Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Can we please think strategically?

Someone mentioned to me recently that she couldn't figure out who I supported in the primary from reading my blog. That's probably because up until recently I've been pretty undecided. I also know lots of great people working for Clinton and Obama, both of whom I like a lot, so I just didn't feel like saying much. But I had to vote on Super Tuesday, which means I had to choose someone. And I chose Hillary.

There have been times in Hillary's political career that I have found her too moderate, or even conservative. Of course I recognize that no national politician is likely to be liberal enough for my tastes, which only makes me miss Paul Wellstone all the more. Had Russ Feingold run for president, I would have been one of the 1% of voters voting for him.

More recently, there have been times where I found Obama's discussions of the role of faith in politics to be disconcerting. He even has a section on faith on his website. I do not discount the role of faith in Americans' lives. In fact, I would call myself Christian, specifically Episcopalian, a faith I found while trying to work through a significant loss. It means a great deal to me. Still, that faith is so intensely private to me that I don't understand how it could have a place in public policy. I know I'm in the minority on that one though, by a wide margin. But it is an important consideration for me. Fruitless though it may be.

On the flip side, Obama is currently one of my Senators. When I wrote a letter of thanks to his office for voting against a particularly vicious anti-abortion bill, I got one of the most thoughtful letters back that I've ever received in my long history of writing letters to my congressional representatives. I was both thrilled and impressed. Yeah, it was a form letter. But it was a form letter with a lot of thought behind it.

And that's what it comes down to. I like policy choices with a lot of thought behind them. It's the opposite of what we have now with the current Administration. Or maybe they just employ the wrong kind of thought.

I first worked for Hillary as a volunteer on her 2000 Senate campaign. I transcribed her speeches. They were amazing. Filled with smart, real, workable plans for New Yorkers, especially upstate New York women. No surprise they bucked the polls and voted for her in the end. So despite my dislike of her stance on certain welfare issues and the way she once talked about abortion, I like her approach. I like her thoughtfulness. I like her smarts.

When I first heard about Hillary's healthcare plan during this primary season, I thought it sounded strange. The more I thought about it, though, the more I thought it was the closest thing I've heard to a real, workable solution to the nightmare that is healthcare in this country. Obama's plan seems fine to me, but I don't think it's trying to solve the whole problem. I think there are pieces that won't quite work. It needs some more thought.

Little things like that started to add up. I hear more specifics from Hillary, as much as I love Obama's ideals and rhetoric, as much as I enjoy Obama as a speaker. Then I found myself sad when Hillary failed to win Iowa.

As the media more openly turned on her, I was filled with disgust. Another reason to support her became apparent. The media loves Obama. They couldn't be critical if they tried. The opposite is true with Hillary, and yet she still commands respect from thousands and thousands of voters. I like that she doesn't give up. I don't know if I could stand it myself.

I won't agree with everything Obama or Hillary offers up as president, but I am confident I will appreciate a lot of what they do. I think Hillary is more prepared for the task though. I know less about what Obama wants to do as president, and I worry that calls for unity could lead to more compromise than a liberal like me could bear. I don't believe in bipartisanship as it's currently practiced. It just seems like capitulation to me.

And as the sexism continues to mount against Hillary (well-documented on blogs like Feministing and Shakesville, if you're interested... and I highly recommend them... Shakesville has a depressing round-up here), I become more and more invested in her success. All the while, I think it's more and more likely that Obama will win the nomination.

Which brings me to the title of my post. Can we please think strategically? If you were a Republican, how would you attack Clinton? How would you attack Obama? Well, you'd attack Clinton by calling her an evil, man-hating, humorless, principle-less, b**** (and worse variations thereof). We know this because we've already seen it.

So PLEASE for the love of equality, civil liberties, religious tolerance, a fixed economy, a saved Supreme Court, air we can breathe, water we can drink, real choice, legal birth control (yes, birth control is under attack!), and on and on.... PLEASE don't play into the Republicans hands. They tell us to hate Hillary every damn day. But she's a good Senator, a good lawyer, a good mother, a good wife, a good former First Lady, a good policymaker, a good DEMOCRAT. She's not just "likeable enough." She's not un-inspirational. She is certainly inspirational to me, she is to so many. She reshaped the role of the First Lady in American life for the better, for which many have never forgiven her, but that didn't make her fold. If you don't agree, fine, but at least agree that she is better than the alternative in November and stop cutting her down.

And for all you Hillary supporters, Obama is not naive just because he hasn't been in the Senate that long. Experience is a real differentiation, sure. But naivete is the way our society has far too long described non-whites and non-males when they seek to effect significant change. We know that's what Republicans will say about him. They'll say he's too naive to take on terrorism. They'll say he's too naive to protect us. But he is not. He is not. So for the love of everything I've already mentioned, PLEASE don't play into the Republicans hands.

That goes for the candidates themselves too. Obama might tip the balance in my mind if he called the media on their unfair treatment of Hillary instead of allowing it by his silence. Hillary would keep me for good if she withdrew the naivete theme from her campaigning.

Still, we've got good candidates. To call either the establishment candidate -- a woman or a black man? as if! -- is preposterous to me, so I think they both should cut that game out. But they are probably the best in years. For now, I think mine's better. You think yours is better. So let's stick to the things that matter. It's fair to think someone is more electable because of their personality or lack of baggage -- but we don't have to say the other one is unelectable or so laden with baggage to be worthless. It's fair to think someone is more electable because of experience or specific policy proposals -- but we don't have to say the other one has too little experience for the job period.

We don't have to reach into the dirt. At least thirty percent of the country is ready and waiting to do that for us. They love it when we do it for them. Let's leave it them. Please.


Anonymous said...

I'll tell you, we are pretty removed from it all here. But, one thing that drives me crazy is when she is called by her first name and he is called by his last. (You have a reason to do that, since you worked for her, but presumably the media has no such excuse.)

I think they are both good candidates and it makes me sad that they are not protecting each other from unfairness.

Kat said...

I agree. In a more formal setting, I hope I'd avoid the same mistake.

Anonymous said...

Well, you worked for her campaign, where I presume she was called by her first name.