International Writers Magazine : Reality Check
James Campion on Election'08
Race, Gender & The New Frontier
The cultural landslide that has sprung from the 2008 Democratic
primary race is nothing short of historic. Nothing about it can
be measured by the past.
failure of the general press coverage to grasp this has rendered
the entire industry impotent. Metric geeks endlessly pour over voter
trends and intra-party splits, swing state exit polls and traditional
prattled by pathetically debased punditry try in vain to corral some
sense of this outlandish idea that a woman and a black man are not merely
running for the highest office in the land, but the victor may hold
a very real shot to compete as a heavy favorite. The whole idea has
crippled the media and sent voters into a feeding frenzy rarely witnessed
by hardened professionals that are paid not to blink.
But a story without precedence is death to journalism.
It removes the air of certainty from events. When the schematic is smashed
to pieces, there is terrible panting and grasping for answers where
there are none. But alas, one certainty has emerged; there is no sense
in continuing to postulate any kind of Kumbaya-hand-holding détente
between warring factions inside the Democratic Party now that Illinois
Senator Barack Obama is its presumptive nominee.
Not this time.
There is a Great Divide in the party that goes beyond
anything or anyone preceding it.
This is not JFK vs. LBJ in 1960 for the liberal center
of the Democratic Party or Goldwater vs. Rockefeller in '64 for the
Republican Party's conservative soul. It is nothing like the personality
battles in the Republican Party between Ford and Reagan in 1976 or the
one within the Democratic Party between Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter
four years later.
These were ideological, philosophical battles or skirmishes
over national "electablity" and backroom party politics. Baby
stuff. The kind of stuff you come back from.
You can shake off Lyndon Johnson accusing Jack Kennedy
of drug addiction or Kennedy calling Johnson "a dumb hick".
Small potatoes. Before long they were on the big ticket stealing the
White House from Tricky Dick.
It was business as usual when Teddy refused to shake the
president's hand at the convention or Goldwater used insider muscle
to paint Rockefeller as a Commie lunatic. Shit, when Ronald Reagan called
George H. W. Bush "a wimp" and Bush coined the phrase "voodoo
economics" it lead to twelve years of Republican dominance.
These were, after all was said and done, still Anglo-Saxon,
protestant old-time political robots -- with the grand exception of
JFK, who was at best a buffet Catholic. They had constituencies that
ran long before the Civil War, demographics that included big labor
and gun lobbyists, industry moguls and congressional favor-trades. These
were entrenched factions that had run unchecked over the body politic
since the rich colonial merchants thumbed their noses at the English
crown and riled up the illiterate peasants to shed the blood of revolution.
It was been-there/done-that, over and over and over again.
If a staunch supporter of an also-ran had to compromise
or trade in their devotions for a lesser deal, it came easier, because
there would be another one just like them entering congress to beat
their drum or at the very least a carbon-copy waiting in the wings to
fight on in four years. There had been two centuries of lily-white,
silver-spooned, Anglo-Saxon swinging dicks that had come before and
were more than likely to come again.
These candidates did not in any way, shape or form, resemble
Hillary Rodham Clinton, a woman, or Barack Obama, an African American.
Not one of them hailed from a gender or race that was made to bear centuries
of discrimination, condescension, social and cultural pandering, rejection,
assassination, or recrimination.
Again, barring Kennedy, who, along with being Catholic
had to overcome the taint of Irish blood, which for over a century had
lived uncomfortably at the corner of despised and shunned. But lest
we forget Kennedy, an insanely rich blue blood, cheated the electorate
and was murdered before finishing what he started, so let's not get
all giddy about that anomaly.
So I ask my fellow compatriots of the Fourth Estate: Where
exactly do these women, who viewed Hillary Clinton as their first and
maybe only legitimate shot at the big prize, go after the smoke clears?
Do they just sigh forlornly and forget that a one-time junior senator
with fifteen minutes of experience shoplifted their girl's long and
painful road of political theater all leading up to this signature moment?
If things turned out differently, the same could
have been said of Obama's hardcore African American support, which watched
in abject horror as the Clintons suddenly turned from sweet-talking
sympathizers to blurting the same tired subtle racism of the past.
What is happening now inside the Democratic Party is literally
historic. This amazing run of '08 could very well be the final tolling
bell for an African American or woman candidate in the presidential
arena for a long time. Think about it: A weak sitting president lording
over an unpopular war and a sinking economy representing an opposition
party at its all-time low, tanking special elections in Mississippi
and fighting off one criminal allegation after the next. This is the
outsider's one genuine shot, even if it is still a long shot, and I
remain one who will believe it when I see it. But even I know that if
not now, when?
The real question this fall is not about working class
white men or swing states or the general unpopularity of the Republicans,
it is how Obama manages to carry November in a party dominated by women
if the women either stay home or turn to John McCain to free up a Hillary
comeback in 2012?
This is not about politics now. It is not about parties
or platforms. This is a culture war, plain and simple. It is about being
unlucky in timing. If it were merely Obama, then there would have been
a groundswell from the bottom up, as all good revolutions move societies.
If it had been a woman, alone, fighting from the nether regions of American
politics, it would have been the sole story of the early century. But
there were two in a contest that requires only one representative. One
of those representatives, whose constituency has waited forever to be
heard on this kind of stage, will have to see The Dream die.
All these women, many of them, in fact, almost all of
them, over sixty and showing up in record numbers, recall all too clearly
a time when they were worth half of a man's salary in the workplace,
if they could work at all. They were told they were too limited in mental
and emotional scope to be doctors, lacking in cerebral temperament to
practice law, and far too weak to serve in the armed forces. Some even
recall not being granted the right to vote at all or being able to emerge
from the kitchen to make a stand, politically, socially, sexually, or
professionally. And if they don't remember, their mothers and grandmothers
certainly told them all about it.
So what will the women do once the crusade's shut down?
And how, in this season of discontent with the status
quo, does The Change Candidate rally the troops enough to make history?
© James Campion May 18th 2008
Make A Deal
James Campion - Election '08
unrecognizable stench of bitter and lasting defeat draped the air. And
for the first time, deep inside Campaign Fantasy Camp, everyone understood
the initiative had changed.
of an Elitist 04.19.08
am repeatedly, and in many ways, revoltingly astounded how utterly stupid
most people are, and by most people, I mean anyone but me.
- The New Iran
Petraeus Hands Bush A Tehran Surprise ...the most important phrase uttered
by the man was "malign influence"
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