Like the battle between Clinton and Obama, the general election in 2008 will be heavily fought along gender lines.
Not surprisingly, Hillary enjoyed extensive support among many female voters while she was contesting with Obama. This contest, as most will recall, often saw the Democrats lashing away at each other over race and gender. It was a bitter struggle and some would say that the battle was over whether race or gender would emerge with the medal for greatest victim. In the end, Obama won out. As with all civil conflicts, the Democratic party now contains many bitter and angry people.
Recently Carly Fiorina (of HP fame) was in Columbus, Ohio. She was speaking to the group Women for Fair Politics on behalf of John McCain. Although McCain’s actual positions on many issues puts him at odds with most Democrats, he is no doubt hoping to tap into the bitter anger of many female supporters of Hillary.
While the anger might fade by November, it is currently quite intense. Some of Hillary’s ardent supporters have accused Obama of attacking the Clintons in a way comparable to the infamous swift boat campaign against John Kerry. Naturally, there are also accusations of sexism being made.
Although saying so is sexist, I cannot resist saying that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. This fury is best expressed by Cynthia Ruccia. In addition to cofounding the women’s group in question, she is alo a Democratic Party official in Franklin County. She said the following: “We need to elect John McCain in 2008″That’s the only way the Democratic Party will learn it can’t treat women this way.” (Newsweek, June 23 2008)
Such anger is not unexpected. Many women regarded Hillary as more than just another candidate. They saw her as an avatar of all American women. Hence, her defeat would be regarded by some not as Hillary losing, but of women being mistreated once again (presumably by the patriarchy). Naturally, it is interesting to speculate whether black Americans would have reacted in an analogous way, should Hillary have emerged the victor.
From a practical standpoint, there is the question of whether such bitterness will endure. Will Democratic woman vote for McCain in order to punish the Democrats and Obama for their perceived sins against women?
Obviously, the many female supporters of Obama will not do so. They obviously do not think that the Democrats mistreated women. The angry and bitter women who feel betrayed by the Democrats might be able to sustain their anger for months-especially if people like Fiorina keep stoking their bitterness. However, as the anger cools and they look more carefully at McCain’s positions (especially on the issue of abortion), they might return to the Democratic fold and vote for Obama. After all, Obama has an excellent voting record in terms of the general values of most female Democrats.
Some women might decide that the price of having McCain elected is worth the lesson that will allegedly be taught to the Democratic party. Presumably, the Democrats are supposed to learn that they should not give the nomination to the candidate who wins the nomination process but to the female candidate. That doesn’t seem like a lesson that should be taught.
It can be replied that the lesson the women have in mind is that the Democrats should treat female candidates better. While Hillary did get attacked based on her gender, it must also be noted that Obama took shots because of his gender and his race.As such, the Democrats could learn some lessons in both these areas.
Also, it must be kept in mind that national politics is not an afternoon in the kiddy pool. National politics is a high stakes game and it can get a bit rough. As such, some hard shots are to be expected. Yes, I do think that people should be polite and ethical and hence believe that politics should be played better. But I am careful to distinguish between what I would prefer and what is likely.
Another question is whether Hillary was treated worse because she is a woman. People who think she was tend to point to the gender based attacks as evidence that she was attacked because she is a woman. Some even go so far as to see any attack on Hillary as being gender based. Presumably they reason that an attack on a woman must be motivated by her gender.
While gender based attacks would show that she was attacked as a woman, this still leaves room to wonder whether she was attacked because she is a woman.
When politicians run against each other, they almost always attack each other directly and indirectly. As such, the main reason Hillary was under attack was because she was in competition with Obama. If a man had been running so close against Obama, he would have been attacked as well.
It could be replied that the gender based attacks show a gender bias. After all, there were many non-gender issues that Hillary could be attacked on (such as the numerous Scandals during the Clinton administration).
This is, of course, a matter worth considering. Hillary did take numerous gender based attacks. However, most of these came from outside of the Democratic party. Ironically, many of those who launched such attacks are supporting McCain. So, if the angry women fall in behind McCain, they will be joining with some of the very people who launched gender based attacks on Hillary.
Women who are liberal on what are considered woman’s issues should rationally support Obama. After all, his views are in line with such views. McCain is a true conservative on such issues. However, bitterness and anger are not rational things and one must remember that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.