The Dude Abides?

I admit I’ve been out of the loop, politically, for the last 36 years or so, but were y’all aware that two of the three people most likely to be the next President are not white men?

Even with all the time since the Democratic primary to let it sink in, I’m still finding myself pleasantly surprised by that fact. For the most part, in the most mainstream media that I’ve been exposed to, it’s been treated as a non-issue. Sure, I’ve heard cracks about Clinton’s getting weepy at press conferences, and that’s not cool; and there’s the whole bit about Obama’s name, also not cool; and then the allegations that a vote for Hillary Clinton is really just a vote for Bill Clinton, which is insulting, but not much more insulting than the comparisons made between George W and George HW Bush. (And look how well that turned out!)

I’m sure there are pundits I don’t pay attention to who are getting lots of mileage out of people’s racial and gender insecurities. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the big news outlets have a full-time staff who tries to come up with tactful ways to discuss the “Holy crap are we really ready for this?!?” question. But for the most part, the election has concentrated on the issues and kept the surface stuff to a minimum. It’s not a non-issue, but I can still remember the Mondale/Ferraro ticket, and how people just would not shut up about how bizarre it was to have a woman running for vice-president.

So just as the country is having a moment, who should come in but Edward McClelland of Salon.com, to tell us that we should all be ashamed of ourselves for not being liberal enough. Men are split between McCain and Obama. The only reason to oppose Clinton, apparently, is misogyny. We have such a deep-seated unease at the idea of having a woman in a position of authority, that we’re willing to do the unthinkable — vote for a black man, or worse, a Republican! — to avoid it.

One of the facts he uses to make his point:

Antonio Campbell, a 42-year-old political science professor at Towson University in Maryland, saw the gender gap in his own classroom: Most of his female students backed Clinton, while his male students split between Obama and McCain.

McClelland’s take-away from that is that guys are overly averse to voting for a woman. I have to wonder why the conclusion isn’t that women are overly inclined to vote for another woman. From the results of the Maryland primaries, I’d expect “most” of his female students to back Obama; he won 60% of the Democratic vote in a predominantly Democratic state, where a significant majority of the Democratic voters were female.

Are we supposed to be taking the Michael Moore approach to this election, and saying that anyone who’s not a Rich White Male is automatically a good candidate? Am I supposed to applaud, for instance, Tina Fey’s endorsement of Clinton, which as far as I can tell is based solely on how empowering it would be to have a woman President? Or are we really going for votes not based on race or gender, but on issues and facts?

Like, for instance, the fact that Hillary Clinton freaks my shit out. I can honestly say that it doesn’t matter one bit to me that Clinton is a woman, and it only matters slightly more that she’s married to my favorite President of my lifetime. What matters to me is that she strikes me as a vapid career politician. I don’t trust her to take a genuine stand on any of the issues, without caving to political pressure. And I don’t trust that her administration would be anything other than More of the Same, but this time pandering to the slightly-left-of-center instead of the far Right.

McClelland claims that the aversion to Clinton as President is as shallow as the “beer buddy” mentality that got Bush elected over Gore. I say that it’s a memory of the worst aspects of the previous Clinton administration, but without Bill Clinton’s charisma to smooth everything over and make everybody feel better about caving to an opposing Congress. Sure, it’s still politically ignorant, personality-based voting, but it’s not gender-based.

And although it gets muddled in the midst of Lethal Weapon references and calling Obama “your hip black friend,” McClelland’s main point boils down to this: don’t be so afraid of a woman President that you’d be willing to switch parties just to avoid it. Fair enough; as charming and personable as McCain is on “The Daily Show,” his ideology isn’t something I can support. Just don’t assume that the reason I’m tempted is fear of a woman President. It’s just a fear of that particular woman as President.

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