Emotions and the Obama-Clinton contest

Because of some of the reading and other research I’m doing lately, I’ve been trying to understand politics as less of a rational, more of an emotional/psychological thing. The Obama-Clinton contest has been a good topic to pursue that possibility, since they agree on most policy issues and seem to inspire strong emotional positives and negatives in many voters.

So, during the couple of hours between the opening of the Xcel Center last night and the big Barack Obama I-can-now-say-that-I-will-be-the-nominee speech, I sat down next to various members of the audience and asked why they were for Obama.

My favorite such interview was with Michele Genereux of the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul. Genereux is a politically savvy, well-read woman of 60. I started the conversation noting that white women over 40 were supposed to be a stronghold of Hillary Clinton’s. So I asked Generux why she supports Obama. The answers included, in rapid succession, with me saying nothing and just scribbling down the reasons:

“I don’t say that I’m head over heels for him. But I’m sure not going to vote for John McCain.”

“I can’t write in Eugene McCarthy anymore, because he’s dead.”

“I don’t like the Clintons. I think Hillary Clinton is a very mean woman.” The explanation of this impression made reference to “travelgate,” which involved the decision of President and Mrs. Clinton to fire the travel office that they inherited when they took over the White House.

“I think he [Obama] is honest. He’s not connected with as many of the people already in politics” so it seems more possible that he will not turn out to be corrupt.

“He seems like a happy person. I think we do better with a happy person.”

“I love the way his wife dresses his children.”

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by John E Iacono on 06/04/2008 - 07:12 pm.

    It seems to me, also, that one’s choice of favored candidate is not simply an intellectual one, any more than choice of friends or lovers is.

    In the end, in a representative republic we are not selecting a political agenda, although the head does have its role.

    My father’s ultimate comment about a candidate was not “I agree with his positions” but “I like him” or I don’ like him.”

    I find myself judging the same way, as my movement toward one candidate or another comes from myriad inputs including previous behaviors, how one carries him/herself, general appearance, how he/she handles difficult situations, whether he/she is well-spoken, and all the other things we use to pick our friends from pre-school onward.

    One thing pleases me about the campaigns (for the most part, except for Hillary’s friends) so far: they have been civil. One can only forlornly hope it continues.

  2. Submitted by Dan Hoxworth on 06/04/2008 - 12:19 pm.

    The comment of “WOW-White Old Women for Obama” in one of our dailies resonated with my 80 year old mother. A lifelong Missourian whose mother (my grandmother) served in the Missouri State Legislature in the 1950’s and 1960’s, my mother has been an Obama supporter since the very beginning. His voice and his vision have always resonated to her. All of this in a state that straddles the Mason-Dixon line.

    When one thinks of swing states, remember Obama won Missouri!

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