23 March 2008

Black Men vs. White Women--Round 147,384

The Detroit Free Press (aka, the Freep), has a front page article this morning on the split between white females and blacks in the Democratic Party. I was thinking about the same issue two days ago as I began work on a policy brief about the presidential election. In a nutshell, if Clinton gets the nomination, black Democrats might be angry because the black candidate got shoved out by a white person, and if Obama gets the nomination, white women Democrats might be angry because once again a women got shoved aside in favor of a man.

It's a real issue...maybe. Right now some folks on both sides are threatening to sit out the election if their favored candidate doesn't get it, which is pretty childish, and good evidence to support the Founding Fathers' distrust of the masses. The question is whether the threat is any more serious than the religious right's threat to sit out if the Republicans don't nominate a religious zealot. I suspect most of those Democrats will go to the polls anyway, the primary exceptions being those who don't normally vote anyway, but who got involved this year just because their favored candidate was representationally ideal for them.

But the complaining overlooks the really important point. Already crucial barriers have been broken. There have been only a couple of semi-serious women presidential candidates, Pat Schroeder for the Democrats, and Elizabeth Dole for the Republicans. The campaigns of each went exactly nowhere. There never has been a serious African-American candidate. The fact that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama quickly rose to the top of a field of mostly white men (with the partial exception of Bill Richardson, who is 1/2 Latino, although it's not clear most voters knew that), is itself an important statement. Especially notable is that neither did it by relying wholly on women (for Clinton) or whites (for Obama). It's been a huge breakthrough, although there are few, if any, obvious women and black candidates for the near future. Then again, who'd ever heard of Obama 5 years ago?


James K said...

It seems to me that Dem voters (and superdelegates) should be paying more attention to what each candidate can bring to the election.

Obama brings his charisma (and a horde of fanboys and fangirls) and Clinton brings the Democratic establishment and a reputation for experience and toughness.

The thing is that McCain beats Clinton on experience and toughness by about an order of magnitude and the Democratic establishment will fall behind whoever gets nominated. By contrast Clinton can't acquire Obama's charisma.

So why is this even a debate? I can't see what advantages Clinton offers over Obama.

James Hanley said...

In terms of winning the general campaign, the only likely advantage of Clinton over Obama is winning female Democratic voters. But it would be odd for women, who had to fight for the right of political participation, as did blacks, stayed home and allowed the white man to win. I suspect when push comes to shove, it won't happen.

James K said...

Yes, that's what I thought. Mind you, I can't work out why anyone would vote for my current Prime Minister, so there's clearly something I'm missing here.