Sunday, May 18, 2008

All Democrats - Including Obama Supporters - Need Hillary Clinton to Stay in the Race

On Thursday, May 15, the newly formed WomenCount PAC took out a full page ad in USA Today in response to NARAL Pro Choice's endorsement of Barack Obama, titled Not So Fast... Hillary's Voice is OUR Voice, and She's Speaking for All of Us, some of which is excerpted below:

"We are the women of this nation. We are rich and poor, young and old, married with kids, married without kids, single moms, gay, straight, and widowed. We are every color. We are of every religion. We are from all political parties...

...As Senator Clinton campaigns, she speaks with our voice. She carries our hopes, dreams and aspirations with her and transforms them into policies that can make our nation great again...

...Women risked all they held dear to make this country great. They put their lives on the line in all our quests for justice – from Abigail Adams to Sojourner Truth to Susan B. Anthony to Eleanor Roosevelt to Fannie Lou Hamer to Barbara Jordan to Dolores Huerta to Hillary herself...

...We want Hillary to stay in this race until every vote is cast, every vote is counted, and we are convinced our voices are heard."

The primary election process between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has been tense, divisive, and fiercely contested - and there is almost unanimous agreement now that Obama will be the Democratic nominee. Still, approximately 50% of Clinton supporters have declared that they will either vote for John McCain or not vote at all if she is not the nominee. Meanwhile, supporters of Obama, who has virtually won, continue to bash Hillary Clinton and retain their animosity towards her.

When faced with Clinton supporters - most of whom are women - who swear they will not vote for Obama in the fall, it's easy to wonder how someone who supported Clinton based on her anti-war, pro-universal health care stance, and her positions on the economy and foreign policy would now switch their support not to Obama, whose positions are virtually identical, but to McCain - who stands diametrically opposed to them.

Isn't this election about the issues?

Well, yes. But it's clear that it's about much more than that.

This election has been not just about policy, issues, and values - but about how far America has come as a nation in its two hundred-plus years. Many of the women represented in the WomenCount PAC ad - and their ancestors - have a deep emotional and historical investment in Hillary Clinton's candidacy that runs, legitimately or not, much deeper than this year's issues; just as blacks, with a centuries-old history of struggle and oppression, have a a similar investment in Obama's.

Here's another line from the ad: "We cannot stand by as a cacophony of voices demand that she step aside to smooth the road for another."

Democratic National Committee officials feared a massive backlash from American blacks at one point if Obama's pledged delegate-based nomination was overturned by superdelegates for a host of reasons - the popular vote, reversing the rules on Michigan and Florida, and so on. So the similar deep disappointment and hurt that Clinton supporters will feel at her loss - when she had come so close - shouldn't be surprising to Obama supporters.

It should be understandable, and relatable.

Now that Obama is all but the confirmed Democratic nominee, his supporters not only need to reach out to Clinton supporters, but also to begin - themselves - to look at Clinton's positives. And she does have them. The 70% of Obama supporters who said they'd vote for Clinton if Obama lost the nomination understand that. The other 30% need to understand that too if they want Obama to win in November.

Hillary Clinton staying in the race until the last vote is cast - as stated in the ad - is important for her supporters. She shouldn't appear to be "pushed" out of the race. At the end of the primaries, when the winner of the nomination is apparent to everyone, her choosing to withdraw of her own volition will let her supporters down easier, and make their transition to supporting Obama smoother. They will feel like they saw the race to its end; that there was closure.

Although Clinton's candidacy wasn't derailed entirely by sexism, it has had an undeniable presence throughout its course - just as racism has in Obama's candidacy, and ageism will likely have in McCain's. Rebecca Traister covered this really well in this Salon piece. Proper closure to the race will also help alleviate - at least partially - the concerns many Clinton supporters have had related to much of the sexist comments and remarks that have been directed against her.

To defeat John McCain in the fall, Barack Obama needs all of the Democratic party - including Hillary Clinton supporters - to stand behind him. It's up to the Obama supporters to welcome them back in - and that is not going to happen unless the Clinton-bashing lets up.


Chris Wilcox said...

That all makes sense... except for what does Hillary's voice say that Obama's voice does not?

Ali A. Rizvi said...

That's exactly what I'm trying to get at, Chris. Their policies are virtually identical - judging from the ad and the intensity of the rift, it seems that this is about much more than just the issues, and the only way to beat McCain is to be sensitive to those concerns, embrace them, and help Clinton supporters transition a little smoother into the Obama camp.

Thanks for your comment!

Samaha said...

I think this is Hillary and her supporters way of securing at least the vp pick for her.

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