08 June 2008

Before We Roll Up The Rug Entirely...

... Let me point to the dirt swept underneath during the primary season. Now that it’s over, I can speak to the conclusion of the Democratic Nominating Process. Although to call it that is a bit more dignified that it is.

First, my bias. I am an historian by nature. Those who know me know this as well. I have a brain stuffed with information; not by choice, it just gets in there. And as all knowledge is something from the past, though it be only yesterday, that makes it all history.

I know, for example, that the primary and caucus process is the child of the Progressive Era a century ago, which was a powerful movement to wrest control of the nominating process from party bosses in the fabled smoke filled rooms. Give the people a voice by holding primary elections or caucuses. These did not remove party hacks and insider dealing, but it severely hobbled them. The Democratic Party took this to heart half a century later, responding to criticism by minority groups (women, people of color) by going to proportional winnings instead of winner take all. That means those coming in second or third get a proportion of delegates not none.

That’s why it took until June to find a candidate. If the Democratic Party had a winner take all system like the Republicans, Senator Clinton would be the nominee. That the very system designed to empower less-represented people undid a candidate from a less-represented group is part of why she did not win. And again, it is history that reveals why.

I contend that the unspoken issue was dynasty. Senator Clinton got to be Senator Clinton by virtue of being connected to president Clinton. America has had many political families: Kennedys of course with a president and two senators, but also Harrisons (grandfather and grandson elected presidents), Adamses (father and son presidents), and Bushes. But never has it had two families spanning so many years so long (Bush, Clinton Bush, 1989-2009).

The prospect of four to eight more years of Clintons I think felt uneasy to some people. To me this was explicit but I think for most it was inchoate and unexpressed. It came out in sexism, and sexism was very much in the room, as it were. And the tug of war between racism and sexism will wait for my next post, but my point now is that there is something fundamentally wrong with the assumption that, in a democracy, there are somehow only two families that have enough heft and power to make it to the Oval Office in 20-28 years.

That irony, even contradiction, is the unacknowledged factor in why the less experienced leader edged past the more sensible choice in the long run. Like I said, racism and sexism were also a part of it, but as everyone has said that, this other fact is what need to be recognized first.

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