Because Race Matters out here too
Ian Welsh over at the agonist argues that it is about race and gender in the Democratic primary far more than we would like it to be. That's because race matters out here too. For getting a job, for getting a loan, for how people treat you. I'm betting that not too many people have tried to peer down the front of Ian's blouse lately while implying that things will go so much easier if he'd be friendly.
I've been told by other people that this election is more about identity and media than the last one. But then the every day world is about race and gender. Given a choice of people who are saying to us that we aren't going to get what we want, need or deserve, why not one who at least shares some experience of our day to day realities and experience with the indignities that go with it?
I'd like to believe that we should be selecting candidates for the Presidency without regard to identity politics. Really. I think George W. Bush has proven that any one really can grow up to be President. And Cheney proves you don't even have to be alive while you do it.
However, that's asking the ordinary voter to behave differently than everyone else. What school you go to, its quality, and therefore your place in the world depend on it. How much money your parents had, and how much time they have to raise you, depend on it.
And the world is very, very, very different to you if you have a warm orifice that they want to access.
Then there is also the media nature of all of this. The less people are really told, the less the words mean, the more race and gender matter, because it is one of the few things that can't be scripted away or spun. John Edwards is male, and people in the society identify him as white. Hillary Clinton is female, and people identify her as white. Barak Obama is male, and people identify him as black. While these things can be played as cards, they can't be spun away. This makes them different from virtually everything else we see and hear.
So as long as we live in the world we live in, one that is heavily racist and sexist, one that is heavily invested in a social reality of a few people telling us what we want, and the rest of us having to sift through their broadcast droppings, there is going to be identity voting.
This election however is going to be worse about it, precisely because the Democratic Congress has been so weak. Race and sex matter even more if you take out the top few percent. Getting aside the small rind of our culture that has to value brains and ability more neutrally because the very top talent is rare, and because tokens matter, who has done well in these last few years is even more skewed than the statistics suggest. If the Democratic Congress had started to turn this around, rather than pandering to a very small number of donor interests, it might have been not as bad.
The last bit of identity politis at work, less talked about, is age. People who are young are doing worst of all. We have more of the debt you older people have been spending on your little adventure in Persian Gulf real estate and billionaire creation. We walk out with more debt from college, which is our ticket into the world of good jobs. We are going to be expected to pay the high rents that you charge, simply for having been born first. We are going to have to buy those houses at inflated prices. We are going to have to care for you when you insurance gives out.
Not that I'm not grateful for the head start, but more and more it looks like the value of what many young people are getting wasn't a gift of life, but a loan that will take a lifetime to pay off. Obama and Hillary both play off of that. It isn't about "experience," it is about age. It isn't about "hope." it's about age.
Again, age is one of the few things we know to be true.
What we don't know from all of this is whether or not any of those facts means anything. I'm going to say they don't really. Age, gender and race are waaay overdetermined in our society. People draw all kinds of conclusions from them that don't mean anything. But then, that's true about campaign statements too. In fact, even more so.