Saturday, 14 June 2008

When Microcosms/Feministas Attack

Thought of something.

This article here worried me somewhat, mainly because at first glance I misunderstood its premise (I encountered a truncated version originally, but mainly I was just skim-reading). I thought the argument was that beating Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primaries and then having the temerity to suggest a man for the VP slot somehow made Obama a big old stinking sexist. It seemed a fairly crazy position to take; the idea that because Ms Clinton's campaign was historic (and it really, really was; she defeated Edwards, for Christ's sake, hardly a lightweight; when her campaign pointed out she had brought America to the point where a female Presidential Candidate no longer seemed extraordinary or doomed to failure, they were right on the money) any attempt to fix a second man to the ballot (conditional probability given independence: one half, motherfuckers, and anyone arguing we shouldn't have conditional independence in these things isn't arguing for equality, they're arguing for a quota system, which I'm not necessarily against per se, but acknowledge that that's what you're talking about) was immediately a slap in the face to women. If they can't have the Presidency this year, then heaven help you if they don't get the Vice Presidency.

Like I said, it's an immediate non-issue. Like anyone else with any right to exist on this Earth, I would like to see a female Veep just as much as I'd like to see a female President. But you have to come at me with a better argument than "It's our turn, so there". If you ain't the best candidate, I won't support you.

Of course, it turns out none of this matters, because the argument Ezra Klein notes in his piece isn't "Now Hillary's defeated we demand a female VP", it's "Now Hillary's gone we refuse to accept any female VP except Hillary."
"With Clinton now formally gone from the race," writes Cilizza, "her most
fervent female supporters have taken up the cause of putting her on the ticket
as the vice president. To snub Clinton in favor of another woman -- Sebelius --
would be a slight that many women might not be able to reconcile themselves to."

Klein is just as baffled by this argument as I am. That is to say, anyone saying Clinton being in the intersection of women and people who ran a slightly crappy campaign and got beaten should automatically qualify for the bottom of the ticket are wrong, are obviously wrong, but at least there's some method to their madness. It is conceivably possible to follow the tortured logic of "Women should get something out of this primary season". It's vain and self-serving and anyone who puts identity politics first is setting themselves up for a fall, but after all those years of male-dominated government (i.e. all of them) I can see how someone might end up thinking along those lines.

But this? I can't possibly wrap my head around it. Klein points out that this is counter-productive because it suggests that the door has closed after Clinton; and I agree. Somehow some people have got it into their heads that Clinton wasn't a female candidate for the Oval Office, she was the only female candidate, ever, and to let her finish with nothing (where "nothing" here is a role as a powerful Senator from a powerful state) is to slap the sisterhood across the face. Even offering up another female candidate like Sebelius is apparently a snub against women. It isn't. It is, maybe, a snub against Clinton (although by extension it would also be a snub against any other major player in the Democratic Party, and I don't see anyone bitching about how not picking Edwards would prove Obama is a dick about United Methodists), but if you can't tell the difference between snubbing a woman, and snubbing women, then you really need to shut up.

None of this might be particularly important if it didn't tie into a larger problem that the American Left has had pretty much since it's inception, and which I think I've touched on before. If you ever need to remind yourself as to why the Democratic Party can't get its shit together this primary season has been a fascinating microcosm. Everyone is so busy arguing over which particular minority/oppressed group/ecological imperative/social programme is the bestest ever in the whole wide world that they invariably conspire to totally fuck over anyone with the slightest difference of opinion as to what the shopping list of progression should be. Bill Clinton once said "Democrats fall in love; Republicans fall in line", which is pretty close to the truth, but there's another facet to this, which is that it's much, much easier to say "Fuck everyone but us" than it is to say "Let's deal with everyone equally from now on". The latter requires some kind of preference ordering in order to not be too general to be feasible (immediately leading to sniping and whining from whoever isn't at the top of the pile, and yes that's easy to say for a white middle-class heterosexual male; fuck you), the former most certainly does not.

Or, alternatively, you could just quote C.J. Cregg. "This isn't a women's issue, it's a dumb women's issue." Clinton would have made a good president, a worthy politician to earn the title of America's first female president. Unfortunately, Obama will probably make a better president, a worthy politician to earn the title of America's first Afro-American president [1]. And he won. He didn't win because of sexism (which isn't to say it didn't exist during the campaigns, either in voting tendencies or in media coverage), he just won. The next president of the USA will not be a woman with a probability arbitrarily close to one. Suggesting that the VP can't be either, unless it's Clinton, is so far beyond any kind of rational thought process and into the realms of petulant whiny fantasy that I can't believe I've had to spend a post decrying it, let alone Klein, who unlike me actually has a career of his own to worry about.

[1] Of course, he's only half Afro-American, but no-one needs my blog to tell them a world in which you're defined by whatever fraction of your genetics that deviates from Caucasian is a pretty screwed up world indeed.


Jamie said...

Interesting post, and I agree heartily with both Ezra and your point of view. However, you might want to do a teensy bit of editing for clarity. The second half of the first paragraph is almost unreadable as writ (and much of it incomprehensible). Possibly there's been a slight overuse of parentheses.

Yeah yeah, I'm pedantic, so sue me...

SpaceSquid said...

I do tend to massively overuse parentheses, but that's just my way.