm far above the mudslinging that has gone on.

In truth, it has worn me out. But I need to start thinking about it.

Like my parents, I am a die-hard Democratic voter. In fact, whenever I've voted for multiple elected positions and the only candidate for some position or other has been a Republican, I did not vote. There is a part of me that has never allowed me to vote for a Republican, for what that party stands for in its current manifestation.

And I'm not the type of person who can vote to prove a point in the sense of voting for a third party candidate to express my disgust with the "big" parties. To me, that feels like throwing my vote away. I know it's wrong. I know we need more than two viable parties, but given our system, that's just how I feel. Besides, when I vote for a Democrat, I'm not just choosing the lesser of two evils. I truly do wish for change, for politicians that care about average people and not just corporations and/or the super-wealthy.

That said, I do not think the Democratic Party is a worry free haven for me. For one thing, I realize that I'm much further left than many Democrats. One reason I have not been all engrossed by the presidential brouhaha is I am not just head-over-heels about either of the Democratic candidates. Both Senators Obama and Clinton are a little too centrist for me.

I have been horrified by how divisive this thing has gotten. And one thing that has been enlightening, but kind of heartbreaking for me is seeing the growing rift in feminism.
(How could I have forgotten to link Crenshaw and Ensler's "Feminist Ultimatums?" The rest of this post is definitely about how I'm viewing either/or feminists). As Shark-Fu noted:
Senator Clinton’s run for the Democratic nomination has not produced a split in feminism. It just flushed away a lot of that tolerance bullshit and exposed a rift that’s been there since way back in the day.
It is layered with issues of class, race, orientation and identity that all play a role in our goals and tactics. The reason it may seem new is because we haven’t had a happening that demanded an unavoidable examination of our values and our goals in some time.
A few weeks ago, I e-mailed some friends about a WaPo article in which a white feminist opined that black women who supported Barack Obama had "forgotten sexism." My response, of course, was my usual "Is she for real?" I wanted to explain that for some of us, sexism and racism can't be neatly separated, that I, for one, don't have a schedule that reads, "M-W-F, focus on 'the race'; T-Th, do your 'feminist' stuff; S-Su, other stuff--every third weekend off." Unnecessarily snarky I know, but, damn, see if you don't get tired of people trying to compartmentalize and dissect who you are.

But even worse than the demands to compartmentalize or prioritize, is the absolute disappearing of black women by some white feminists as they argue against an Obama candidacy. A little while ago, on Taylor Marsh's blog, I read a comment in which a woman wondered what the Democratic Party would do when Democratic women left the party if Obama was the nominee. Now, if I'm understanding correctly, 90% of black Democrats who've been voting support Obama. I'd hazard a guess that a significant portion of that 90% are women. And yet, we don't count as Democratic women?

And on the Reclusive Leftist, after a post in which Dr. Violet Socks explains why she will not vote for Obama, comments include:
36. What’s happening here is that the women of America— the regular voters — are putting their foot down.
Black women are not part of the women of America?
68.. It’s about whether or not we are OK with the Democratic party basically saying they don’t have to do look out for us. Women aren’t important the way blacks are.
You can be a woman or black, but not both?
If Obama is the nominee, Cynthia McKinney would be the ideal alternative choice. How can anyone label us racist if we vote for her?
A black woman becomes the vehicle by which you get to express your disapproval and earn your I'm-not-a-racist card?

Then there's the wider dismissal of black voters in general or, in a similar vein, as Pam Spaulding says, the casting of the black vote as "
a "problem" because it skews to Obama
." The beginning of it was not Sen. Clinton's observations of support for her among white people,"the people you have to win if you're a Democrat in sufficient numbers to actually win the election. Everybody knows that," though that bothers me a whole lot. The feeling that I get from that is, so what that Obama has overwhelming black support? Our votes don't matter. So many comments on blogs reiterate this meme--the only support Obama gets is from black people and academics so it doesn't count. I'm too tired to get deeply into that, but I'm black and an academic, so my general feeling is, glad to know I pretty much don't matter to the party I always support.

And then there is that which remains largely unexamined by Sen. Clinton's supporters. I see lots of dissection of the "not good" reasons people vote for Obama: "Academics vote for Obama cuz he's elitist. Young people vote for him cuz he has rock star appeal. Black people vote for him cuz he's black." But for Sen. Clinton to stand flat-footed (as my grandmother would say) and claim, "Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening," as if that statement is unproblematic... I respect Melissa's analysis:
What I am keenly interested in is Clinton's having either intentionally or unintentionally equated "hard-working Americans" with "white Americans." Because, you know, on one hand, it's a cynical and ugly dog whistle to racists who equate brown-skinned people with laziness—and, on the other hand, it sounds exactly like a cynical and ugly dog whistle to racists who equate brown-skinned people with laziness. Even giving her the benefit of the doubt that she didn't intend to imply that non-white Americans aren't hard-working, the effect is the same
I want some Hillary supporters to dissect some of the "not good" reasons people vote for her. You know, just begin a sentence with, "Some white people vote for Clinton cuz..." or "I'll vote for McCain if Obama is the nominee because..." and use your imagination.

There is something troubling about some white* feminists who support Hillary Clinton claiming the Democratic Party is acting as if the black vote is "too" important, a sort of not-so-soft whisper of, "Don't forget who really matters," both in terms of votes and the existence of the party, an invocation of power and privilege.

Because they envision this contest as one in which someone is going to be "thrown under the bus," I think they're making it pretty clear who that had better be.

Got some links from here and here.
*This is a little simplistic, since I don't think the rift occurs wholly along racial lines.

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

Wow. You had a lot to say. LOL! I'm probably more leftist than either as well. But in response to Obama's storming in and taking her inevitability, Hillary has even eeked more right of center - which is scary.

I think it's interesting that this election is discounting the vote of educated people in general and pandering to the uneducated and feeding the ignorance rather than helping to resolve it. Obama's winning - but they write it off as "oh...that's **JUST*** because educated, elitist, non-feminist support him. The REAL voters are the swing voters - those uneducated, ignorant, easily influenced, possibly slightly racist people who the Democrats NEED to win." How could an educated black female NOT get turned off by this dismissal from the party she's been so loyal to for so long.

Having said're right, no matter who you support, elections matter. Your voice matters....Dem, Rep, or other matters. Too many people are so apathetic towards politics and government in general. And I can absolutely see why, but how does change ever come if we don't speak out.

In 04, I KNEW there was no way in hell Bush would lose Texas, and I wasn't all that thrilled with Kerry, but I cast my vote anyway. It matters.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...