Lately I am asked by lots of friends, including my new colleagues at the HuffPost -- who I am so privileged to work with -- just what it is about Hillary that makes me stick with her now, knowing that her chances to gain the nomination are slim to nonexistent.
I admire Senator Obama and the campaign he has run and I know I will be an enthusiastic pundit for him after June 3rd if the Clinton campaign cannot change the equation by then. The personal answer for me is that I am loyal. And it is not a quality I have ever needed to apologize for before. But I want to focus on trying to translate for my friends, just what it is about this campaign of Hillary Clinton's that keeps the enthusiasm of her supporters, particularly the women supporters who are following the campaign around the country, going and going even as the potential for victory is so dim.
There are all of the political reasons that keep her campaign going like the popular vote, the polling in swing states, finishing out the primary states before the superdelegates make their judgments, etc. But that doesn't explain the passion.
It endures out of, not just the determination of Hillary Clinton to be heard, but of her supporters desire to send a message to this country. A message that I am still not sure has been heard. For all of its historic firsts, this primary race has surprisingly not, until recently, generated a discussion of gender in the same way that it has triggered an education on race.
I consider myself one of the most race conscious, race sensitive people I know. My own children are bi-racial (like Obama -- white birthmother, black birthfather). And yet I learned something so important about race and black consciousness during this campaign. I learned that it doesn't matter if Bill Clinton (for instance) is a racist or not. The intentions of a person speaking are less relevant in the moment than the impact of the words being spoken. So whatever has been said about African-Americans by white people in this campaign has been heard by many African-Americans as one more layer of seemingly innocent comments built upon a lifetime of insensitivity and slights.
Yet, for the past few weeks, when Hillary's supporters suggest that similar comments made about gender have the same hurtful impact, Obama supporters guffaw and most of the media ridicules the notion and ridicules the Senator herself as though she is suggesting that she is losing because of her gender -- which incidentally I have never heard her say.
I don't really buy into this notion of the campaign is faltering because Hillary is a victim of sexism. I may part company with some of the Hillary sisterhood on this point. There has been lots of sexism in this race, but this campaign is losing because of choices and strategies of it's own making. Articles and books will be written after the fact about the lost opportunities, the mixed messages, the insular in-fighting, the financial recklessness and the lack of focus on delegates. She has never caught up in the delegate hunt from those early mistakes.
But that does not mean that the zeitgeist of sexism and the numerous comments and visuals that women have seen during the course of this campaign have not had the same impact on the woman who have witnessed or heard it in the exact same way that African Americans have heard comments about race.
And until that is really acknowledged by enough people, perhaps including Barack Obama, these women will not be sated. And in the meantime, Senator Clinton doesn't give up.
So why does this campaign endure? The obvious first answer is the Senator herself. Her campaign has fired on all cylinders since March with a field operation that wins states and a message that stays consistent.
Hillary has found her voice and she is using it to speak to a group of people often ignored in politics. Women who have felt powerless to change or even complain about their own lives because they are just too damn busy keeping it together for everyone around them. And they certainly haven't had time for politics.
From the waitress in the diner to the school teacher to the executive on wall street, women feel the daily slights that are often invisible to others. Yes, many of her supporters need real and immediate help from the government, but so many more are just grateful to be noticed.
Sure there are lots of women in this country who don't feel this way. And for all of you who are going to write comments saying as much you don't have to. I am happy for you. Genuinely.
But Hillary's campaign is still going for every woman who has spoken up in a meeting and was greeted with silence only to have a man say the same thing and be praised. It endures for the mothers who are taking care of their children and their parents and their home and has no time to take care of herself. It endures for women who are so scared to see her fail because of what it may say about their chances in life. And yes folks, it resonates for all the women who have seen the younger guy come along and get the promotion even though she has worked in the company loyally for years.
Too many supporters of Senator Obama get mad at this. It isn't his fault they say. It isn't easy for a black man they say. Take a white woman of privilege and pit her against a black man who started with nothing in life and tell me who has the worse odds they say. But it isn't about Obama, I say. I am not pitting them against each other. In fact last month I wrote to debunk the theory that Obama has had a leg up on this campaign as a black man. The sexist and gender noise has largely been perpetrated by others, not by Obama or his campaign.
It really isn't his fault.....but in a few days it will likely be his responsibility. Until then, Senator Clinton and her supporters carry on.
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