“It matters like whoa”–Kate Harding

January 9, 2008

I was thinking that I would make a rare foray into overtly political blogging and type up a few of my thoughts on the Democratic primaries and how this week has really changed my thinking about who I will vote for. Up until Monday night, I was a definite Edwards voter. For 2 reasons (I decided not to count a charming southern accent as one of my reasons, or there’d be 3): 1) To my knowledge, he was the first major candidate to make honesty about the state of the middle class in our country a central theme, and I don’t think he gets enough credit for that. The phrase “two Americas” has become a signature line in just about any article talking about our stratifying socioeconomic life, and were it not for his insistence on running on a pro-working & middle class America arguments, I really don’t think that we’d be having the same primary we are having now. The conversation started where he left off in 2004, and I am grateful for that. 2) I think he remains the most electable candidate. On that, more later.

As of Monday night, my thinking began to change. It wasn’t Edwards’s opportunistic, predictable, and pathetic comment in wake of the Clinton Well-up, although that took a few of the stars out of my eyes. It was just a recognition that Clinton has been doing a lot of dirty work on behalf of her own ambition (which IMO makes her a good role model for women everywhere, who are often taught to do dirty work on behalf of anyone’s ambition but their own) and on behalf of anyone who wants to see a woman president in his/her lifetime. Also, I felt my solidarity beacon warming up when I heard about the Well-up, b/c I predicted that someone would say something stupid about how that made her weak, and I am so tired of the damned if you do, damned if you don’t aspect of being female and showing emotion. That recognition deepened on Tuesday morning when the NY Times that filled my browser window was full of talk about whether or not Clinton would drop out of the race after NH, which it looked like she was set to lose big time. This made me a little sad and angry, which is possibly my most productive state of being. First off, she wasn’t gone yet and secondly, if she was gone, I would have been more disappointed than I ever thought I would be. Then, last night of course, Clinton won NH and I woke up a little and thought, she’s doing it, she’s really doing it. That matters to me, and as Kate Harding who just wrote almost everything I was thinking over on Shakesville said, “It matters like whoa.”

Her post pretty much captures what I was planning to blog. Some excerpts, although I highly recommend reading the full piece.

First off, Harding explains why it’s been a nice couple of weeks, hasn’t it:

“I would love to vote for a man who’s vowed to stand up to corporations and fight for working people, and who always impresses me as being just about as genuine as politicians can get. I would also love to vote for a black man who has the ability to make me — and a whole ton of other people — feel hope, and a passion for the political process that actually matches our passion for the country that’s been stolen from us by thugs. And I would definitely love to vote for a brilliant woman who’s weathered decades of abuse from her opponents and is still standing, still smiling. I have reasons to vote for all three, and I have reasons not to vote for all three. As many others have remarked, it’s an embarrassment of riches. And that’s an incredible feeling.

She continues to explain why I don’t listen to people who say they won’t vote for Clinton b/c they don’t like her politics:

At the end of the day, I — like Hillary — am a Chicago girl. Which means, among other things, that I am certainly not shocked and appalled by the very idea of a Democrat who sucks up to corporate interests. It also means I’m equally cynical and pragmatic when it comes to elections. I don’t believe there will ever be such a thing as a candidate who truly represents my values, because anyone who truly represents my values would never go into politics. So I believe in voting for the person who, in my opinion, will do the most good and/or the least harm, and who actually stands a chance of winning.”

I am cynical and pragmatic when it comes to elections, darn it all, and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. I voted for the first time in 2000 and the second time 2004, and those elections taught me nothing but the fact that elections don’t do anything to forward your agenda unless you win them. So winning is my first priority as a prospective Dem voter. End of story.

That’s part of the reason why I leaned strongly toward Edwards first. I get a personal well-up when I think about voting for Clinton or celebrating an Obama presidency, but I’m not voting my warm fuzzies and in my heart of hearts I seriously doubt that latter two’s viability in a general election. If we were finishing up an 8 year Gore presidency, I think it would be a much more favorable time for them. We’re not–we’re in a country that needs anyone but a Republican to win. So on the basis of electability alone, I’d have to go for Edwards–and all the better he’s the white male candidate to be stuck with, in my mind.

I remember going to a talk on my campus by Green party celeb Jello Biafra right after W had been coronated by the supreme court. He tried to reassure us that a Bush presidency would only be marginally worse than a Gore presidency. He pulled out all kinds of examples of Bill Clinton folding quietly to corporate interests behind our backs and Tipper Gore’s anti-free speech tendencies to support this view. Of course he was wrong, and like a lot of things about the year 2000 that very notion–that Democrats were basically equal to Republicans as enemies to progressive minded people–seems quaint. Democratic centrism may be more right than it used to be, and but it’s still left of the current occupant and right now I think that trumps most details, even when they are details I care about very passionately. There’s a place in my heart that thinks that in the face of tough times like this that it is the time to get truly optimistic, idealistic, and innovative instead of playing it safe & center, but I don’t think that’s the place in my heart that a true politician should cater to right now. Politicians win elections. The rest of us can keep striving toward ideals.

I don’t know if I’ve thought that through full enough to articulate it well, but there it is.

But, as I mentioned earlier, I’m giving Clinton a serious second look. Her status as the most conservative Dem was never my problem–whatever it takes to get elected is fine with me, and if she has managed to absorb the fine art of making it up as you go along from her hubby, all the better for her. I guess I’m a little unprincipled that way. Real politicians stay alive, stay in the game, and win elections. It’s a shitty job most of the time, and if you don’t believe me you should watch The Wire–that will make it quite clear. I think it is misguided to automatically turn away from a candidate who puts that first in the campaigning phase of the process. Once they are elected, it’s open season for progressive wish lists. I’d still be more comfortable in an America led by her than any of the Repub crop. A while back I read that Clinton had secretly advised Kerry to sell out the gays in 2004–that’s appalling on one level, but on another, who’s to say that it might not have gotten him elected, at which point he can ignore whatever he said during the campaign or finesse his way out of it. Her being a woman was my problem, sad as it is to say that. I was proud to see her out there, but I wasn’t going to vote that way if I feared it would cost us the election.

But, as Harding once again articulates beautifully, this week has gotten me to start about voting for her because she just might turn out to be that most electable candidate I’ve been looking for given her savvy and her feistiness AND because we are both women so there:

“I haven’t yet decided if I think that’s Hillary, out of the top three. But it damn well might be. And if she gets the nomination — whether I vote for her in the primary or not — I can tell you right now, my overemotional, girly ass is going to blub when I cast a vote for the first woman president. Because, even if it’s not the thing that matters most to me in this election, you’d better believe it fucking matters.

Yeah it does. And that’s a pretty exciting thing to think about.


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