10
Feb
08

Legitimacy

I dreaded turning on my PC this morning, knowing full well all manners of zeal to expect from Obama’s expected weekend Saturday sweep.  Read the ever-so-balanced NYC Weboy NOW to see the *loser* rhetoric for Clinton versus Huckabee despite Huckabee’s upset against frontrunner McCain.  Have we all forgotten that every time we paint Clinton as the underdog she pulls off a win that undermines the Conventional Wisdom? (Yes, Weboy has all the good links this morning.)

I wrote on Friday how politics makes for strange bedfellows, and this morning I commented over at The Field Negro how I hope all us Dems don’t kill each other this primary season, because believe me, Clinton and Obama will still be standing and negotiating with one another and their mutual insiders while we’ve all taken each other down in our escalating war of words.  I think what’s disturbing me the most in this primary is this question of legitimacy that goes much deeper than the “race v. gender” false choice that most of us have managed to dismiss by now.  Everything from the legitimacy of the different coalitions supporting the two candidates to the role of superdelegates has come under attack. 

For example, Donna Darko, an Asian-American feminist blogger, takes issue with the insinuation that the votes of Asian-Pacific Islanders for Clinton are somehow not made of their own free will.  She goes on to write,

Clinton is not the establishment candidate if women, the poor, the elderly, Asians, Latinos, union workers, GLBT, United Farm Workers, liberals and Democrats support her. She’s the Democratic candidate. These groups are not low-information, they’re high-practicality, because they sense she’s very good on domestic issues and won’t start a war.

Darko’s observation is exactly what Matt Yglesias, one of the white, male Atlantic bloggers I stopped reading awhile ago, calls out as the input that is overlooked by political pundits.  He makes the valid point that

“the college educated men who dominate punditland have spent a lot of time missing the fact that there actually are enthusiastic Clinton fans out there — they’re just mostly working class women and thus mostly not in the room when this CW gets hashed out.” 

While not all Clinton supporters are “working class women” (see above and the many links I have in this blog), he’s dead on that many of us lining up behind Clinton are not the ones with a vocal seat at the proverbial table.   

Meanwhile, some highly educated academics bloggers try to discount the real phenomenon that many white, liberal voters believe deeply in the racial transcendence implied in Obama’s candidacy, because, after all, we know better.  (And so does, apparently, Frank Rich.) 

Setting aside the obvious handicap of dealing with a press who treats us all as members of single, monolithic groups (white women, black, Hispanics, etc. etc.), those of us who have worked in communities of color and/or low-income communities know that yes, the racial and class divisions that are on display in the primary are real.  Neither the Clintons nor Obama are inventing the schisms between Hispanics and African-Americans, or lower-income whites and any ethnic group they see as a threat, or affluent whites and those who work for them and live far from them, nor should we be surprised when they seek to benefit from these schisms, whether overtly (as Clinton is repeatedly accused), or implicitly (as Obama is repeatedly championed for *earning* white votes.  The fact that we find it remarkable that a highly educated, highly successful, highly charismatic, compelling and qualified black man can win votes in a predominately white country shows how far we have to go as a country in dealing with race.  The joke is hardly on Obama, but on us as a nation.).

And then there’s this issue of superdelegates.  I wish the M.A.S. would agree to write a guest post on the different forms of democracy as we were discussing last night, but he’s a Flickr-ite, not a blogger.  Folks up in arms that a superdelegate decision is somehow unfair seem to think that we operate under a direct democracy, where the will of the citizenry is, broadly speaking, the rule of of the land.  In reality, the U.S. is more like a liberal democracy, “which places constraints on the leaders and on the extent to which the will of the majority can be exercised against the rights of minorities.”  Even closer to the truth is that we’re a republic, in which “citizens in the US are not governed by the majority of the people but by the rule of law.”  (And a caucus is an example of a representative democracy, in which intermediaries are key.  PS: For those of you looking for a more reliable source than Wikipedia, try David Held’s Models of Democracy.)**  Whine all you want about the superdelegates and how the cards may fall this primary season, but we’d be better served to champion for a new system if we don’t like the one we’ve got, versus hurling the false accusations about unfair victories if we don’t get our chosen nominee this summer. 

Finally, Amanda Marcotte, former Edwards supporter and no champion of Hillary Clinton, speaks the long overdue truth about the elitist anti-Clinton sentiment that has colored her campaign as much as sexism.  Speaking of Schuster’s “pimping” remark about Chelsea Clinton, she writes

The pimping comment is also part of a larger Village narrative about how the Clintons and only the Clintons are treated as sleazy for standard issue politician behavior. There’s a double standard on women, but also on the Clintons, who are treated as interlopers. For lack of a better term, the Clintons have been bombarded from day one with the nouveau riche slam, the deeply held belief in The Village that certain behaviors (including all standard campaign behaviors) are only permissible to those deemed insiders, which the Clintons still aren’t in the eyes of the mainstream media.

I’ll try to resist speaking for all the lower-middle-class and working-class supporters of Clinton, but I’ll be damned if this doesn’t describe much of my commitment to HRC.  Like me, Marcotte is the first in her family to go to college, and she’s written before about working-class attitudes and the dissonance that comes when we *get* to join the chattering classes.   That the Clinton’s know how to fight back against the proverbial *man* (a.k.a, the Village) well, that strikes a chord with me.  Take it from someone who’s become one of those “Cambridge radicals” my high-school-educated father warned me about. 

**UPDATE: Check out this link on the issue of women, access, intimidation and caucuses.

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