10 January 2008

It's a stunner

Can we please stop calling Hillary Clinton’s three-percentage-point win in the New Hampshire primaries “stunning”?

She won, but it wasn’t a stunning win. She pulled out just a wee bit ahead of Barack Obama and stayed there all evening, winning a point, then losing a point, but finally holding onto her lead until all the votes were counted. If it had been a horse race, they’d have called it a win “by a nose.”

You’ll excuse me, but I didn’t think it was stunning. Obama’s win in the Iowa caucuses, now that was stunning, since Hillary had been all but named the winner for months leading up to the event. The polls really only backed off calling it for her automatically when, in the days right before the caucuses, Obama’s support seemed to grow and he drew almost level with her in the polls.

That he won Iowa was a surprise and a breath of fresh air. We needed it. But that Hillary pulled ahead of Obama and John Edwards in New Hampshire wasn’t “stunning.”

OK, honesty time. I probably won’t vote for Hillary Clinton in the California primaries on Feb. 7. There’s a part of me – the long-time feminist part – that feels guilty about that. I’m trying to ignore it, though. See, along with giving me a sense of solidarity with my sisters, feminism has also taught me to think for myself and make my own decisions. It’s taught me that I don’t have to march in lockstep just because some man – or some woman – tells me to. Instead, as an American feminist and voter, I take pride in learning all I can about the candidates and making my decision based on the facts. Sure, emotions come into play. I’m human.

I think it’s great that Hillary Clinton is running, as a viable, serious candidate for the job of President of the United States. I’m proud of her, and proud that a woman finally has a shot at it. It’s an historic accomplishment. If Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, I’ll throw my support behind her and vote for her because my country can’t survive another four or eight years of Republican rule. But I’d rather not have to vote for her.

Why? The main, most niggly reason I can’t throw my support behind Hillary Clinton is that she voted to give Bush the power to prosecute war in Iraq – and to this day, refuses to acknowledge what a serious lapse of judgment that was. John Edwards also voted for it, but he later publicly admitted his mistake. Barack Obama wasn’t a senator at the time, so he didn’t vote one way or another. But he’s been against the war from the beginning.

It worries me that someone as smart as Hillary Clinton could be gulled by Dubya into supporting his bloodthirsty vanity war. That it was unnecessary, merely a war of convenience and spite, was clear to most thinking people from the start. That it was a terrible idea, given the history of Iraq and its people, was also quite clear. We knew Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with Sept. 11, and we knew he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. We knew that the UN sanctions were working, as far as they went, and that Saddam was largely toothless. Was he a tyrant? Yes. Was he a monster to his own people? Yes. But was it up to us to depose him? No.

Those of us who said so were called traitors and terrorist sympathizers, but the truth was right there under our noses. We knew the Bush administration was lying through its teeth.

And so, because Hillary Clinton IS too smart to be gulled, it makes me wonder why she went along with it. That she still won’t, to this day, repudiate that vote disturbs me deeply.

Other reasons? Hillary Clinton is smart and articulate, she was a good First Lady, and from everything I’ve read, she’s been a good Senator in New York. I’m fairly sure she’s a good person, too – at least as good as any politician can be. But if it weren’t for the continued popularity of her husband, the former President, she wouldn’t be running for President herself. She might not even be a senator.

I also don’t like the idea of dynasties in the U.S. presidency. I didn’t like it when George W. Bush ran after his father’s eight-year stint as VP and then four-year stint as President. Likewise, I don’t like it that Hillary Clinton is running after Bill Clinton’s successful eight years as President. I don’t like the idea of that sort of power concentrated within families. This is America, not Great Britain. We don’t have royalty.

And our world has changed so astoundingly, largely thanks to Dubya, that we really do need a different way of going forward now. Hillary Clinton just isn’t, to my mind, the leader we’re looking for.

Is Obama? Maybe. He certainly inspires with his ideals and his rhetoric, and as an African-Amercan, his is no less an historic candidacy than Hillary Clinton’s. Is Edwards the leader we need? I have to admit I like him. He’s less idealistic than Obama, but he’s ready to tear into the big corporations that are, in effect, running the world these days. I like that. We didn’t vote for corporations as our leaders.

But, back to my original idea for this post. “Stunning” is a misleading word. Hillary Clinton won New Hampshire because 39 percent of those who turned out to vote, voted for her. They had their own reasons. All the pundits and newshounds and political bloggers are turning somersaults trying to explain why she won when it’s really very simple. She just had a few more people who liked her more than they liked Obama or Edwards or Kucinich or Richardson vote for her. Maybe some of those voters were older women, like me. Maybe they were feminists, like me. And maybe they felt strongly about their vote, like me.

One thing is for sure – the turnout was massive and those Democratic voters – women, men, young, old, black, white, Hispanic and Asian-American and native American alike -- were at the polls voting to make their voices heard, finally. That’s the most important thing now.


Blowing Shit Up With Gas said...

"I also don’t like the idea of dynasties in the U.S. presidency."

I know... I really hate that whole idea.

There is one anti-war "republican," btw: Ron Paul. But, he doesn't seem to have a shot.

Lucy said...

Thanks for writing this. I saw a news piece the other day, the gist of which was that people weren't ready for a woman in the White House. I turned to my husband and said, as far as I'm concerned, that's the only thing she has going for her (well--that and she's a democrat). Still, it the feminist guilt is troubling, and I'm glad you articulated it so well. I'm with you on the "stunning." Back when I studied journalism, we would have called that sensationalism.