The choice for Hillary supporters has never been clearer. Thursday night,
Barack Obama found his inner warrior - and on Friday, John McCain found,
well, just a woman.
As a Hillary supporter, I watched Obama's acceptance speech with hope and
trepidation. I thought I wanted to hear certain things, primarily an overt
commitment to women's issues. And, quite honestly, I was firmly in the "if
McCain picks a woman, it will be hard" camp of reluctant Obama supporters
and imaging myself writing "the Supreme Court, stupid" on my hand when I
went in the voting both to keep me focused. However, when Obama finished his
speech, I realized that what I really needed from Obama as a candidate was
something different from what I thought I wanted.
On Thursday night, I finally saw the part of Obama I had been without
conscious awareness waiting for: I saw the warrior. I saw the loving but
ferocious father committed to protecting the rights of his (and my)
daughters. I saw the man who, as he finally said, "gets it" and understands
that change is a fight, not just an idea. Up until then, Obama had felt to
me like someone coasting in the wake of the efforts of progressive activists
like me and taking the ride for granted. It wasn't that I felt he "owed"
older-generation feminists and other women who supported Hillary anything.
It was that I felt he did not understand that the fight was not over.
Hillary Clinton was my warrior, and, with his lovely words and pleasing
ideals, Obama didn't seem to have it in him to take up the sword that I know
will be necessary.
A truly gifted leader must offer both the chalice and the sword. He or she
must combine the best of feminine compassion and wisdom with the best of
masculine ferocity and judgment. Up until Thursday, Obama had offered up a
great chalice: one full and brimming over with hope and promise and
compelling ideals. This quality attracted many supporters, who during the
testosterone-poisoned years of the Bush Administration had grown thirsty for
something more. But many Democrats needed to see something different to feel
confident voting for him as President.
For the first 10 minutes of so of Obama's speech, I was worried. I thought
to myself, "Oh no, this sounds like the same old Obama." But then, when he
warmed into it and found his inner alpha, Obama revealed to us a different
part of himself. It was not just his words - although those were good too.
It was the way he carried himself and the way he delivered those words.
When Obama emphatically said "ENOUGH!" and began to demand that the
Republicans own their failures, I grew hopeful. When he talked about
watching his mother argue with insurance companies while she was in bed
dying of cancer, I felt his quiet, appropriate and protective rage. When he
looked straight into the camera and committed to fighting for equal pay for
equal work "because I want my daughters to have the exact same opportunities
as your sons," I believed him. And when he called John McCain out to have a
debate about who has "the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next
Commander-in-Chief," I trusted him to be capable of holding his own in such
a debate. Through his demeanor, Barack Obama did what no other person,
including Bill or Hillary Clinton, could do for him: he proved he has what
it takes not just to inspire but to protect and defend all of our lives and
If, however, as a fellow Hillary supporter, you were not ready to back
Obama's candidacy after watching his acceptance speech, then you need only
to consider John McCain's nominee for his running mate to know your choice
is clear. In a revelation carefully timed to draw attention away from
Obama's nomination, the McCain campaign announced on Friday morning that
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is McCain's selection for his nominee for Vice
President. "Palin who?" you might ask. Exactly. I don't want to get into
bashing this poor woman because she will get more than her fair share of
that treatment from others.
But suffice to say, her record is thin, and she's on the extremist end of
the conservative spectrum. She's anti-choice - although she touts as an
accomplishment having made a choice not to terminate her own pregnancy when
she found out that her child had Down's Syndrome. The irony that she was
free to make that decision seems lost on her and her defenders. About all
there is good to say about her that might appeal to Hillary supporters is
that Sarah Palin is, indeed, a woman.
It's an insulting and ugly move by the McCain camp that reveals a lot about
what a potential McCain administration might be like. It reveals that the
Republicans simply do not get that women supported Hillary Clinton, yes,
because she was a woman AND because she was qualified. It reveals that
McCain does not understand that to nominate a woman completely lacking in
qualifications is a form of objectification. Make no mistake about it, the
choice of Palin reveals that McCain and his advisors do NOT care about women
or women's issues but are more than ready to use them, and to use Palin
herself, to meet their own needs. That's an old story, isn't it?
Hillary supporters know that it's time for a new story now, a better one for
all of us. So, to paraphrase Bill Clinton: Thanks, but no thanks, McCain.
We'll be voting for Obama/Biden in November.
Leah McElrath Renna is a professional psychotherapist and a Managing Partner
of the communications-consulting firm, Renna Communications.
Follow Leah McElrath on Twitter: www.twitter.com/leahmcelrath