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Hillary & Barack: Who Are We Kidding?

It could be argued that we still live in a society where people don’t think for themselves, but if you point that fact out to them, they will get seriously upset with you. Many philosophers have made the point that one of the most intimidating moments anyone will ever experience is the moment when we truly start to think, to question, to intellectually engage life. Arguably, once we start examining this thing called life, it is extremely difficult to stop reasoning your way through it, or around it. “It was Albert Camus who once wrote “beginning to think is beginning to be undermined,” and “everything begins with consciousness and nothing is worth anything except through it…”

We have a major election on the horizon. In this election we have two underrepresented candidates who thus far could be considered viable, if not front runners. Hillary Clinton could very well be the first woman president of the United States while Barack Obama could very well be the first black president of the United States. Let me repeat that: Hillary Clinton could very well be the first woman president of the United States while Barack Obama could very well be the first black president of the United States. Is that a big deal? Duh, Yes! Should it be? Yes/No! Yes, because it has never happened before and is long overdue. No, because in a society that thrust its chest out as the leader of the free world, it is ridiculous and shameful that we have never anointed and celebrated a woman/racial minority as our leader. When you really think about it, isn’t it truly embarrassing?

Because of egos, scars, an ex-president as possible first gentleman, and divergent agendas (did anyone say Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s eventual philosophical differences), the possibility of these two on the same ticket appears remote. Nonetheless, the one thing that fascinates me most is what will occur when people step into the solitude of their polling place’s voting booth to cast their vote.

Many of the same people that would challenge those who might be apt to vote in terms of gender or race vote blindly in terms of political party. As I have mentioned in other blogs, many, if not most voters probably couldn’t articulate the principles of their political party but vote in their political party because their parents did. These considerations however, don’t deter them from casting that ballot. Is it far fetched to also publicly state that probably a large percentage of our elected officials wouldn’t have been elected if they weren’t relatively attractive (a form of beauty privilege). So, how can people be upset with the fact that droves of women and blacks may be voting for Hillary and Barack because, as Victor Hugo once said, “nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

So, will race and gender be the call of the day? Well, will they, and if so, why? What are some of the harsh realities that may accompany voting of this type? How does it differ from voting realities of the past? Lastly, how different will our beloved America be if we have a president who has overcome some aspects of oppression to ascend to the oval office that no other president has ever had to overcome?

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Comments

I think it's interesting how "differences" are always magnified when it comes to politics. But, that has more to do with politicians being chosen more for their popularity than than qualifications.

Look at the business world. No one cares that the CEO of Xerox is a woman, and that their President is a black woman. No one cares that Pepsico is run by a woman...an Indian woman. Underrepresented? Yes. But they're there based on their qualifications and the fact that they produce. They earned their position, and because they earned it, there is far less discussion on their gender/race.

Hillary and Barack. They're obviously successful at what they've done...but do they deserve to lead the country? I'll pass on commenting on Barack because I am not familiar enough with his background. I kind of like the guy, even though his politics are different than mine. Hillary on the other hand...what real qualifications does she have to lead the country? I think this is more of the concern with Hillary than that she's a woman. And likely the same with Barack. I find far less concern about Bill Richardson's ability to lead than I do Hillary's. He's done it. He was Governor, and has proven leadership ability.

I think in the end, voters will pick the person they think is most qualified. Yes, there will be some that choose solely based on race or gender, but I don't think that will be enough to sway the election. Certainly no more so than those who vote based on larger prejudices...such as Democrat or Republican. We all know that a huge chunk of people pull the lever that votes the party line, regardless of who's on the ticket.

I have very little experience in political matters, especially when it comes to commentary on the upcoming elections. But an awareness I do have is on the irony of qualifications. I find it funny that qualifications to run for office are more than likely set by upper class white males, therefore geared toward the thoughts and views of upper class white males. That being said, it is nearly impossible for Hilary and Barack to cater to these white upper class patriarchal qualifications because neither of the two candidates will ever completely fit this role. In regards to the hypocrisy of our country and in the words of J.W., a “society that thrust its chest out as the leader of the free world, it is ridiculous and shameful that we have never anointed and celebrated a woman/racial minority as our leader.” Given the history of presidency in the United States, the upper class white male privilege, is it fair to say that neither candidate is truly qualified?

It will be interesting on election day when people go into the booth deciding whether or not to vote for candidates because of the candidates skin color or gender (something never thought of before when stepping into the booth), or what the candidate has to offer in their role in office. Funny, the two deciding factors may go hand in hand. Who you are, given skin color and gender, may place you into the role democratic or republican.

Harsh realities because of race/gender based voting? People may overlook other areas and not be as well informed on the issues candidates support or reject. It’s like trying on two different types of shoes, a blue and a pink. You love pink so you purchase that shoe and leave. When you go home, you realize that the blue shoe your partner bought is much more comfortable than yours. Hmmmmm…

Voting realities in the past were not like this. As you said J.W. many people voted based on who was attractive and hopefully what the candidates stood for in their parties. Adding this extra element (gender/race) adds more for people to concentrate on while voting…a distraction if you will.

Our “beloved America” may or may not be different given we have a woman and a black man, both symbols of the oppression available to United States citizens. Hilary could be sensitive to women and the rights we have gained and still have yet to gain, or she can fall victim to the outnumbering upper class white males who will be pressuring her while in office. Don’t think that presidents cannot be bribed! The same goes for Barack. He has the power to represent change, but will he have the power to enforce it?

“Beginning to think, is beginning to be undermined,” how do you feel?

JW,
Thanks for reiterating the importance of this election. After all, there is a very good chance that a member of one of the two most disenfranchised groups of individuals in the United States over the past two centuries will be the next leader of the “free world.” While this is promising to the future of our development as a truly equal and democratic nation, it’s a shame that it’s taken some of the most atrocious infringements upon our civil liberties and a complete disregard for many areas of established criminal procedure by the current presidential administration to open such a door. It’s even worse that despite such infringements and violations, the future of both Hillary and Barack is far from certain. I can’t help but believe that this remaining uncertainty is largely due to Hillary’s gender and Barack’s race.

However, rather than challenge our beliefs and truly “think” about why we feel and think the way we do, the majority of us vote by convention and mask our sexism and racism with more “contemporary” and media-friendly concerns, like candidate experience, personality, and politicalness. While these concerns may have some validity and deserve specific attention, we should not place them in the forefront of deeper, more institutionalized issues when deciding our vote. Similarly, just because stereotypes have some truth in them doesn’t mean that it’s preferred or even OK to use them. Rather than basing our votes on political jargon and sound bites, we should dare to explore the taboo issues that undeniably affect our opinions and beliefs. I mean how many times have you heard, “I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s just something about ‘Hillary’ that I don’t like.” Could it be that her confident, powerful demeanor and stern opinions make her come across as “unladylike” or even “bitchy?” Or could it be that you are uncomfortable being lead by a woman and having her act as the final say for major social and economic decisions?

While it’s difficult and painful to even explore and discuss notions of racism and sexism, let alone acknowledge the possibility that we too may still hold some of these beliefs, it’s an exercise that needs to happen in order for our society to progress and be worthy of holding title as the “leader of the free world.” Whether we like to admit it or not, we are all recovering racists and sexists. While some of us are further along in our recovery than others, we can all benefit from continued exploration and discussion.

There is something in American politics called the "20-percent rule." Basically, it states that in a 2-candidate race, 20% of those who vote will vote for you no matter what. You could slaughter lambs on the steps of city hall and it wouldn't matter. For whatever reason, you'll get their vote. Now, that also means that 20% of those who vote will vote for the other guy or gal, no matter what. You could cure cancer and invest the proceeds into curing alzheimers and it wouldn't matter - they'll NEVER vote for you. So, that's 40% of those who vote who are pretty much spoken for right out of the gate. Let's go a little further...In a good year, only about half of those eligible actually vote. Do a little math and you realize that 30% of eligible voters actually pick our presidents. That's right boys and girls - one out of three of us actually picks the leader of the free world. Those are the blessed undecideds, independents, swing voters - call them whatever you like. Politicians take everyone else for granted. That's the whole point of negative advertising...it's not to get someone to vote for YOU. Negative ads are designed to get the swing voters who are leaning toward your oponent to just stay home and not vote at all.

So, when you ask, JW, do race and gender matter - you bet they do. Such an obviously momentous occasion as electing the first woman, the first African American, or the first Latino (don't forget Bill Richardson) will be PLENTY to swing those independent voters one way or another. Few of us agree 100% of the time with those we vote for. Often we pick people because we can identify with them somehow. Suburban Soccer Moms who have voted for GW Bush twice might not agree with Hillary, but, like the idea of a woman running the country enough to change sides. African Americans so frustrated with and/or disenfranchised by the process that they haven't voted at all in 8 or 12 years may be more motivated to get to the polls if Barak is on the ticket. Cuban Americans who traditionally vote Republican (strictly because of the Republican stance toward maintaning the embargo against Cuba) in the incredibly important state of Florida may move to Richardson, handing Democrats that state. And if you don't think those candidates who could BENEFIT somehow because of their race/gender have counted on that, you're naive.
I'm reminded of a Chris Rock (I think it's Chris Rock) movie in which CR's character runs for President. He's leading in the polls all through election day until his oponent runs a TV add that reminds all those white suburban voters who weren't going to show up to vote that the country could be led by a BROTHER if they don't get off their butts and go vote. The next scene cuts to an empty suburban street...the doors on all the houses bust open at the same time with all the white folk running to the polls, terrified. I think CR's character won anyway.

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