The Clintons have spoken. Obama is their guy, and the media are debating whether they truly passed the torch or just temporarily bestowed their benediction on Barack. Cynical if not smart money is on the latter. But as with much of the drama at the Democratic convention, the Clinton-Obama rift has something more to teach us about the Democratic Party philosophy.
Once a few nits have been picked, there’s not a whit’s bit of difference between Clinton and Obama policy objectives and not much more difference on how they propose to achieve them. When a critical debate point is whether mandates or incentives (i.e. regulations and penalties) are the best way to secure universal health care, there’s really not a whole lot to argue between them. And when there’s really not a whole lot to argue about, differentiation tends to get personal.
So for a while Clinton and Obama tried to differentiate on the basis of readiness to be president — Clinton’s experience vs. Obama’s judgment. Subjective debate, however, only goes so far. Too much room in the middle to waffle. Differentiation proceeds not a line in the sand, but a position cast in stone. In the Clinton-Obama struggle, that would be gender vs. race.
The evolution of the gender-race controversy is not exceptional. Watch two little guys on any playground working themselves up to a scuffle and the name-calling focuses on obvious physical traits. The kid with the glasses is “four eyes” and the one with the bad complexion is “pizza face.” The kids get older and racial epithets hold sway. Move up to nations fighting nations, and it’s mandatory to dehumanize the enemy. It’s human nature, hardly surprising.
But what makes interesting the Clinton supporters’ charges that Obama ran a sexist campaign and the hints of Clintonian racism coming from the Obama camp is that these invectives were flying among the anointed, the betters among us who jump on every wage differential as proof of sexism and every concern over social spending as an indication of racism. These are the people who have been lecturing America for decades about sexism and racism; the people who have used government power to “correct” the sexist and racist society that perpetrates such evil.
The temptation is to call their behavior “liberal hypocrisy,” but there’s more to it than that. That Clinton and Obama supporters played the gender and race cards speaks to their humanity, not their hypocrisy.
Gender matters. Race matters. We notice. We react. We’re human. Elevator eyes doesn’t make one a sexist. Crossing the street to avoid a “scary-looking” black man doesn’t make one a racist. Humor is a release of tension, and telling a “sexist” joke or a “racist” joke doesn’t necessarily make one a sexist or a racist. Such jokes are funny because they play upon the tensions between what we feel and what we think. That’s human nature. That’s reality.
The gender-racist overtones of the Democratic primary campaign is an indication of the unworkability of a Democratic philosophy that is contrary to that reality. If even enlightened and anointed Democrats can slide down the slippery slope to sexism and racism, what makes them think that policy coercing the attitudes of the unwashed who lack their enlightenment and understanding is an achievable policy? What makes them believe such policy isn’t dangerous?
A future to look forward to?
Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden, is touted for his work on the Violence Against Women Act, worthy in intent, but a law that tortured the Commerce Clause (beyond even the tolerance of the Supreme Court) in an effort to federalize crimes against women — an idea anathema to the U.S. Constitution, which with logical exceptions for treason, counterfeiting and “piracy on the high seas,” leaves criminal definitions and prosecutions to the states. Federal crimes ultimately lead to a national police force. Is that a future to look forward to with hope?
“Hate crime” legislation sets the precedent that government may criminalize and impose penalties on what a person thinks. It sets the precedent that some victims are more equal than others. It opens the door to applying the adjective “terrorist” to legitimate acts of protest and imposing harsher penalties than otherwise fit the “crime.” Is that a future to look forward to with hope?
Time will tell whether the Clintons and Obama continue to be BFFs, but whether they continue to exchange Christmas cards is far less significant than whether the Democratic Party is nominating Barack Obama for the constitutional office of president … or anointing him for some higher purpose.