Friday, June 06, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

(Photo Credit: Richard A. Lipski, Washington Post; Senator Barack Obama, flanked by Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and Senator James Webb, at a post-primary campaign rally in northern Virginia, 6/5/08.)

Dear Pudd'nheads*,

You are so not getting it. The candidate to whom you handed the nomination, via superdelegates who were strong-armed into supporting him over the candidate who actually won the popular vote, faces serious resistance from voters who feel the woman candidate was battered, bullied, betrayed, and disrespected by the party she and her husband had worked tirelessly to build. So what do you do the day after he "clinches" the nomination through an allegedly "new" politics that to a lot of us looks, feels, and smells an awful lot like the old (boys') politics? Do you go out of your way to assure that the words and images that open the general election campaign are as conciliatory and inclusive and affirming of those voters and their issues as they possibly can be? Nah. Nope. Not you. You arrange things so that the nation's political rag of record, The Washington Post, can splash a tableau of three smiling goodfellas on its front page to let the world know that the boys are back in charge. Fear not, America. The change you can believe in is, by some measures, no change at all.

Go ahead and blame it on Hillary Clinton for not conceding on Tuesday night. "She could have been up on that stage," you can righteously sniff, "if she had been a good girl and formally admitted defeat. Instead, she selfishly chose to try to steal his thunder by publicly declaring she needed time to think." Good lord, the temerity! the chutzpah! the rank selfishness of the evil, power-grabbing bitch! That's right, boys. You go ahead and get in a few last licks. You won't have your incredibly convenient and satisfying punching bag around too much longer. Tomorrow at high noon at the National Building Museum in Washington, Senator Clinton will announce that the last dog has died.** She will concede, declare her support for the Precious, and pledge to work her butt off for the man who once declared her "likable enough." She will try to convince skeptics he is "prepared enough" to lead the most powerful nation on earth. She will do that because, when push comes to shove and contrary to so much that has been said or implied, at heart she is a good girl, a loyal trooper, a party animal who will put the interests of the group above her own self-interest. Perhaps many of us who feel such loyalty to her and such anger on her behalf will listen when she urges us to swallow the hurt and focus on electing a Democratic president.

Some of us will listen to her, but some of us will not -- because some of us are already convinced that you are not listening to us. Here's the thing, Pudd'nheads. You got this far without us (and by "us" I mean women, particularly those over 45, and the so-called lunch-bucket Dems [or, as His Hopeness calls them, bitter, gun-toting Jesus freaks] who tend to swing presidential elections), and you made it pretty clear you didn't feel you needed us. Your drank the kool-aid for the new messiah of American politics and didn't seem to notice that he limped across the finish line after a string of defeats that should have caused concern, or at least some serious humility. Instead, your chief strategist is still touting the glories of the new coalition you supposedly forged to win the nomination, which may be why your sudden overtures to us feel and sound -- how shall we put this? -- insincere? hollow? perfunctory? half-hearted? condescending? It may be slowly dawning on you that you are going to need us to defeat a Republican war hero with a reputation for independence that he doesn't deserve, but a lot of us still feel that you don't really want us. So far, it seems you are holding your noses and ordering us to get up on our unity ponies and join in the parade rather than making a sincere effort to convince us we should support and work toward the election of your guy. So far, your courting of us feels about as warm and comfortable as what you see in this cartoon (from the Horizontal World by way of Hillary 1000):

John McCain is listening, Pudd'nheads. He is carefully positioning himself to make a move for disaffected Clinton voters. He has given former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina a prominent role in his campaign on economic issues and encouraged speculation that he might choose her as his running mate.

We've done some polling here in Roxie's World, and so far things aren't looking too good for the Pudd'nhead Party. Obama is doing okay among the group formerly known as the Pretty Boys for Hillary Caucus, but he's faring badly among Moosians and Goosians. Some of the Texas Goosians have already declared they'll vote for McCain -- and they are Yellow-Dog Dems from way back, y'all! There is concern that the newly minted Dems among the Moosians will revert back to the party they were born and raised in, even if it's not nearly as grand as it was in the good old days of leave-folks-alone Republicanism. Meanwhile, here at corporate HQ, Moose and Goose can't even agree on whether Clinton should accept the veep slot if it is offered to her, and Moose has resorted to humming bad 60s pop tunes every time Goose declares that she has divorced herself from the Democratic Party.

And yet, alone in the big red chair where she does most of the typing for Roxie's World, Moose sometimes thinks Riverdaughter hasn't gone far enough in proposing that Clinton supporters join her new PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) movement. She harbors a fantasy of a rabidly feminist watch-dog group she'd call CUNT (Call Us Next Time) that would dedicate itself to hounding the Democratic party for its sordid history of selective attention to women voters and women's issues. (By the way, CUNT would also insist on an intersectional approach to issues and analysis, so that gender and race wouldn't be crudely pitted against one another as they so often tend to be in American politics and media.) Fortunately, the vigilant Department of Standards and Practices here in Roxie's World has prevented her from launching such a crudely, if cleverly, named effort, but we've brought in a team of experts in bitterness management to make sure she doesn't hack into the computer overnight and turn it loose while the rest of us are sleeping. Moose's fondness for colorful Anglo-Saxonisms is one of the main reasons she is not in charge of Roxie's World.

So, do you get it, guys? Do you begin to understand the scale of the task before you? We've told you before that unity, if it is to be achieved at all, has to be earned. We've tried to explain that for many of us our investment in Senator Clinton was as principled, as passionate, and as rooted in a dream of social justice and transformation as the investment Senator Obama's supporters have had in him (a point Senator Obama seemed to acknowledge in his victory speech on Tuesday night). We have not yet been convinced that you truly see the people and the issues whom Senator Clinton so eloquently embraced in the course of her campaign and in her speech when she said, "None of you is invisible to me. You never have been. I see you, and I know how hardworking you are." You can be cynical about her embrace of the downtrodden and the forgotten if you like, but you'd be wise not to ignore those of us who were moved by her calls to a renewed commitment to taking care of the less fortunate. For some of us, that is the sum and substance of the change we fervently hope to realize in this country.

Some of us are persuadable, Pudd'nheads, but you'd better start talking and listening soon. November will be here before you know it, and once you're elected a Pudd'nhead, you can't overturn the results of the election as easily as y'all managed to do in Michigan. Just ask our pal Mark Twain.

Yours sincerely,

*Pudd'nheads is Roxie-speak for the leadership of the Democratic Party and the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama. The precise meaning and etymology of the term is explained here.

**Attention, pro-Hillary fem bloggers: Roxie's World will be at Saturday's last Clinton campaign event. Let your readers know where they can come for photos and eyewitness reports! No live-blogging, alas, but we'll have something up by supper time, we promise. Thanks in advance to Donna Darko and all the gang at Hillary 1000, Historiann, and the righteous Red Queen.


  1. Once again, Rox, you made me laugh and smile about something that just makes me sick, quite frankly.

    The Pudd'nhead Party is just brilliant isn't it? Did you see the Op-Ed piece in the NYTimes today about if the election were held today, Clinton would beat McCain (and handily) but McCain would beat Obama. Check it out, gang:

    And that's been the case with other scientists who are ranking polls scientifically (rather than wishfully), and has been so for weeks, even months (so the numbers are hardening). Yet the Pudd'nheads think they can do exactly what they condemned in 2000 (steal votes from one candidate and give them to another; at least Pat Buchanan and George W. Bush were on the ballot in 2000!). The Pudd'nheads think they can do that, tell us to shut up, and that everything's going to be unity. Their "reasoning" seems to have been that "yes, we can change the rules if we all agree to change them; therefore, we are going to change them even beyond what the Party constitution allows and reallocate votes even though we do not have the authority to do that." WOW.

    And then they ordered us up on our unity ponies. Unity cannot be ordered. It must be earned and forged, and not by name-calling and through threats.

    Senator Clinton's speech on visibility reminded me of just how invisible, just how othered I feel by some of the Obamites. They don't see me. They don't hear me. They have death watches for my candidate (not for her campaign) on their Facebook pages. They're comfortable with a candidate who had to pinch and force and bully in order to obtain the nomination.

    It's a long, long way from here to November, and there's something terribly wrong here on the Democratic side already--the insecurity indicated by last Saturday's DNC decision and the refusal of Senator Obama to remember his wailing back in January-February that the nomination could not be decided by superdelegates, that the popular vote is just as important, and then demanding this week that the nomination be decided by superdelegates. Senator Clinton will do just as you say, Rox--she is much larger than anyone in American politics. But even she cannot persuade me that violating my own principles to make others feel better is a good thing to do.

    Unity cannot be bullied, though a party nomination can.

    In Peace,

    PS - I invite you and all of your readers to join me by joining NOW:

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  3. I agree that this is all very difficult and that the Democrats have risked this election through various shenanigans and mistakes. I commend your efforts to to build a new feminist movement in the wake of this sh*tstorm.

    I am confused, however, by this description of the delegate count:

    [T]he refusal of Senator Obama to remember his wailing back in January-February that the nomination could not be decided by superdelegates, that the popular vote is just as important, and then demanding this week that the nomination be decided by superdelegates.

    As I understand it, Obama is not demanding that the race be decided by delegate counts. Doesn't he lead in pledged delegates? By my rough mental math, if you take away the Florida and Michigan delegates as awarded and substitute the Clinton numbers (in Michigan, that's 73 for Clinton and 0 for Obama), Obama still leads 1754-1731. If I am correct -- and mental math is not always the best math at this hour -- then he only requires the support of superdelegates to win the nomination because superdelegates exist and have pledged support to Clinton. He does not need the majority of superdelegates to win the nomination; assuming he is nominated, the will of the majority of superdelegates is not what will have determined the outcome.

    Of course none of this detracts from the very real problems with the nomination process, both in general and in this campaign in particular. I just wanted to offer my opinion about that one claim.

  4. Anonymous7:55 AM EDT

    Great, great post, Roxie, at a most important juncture! Go PUMA! - No unity without respect !!!

    But there is some hope — the Mystery Meeting was all important — I would guess Barack and Hillary prayed together at some point in that conversation, probably at the end, and if so, that prayer, or moment of mutual respect and silence, may strengthen and inspire Hillary's speech today, and carry them both, in a very profound way, through to November.


  5. Thanks, RA. I'm always a little cynical when it's reported that two politicians have prayed together, but I like your image of Clinton and Obama sharing a moment of mutual respect and silence. One quality I think they both have is a core of serenity, an ability to stay calm and quiet at the center of the storm. If two such figures shared such a moment, it would be powerful indeed. And if each could appreciate that quality in the other, they might recognize that they could be an extraordinary force for leadership and change -- together.

    Gosh, RA, I think you just helped me talk myself into a unity ticket!

    Point taken on the math and the superdelegates, Stephanie -- Obama was obviously ahead without them, though his numbers were padded by the Michigan compromise. I think Goose's point was that he still needed superdelegates to get to the magic number. Plus, we were very upset w/ the story about our delegate Heather Mizeur being strong-armed into coming out for Obama on Tuesday night -- It was an unseemly rush to force things to the conclusion that was obviously going to be reached anyway.

  6. Just FYI, the Hillary Clinton Deathwatch on my Facebook page was from Slate magazine, and it was about her CAMPAIGN and not HER.

  7. Eitan, I don't know you but I wasn't talking about your death watch, since I've never been to your Facebook page. There are real HRC death watches on other Facebook pages.

    Also I think it might interest you that I'd never put up a death watch for the Obama campaign or even the McCain campaign. Why? Because metaphors structure thinking and wishing for death is a dangerous way to characterize campaigns of politicians one doesn't support. The campaigns of all candidates who will not, it seems, be their party's nominee are presently suspended, not dead. And when the nominees are chosen (that doesn't happen officially until the conventions), then the campaigns of their opponents are over but not necessarily dead: they might be revived in future years. But all campaigns, even those with which I disagree, should be honored and respected. I think using a death metaphor makes that difficult.

    And Stephanie -- yes, Moose is correct. The DNC put an * besides Barak Obama's "win" that was entirely unnecessary. And the rush to do that as well as the strong arming smack of insecurity. You don't do such a thing when you are very confident, and it's true that Obama's numbers have been declining since March (so I can understand their trepidation). But I think it unspeakably stupid to reveal that insecurity through bullying tactics that are taken from the Republican playbook of 2000 (and you can bet that the RNC notices the bungling insecurity).

    Hope this clarifies, and I hope everyone will read Roxie's report on HRC's speech today. What grace, what leadership--most impressive to me was that she didn't let the media bully her out of talking about sexism, yet when she did so she did not personalize this grave problem but spoke of it as a systemic problem on which she will be more focused. I appreciate that. And I appreciate that she mentioned the gay community not once, but twice, and nothing about her mention seemed forced or the politically correct thing to do. THAT's why a majority of queers are in HRC's camp: we're not being pandered to, she never refers to our lifestyle, and she would never say she admires one of us for "not proselytizing." Metaphors, vocabulary matter and reveal a lot.

    Here's to HRC, the most admirable woman--excuse me, Person--in the world.


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