Monday, June 09, 2008


Race, Gender, and Personality

Some of my Democratic friends have been dedicated, single-minded supporters of Hillary R. Clinton. Others were equally dedicated to Barack H. Obama. When it turned out that Mrs. Clinton was not going to get the nomination, some of these friends swore that since their candidate didn't win the nomination, they were not going to vote for the winner. To one faction or another, it seemed vital that the Democratic candidate (and probable successor to George W. Bush) be a woman or be a person of African ancestry.

I should clarify that last phrase by inserting the word "recent." Partisans who favor Obama because of his ancestry really mean recent African ancestry. In my case, my ancestors came from Sweden, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Holland. I can claim to be "white" or "caucasian" on a census report. In truth, my ancestors, along with the ancestors of every human alive today, came from Africa. I believe mine came out of Africa at least 60,000 years ago. Africa was the birthplace of the human species. Until about 100,000 years ago, there were no humans anywhere on this planet except in Africa.

It is also pertinent to point out that, although I am not a woman, many of my ancestors were women. Thus, I am descended from women and from (ancient) Africans. I see no reason that I should prefer that the next president be a woman or a (recent) African. Also, I see no reason that I should prefer that the next president not be a woman or a (recent) African. The enthusiasm for Hillary or Barack is pure hype.

All of this enthusiasm for the personal qualities of the candidates causes the public to forget some very important issues in the campaign. Supporters of John McCain boast of his maverick status, his straight talk, and of being a different kind of Republican from George Bush. Supporters of Barack Obama boast of his freshness, his determination to encourage a different kind of political discourse, and his rise to prominence from a very humble beginning. Supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton hail her toughness and her ability to play the political game in Washington and in particular her ability to stand up to the men who make up most of the Senate. Lost in this hyperbole are such issues as the political make-up of the Supreme Court, the stranglehold that insurance companies have on our inefficient health-care system, our policy of trying to use our wonderful military system to form an American empire (and making jackasses of ourselves in the process), and the growing divide between the very rich and the rest of us, to name a few. We should put aside the personalities and other characteristics of the candidates and try to figure out what each one would do regarding the issues I've just mentioned. If McCain and Obama go about conducting town hall meetings, we should be in the meetings with questions regarding these and other issues.

After all, McCain and Obama are nice men and Mrs. Clinton is a nice woman. Let's find out what they'd do or try to do as President.

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