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2008 Election - Why Hillary Lost

(c) 2009 Jeanne Powell
"2008 Election - Why Hillary Lost"
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A winner has been declared in the 2008 presidential election, thus averting another Constitutional crisis (as in 1876 and in 2000). Remarkably few ballot boxes were found floating in rivers this time around. Chads clinging to paper ballots were nowhere in sight.

Barack Hussein Obama is an exotic choice. Raised partly in Indonesia with an Asian stepfather and partly in the state of Hawaii by an American grandmother, Barack Hussein was born to a Muslim father from Kenya. He was a toddler during the brutal era of political assassinations. He is not the descendant of slaves. And he could very well be the first Black president. Given the racial history of the United States, we may never know for sure about his presidential predecessors.

Hillary Rodham Clinton was the most qualified of all the candidates who endured the political primary season. When you read Gail Sheehy's riveting biography, Hillary's Choice, you discover her brilliant background and realize that contemporaries spoke of her as a future U.S. president when she was still an undergraduate. If only Hillary Rodham had taken the road less traveled, instead of a 30 year detour to Arkansas to marry the Rhodes scholar with whom she fell in love!

Six factors seemed to influence the choice of Barack as the DEM party candidate:
[1] the fear of women;
[2] party bosses keeping quiet about Senator John Edwards' adultery during primary season;
[3] Senator Ted Kennedy's irritation with former President Bill Clinton;
[4] fact that Oprah Winfrey accompanied Barack to Iowa;
[5] Barack's relative nonblackness compared to Shirley Chisholm, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King -- we have Joe Biden's early opinion here;
[6] America's settler guilt about the African holocaust, Middle Passage, and slave labor camps (plantations) before the British navy brought an end to the international slave trade.

Chief among these is the fear of women in high office. About two dozen nations around the world have elected female leaders -- presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, premiers -- in the last three generations. The United States is not among them.

A published study of media coverage during the 2008 presidental primary campaign revealed a clear bias against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. I noticed that articles referring to her cleavage, hair style, ankles, alleged emotional state or previous marital trouble too often were substituted for reporting on her political views and accomplishments.

This bias was nonpartisan and extended to coverage of Governor Sarah Palin when she was VP candidate on the GOP ticket. Media hostility included questioning the maternity of Sarah's infant son, criticizing her teenage daughter, commenting on her campaign wardrobe and slamming her blue collar origins.

I wrote a three-page poem, "About That Woman," which can be found in WORD DANCING; concentrated on voter registration issues; read Robin Morgan's powerful essay on why she supported Hillary for president; fumed about the pressure placed on Dr. Maya Angelou to withdraw her support of Hillary; and listened to Bill Moyers on his PBS Journal talk about the sad state of the process in general. And I voted for former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney on a third-party ticket.

And I distanced myself from "all that," or thought I had. I truly thought I had. One evening after the national vote, I was watching BBC World cover Barack's triumphant return to Chicago. He was about to speak, outside on a stage, with enthusiastic crowds. Something was different about the scene and it took me a moment to see it, to take it all in. Two clear glass walls, one on either side of the stage, that's all. Suddenly I could not breathe and had to sit down.

Then I recalled why I would not allow myself to be drawn in by this laconic newcomer who was born too late to remember. I had sat with my parents, experiencing five funerals in six years, through the immediacy of television. Those leaders left too soon, creating a vacuum no one could fill.

So much adulation, underlined with desperation, heaped upon this stranger. So many people need a hero now, it seems, preferably a male, yes, it still needs to be a male. They all want me to believe, because they don't know what I know, or just don't want to remember what I can't forget.

In the time before glass walls
mourners dressed in long black veils
a grieving nation stunned by losses
caissons pulled by beasts of burden
empty boots reversed in stirrups
muffled drums and flags at half mast
midnight vigils over coffins
Myrlie Evers, Betty Shabazz
Coretta Scott King
Jacqueline and Ethel Kennedy,
in the time before glass walls.

So in 2008 I voted on every local issue; exhorted others to the polls; handed my book, WORD DANCING, to Hillary Clinton that summer at a fundraiser in Silicon Valley; and renewed my passport (just in case the election went the other way). On inauguration day 2009, I walked along the Embarcadero and watched seagulls in flight.

(c) 2009 Jeanne Powell

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Wonderfully written and unfortunately so true, Jeanne. I could write an agreement comment as long as the blog, but why when you have expressed it all so well.

Only two things. Although a Hilary supporter, I did vote for Obama since the other possibility was unthinkable. More importantly, your poem should be required reading in the schools.

One day, there will be another hero on the podium, black or white, and that hero will be a she.

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She will win eventually


Yes, there will be a viable female candidate again, but when?

As Hillary was exhorting her supporters to throw their support to the party's chosen candidate in 2008, I looked around the Silicon Valley joint fundraiser (Clinton-Obama) and saw tears in the eyes of women who were old enough to be my mother, women who knew they would not live to see that day. Some were campaign workers in ordinary clothes; others were society matrons "wearing diamonds."

As I saw the pain and loss etched in their lined faces, I was reminded once again how often -- and how long -- we have been marginalized because of our gender. How much longer, Dear Goddess, how much longer?

Thanks for reading.