"I feel like I’m fighting for Clinton in honor of my mother and her peers..."
In reaction to CD's GBCW post, RedStar writes (in part) I'm tired:
I was spending all day on the web, and at one point exchanged emails with a dear friend of mine about the rise of social isolation in contemporary society and how I am one of those people who have *traded* face-to-face interaction for virtual socializing.
This dear friend, a young black woman married and raising an interracial child, has so far been a voice of reason for me in this campaign. While the clunky media-driven debate over “Race v. gender” has raged for months, searching greedily for The Biggest Loser between our two Dem candidates, she said to me in an email that this has been her “dream” primary - she’s supporting Obama, but would have happily supported Clinton. With Obama she gained a role model for her daughter and theoretical future sons, but she got teary at both Obama’s “Yes We Can” and Clinton’s “This One’s for the Girls” videos. This friend is who I think of when I see The Obamas grace three magazine covers in one week (he on The Economist and US News, and Michelle on Newsweek) and am struck by how cool and overdue that is for this nation. It is her that I think of when I feel pride watching these two candidates share the debate stage and make the Democratic Party look great. And it is this friend who I am now pulling into the blogosphere, at her own peril.
Because now this my lovely friend is spending more time than usual on-line, discovering for herself how f***ing obnoxious so many of the blog comment threads are about the candidates. And my experiments in consciousness-raising here at The RP suddenly feel especially unpleasant. I’m taking her down with me! Oh No!
My support for Clinton has origins in her qualifications for the Presidency - she’s the smartest and the realistic best the Dems have to offer, I think, and her gender firmly pushes me into her camp. But I don’t think I’m alone when I say that her candidacy has taken on a whole new level of meaning for me, divorced from the candidate. This has become a fight for me about gender equity, a battle I’ve long waged, whether aggressively or sometimes just silently in my head. I feel like I’m fighting for Clinton in honor of my mother and her peers, in honor of the women’s lives I’ve had the privilege to study for school, and for myself and my and my peers’ future. Watching the attacks on Clinton this primary season has unleashed an anger in me that I’d either been ignoring or resisting until now, one that I’m hoping will last for the rest of my life.
The problem is that Clinton - of course - is not a perfect candidate on which to mount my fight for justice. No single woman would be; the fight to reduce oppression and domination of women is a battle to be waged across campaigns, political and economic and social structures, and on behalf of and with a range of activists committed to social equity.
The meta-narrative of this campaign, and electoral politics more generally, have pretty much prohibited such a coalitional struggle, as the false choice between the “black man and the white woman” exploits and reinforces the already fragile relationships between activists representing different social groups and struggles.
But I cannot stress enough that this Clinton support is not my politics as usual. The reason I rarely get fired up about elections or candidates is because I think politicians are pretty much all the same, and the system is set up such that their self-interest always comes first. I believe that to get things done you need to be willing to negotiate with a pretty varied range of people and groups, and that conflict (versus violence) is fundamental and necessary, and difference is to be tolerated and embraced, not suppressed. I think change comes incrementally, due to a variety of intertwined external and internal pressures, including movement politics, protest, behind-the-scenes deal-making, and policymaking.
Clinton and Obama both represent different pieces of the scenario I just described. They comprise different coalitions of voters, different tactics (between them and within their campaigns) to land the nomination, different narratives of how they’ll lead, different leadership styles, yet very similar political positions and stances across a wide range of issues that matter to various voters. Neither of them will really change our power to influence the system, regardless of how much both camps of supporters believe they will (beyond the diffuse and thrilling symbolic empowerment many of us will feel should our preferred candidate take that oath in January). Only we can do that, and once either of them is in office, both become more representative than they are now of all the legislative, regulatory, distributive, and participatory changes we need in our government.
What has been a real loss for me this campaign is how divergent I feel from my usual stances of a) trying to better understand the intersectionality of various forms of oppression that women, people of color, LGBT, and others feel, and b) fighting for greater anti-poverty policy and equity in the U.S. I don’t believe that loss would be vindicated by participating in the Obama campaign either. What I’m hoping is that at the end of this primary, rather than tripping over deepened gendered, ethno-racial, sexist and classist divides, our mutual desire to heal our (re-) opened wounds is stronger than ever.
Well, maybe. Then again, there was this:
Watching the attacks on Clinton this primary season has unleashed an anger in me that I’d either been ignoring or resisting until now, one that I’m hoping will last for the rest of my life.
How I feel.