The Democratic presidential primary has been an interesting exercise in exposing the extent to which Americans are ready for change, ready to move into the twenty-first century, and yet are still racist and sexist jerks.
It has been a tight race, with record turnout, between two candidates who both inspire a lot of passion in their supporters, either one of whom would break an important prejudice barrier. Once Edwards dropped out, we knew the Democratic nominee would make history. So the country -- the Democrats at least -- were finally going to nominate either the first woman or the first non-white person as their candidate for president.
The close, drawn-out contest has led to some things that I think are very good: the need for a 50-state (and Puerto Rico!) campaign strategy, excitement (and new voters) surrounding primaries in states that don't typically get that excitement, etc.
But... I dunno, maybe all the excitement is getting to people or something. Jokes about PMS, seriously? Stupid nicknames like "Shrillary"? Nutcrackers in Ms. Clinton's image? Hecklers shouting out for her to "cook my dinner!"?
You are not clever, people. You can hate on her as a politician all you want, but when you tie that hatred to a bunch of creepy and predictable jokes about "powerful women" you are hating on me, too.
(Also, just as an FYI, you are making yourselves look small, fearful, unmanly, and kind of stupid.)
And don't forget the openly racist things from Democrats in places like West Virginia, or the infamous race-themed blurt-outs of Geraldine Ferraro and Harriet "inadequate black male" Christian. (Oh, Ms. Ferraro, please don't make me sorry my little 18-year-old self voted for you in 1984.)
And I don't know what to make of this -- ostensible feminists and Hillary supporters who are -- at least for now -- so bitterly aggrieved over the likely primary outcome that they are vowing to sit on their hands or even vote for the Republican if Obama is the nominee.
(Note: please keep in mind that, if you fail to support Obama, and McCain wins, there are no glorious "I told you so prizes" waiting for you at the end. We just get four more years of a Republican president. Is that really what you want? If it is what you want, congratulations, you're a Republican. Please stop claiming to be a liberal or a Democrat now. Thank you.)
Sometimes I think the naked misogyny directed at Clinton vs. the more stealthy racism directed at Obama means that sexism remains a worse problem than racism.
Sometimes I think it means just the opposite.
I wonder if people feel freer to express their misogynist thoughts because these thoughts have shallower emotional roots. The Hillary nutcracker seems funnier (to a certain fratboy mindset) than would an Obama lawn jockey because it seems less important, has less resonance. And, although the nasty misogynist Hillary-bashing has been fairly pervasive, her primary adventure has had no equivalent of the Reverend Wright or flag pin or secret Muslim or "my spouse isn't sufficiently patriotic for the likes of Bill O'Reilly" scandals du jour.
Other times I think it's just that these prejudices have different emotional causes and will always manifest themselves somewhat differently. Racism is an expression of the destructive tribalism impulse, and sexism is an expression of -- who knows? I suspect it might be some kind of impulse to control reproductive capacity, but I don't know. I don't think it's my job to explain why people are nuts. I merely observe the abundant empirical evidence that they are.
I do think a major problem is the last twenty years of increasingly nasty and childish habits of political rhetoric. (Which I tend to think of as anncoulteritis, for what should be obvious reasons.) When you are simply reaching for the nearest available schoolyard taunt, you're going to find a lot of sexism. And racism. And homophobia. And agism. And doggerel featuring stupid nicknames that seem meaningful based only on coincidental rhymes and homophones. Not to mention booger-phobia.
The right wing has enthusiastically led this stampede into the muddy playground, but liberals play too. I see a lot of tasteless jokes about McCain's age and appearance. They have less bite than the racist and sexist taunts, since old white males pretty much run things around here, but they are still childish and stupid and I don't appreciate them.
Anyway, no matter what happens now, I think that Hillary Clinton has done a great thing by (probably) coming this close to being the Democratic nominee for president. In spite of all the immature misogyny, I think that somewhere along the line people forgot to keep asking that old concern-troll chestnut "is America ready for a woman president?" and just started to work on the joke cycle for when we get one.