When wise pundits in 1987 asked potential candidate Pat Schroeder whether the Democratic Party should let a woman run again for Vice-President or President since the 1984 Mondale-Ferraro ticket had performed so poorly she said, ''The ticket was already down 19 points when she was put on it,'' adding ''perhaps they should not have put a man on the ticket; it was he who lost.''
I interviewed Elizabeth Edwards last week, and we touched on the effect of gender politics on this election, because 28 years later, we're still second guessing Hillary's presumed demise and wondering if it was because she was a woman. I asked Elizabeth, what do you think of the whole "bitch is the new black" approach- is that an effective strategy?
"No...I am concerned with the way in which the percentage of women voting for Hillary, the percentage of African Americans voting for Obama, will change. I'm afraid -- as many Democrats are -- of disaffection in these groups when their candidate is no longer in the race. Because the appeal has been made -- not so much by the candidates-- but certainly by surrogates and others -- this pitch has been made that this is important, for your gender, for your race. In a way it is important for them. But I'm concerned about the disaffection when the candidate is no longer in the race. That's the real argument for the forced marriage between them, is the possibility of disaffection."
I'd love an Obama-Clinton ticket. Gender is a hugely important consideration for me when considering who to vote for. But I completely disagree with Elizabeth on this point. If Hillary doesn't win the nomination women voters won't feel disaffected because the woman is out of the race. Do you really think those who say they won't vote for Obama if Clinton's out will show up on Election Day and pull the lever for McCain?? I feel Clinton's candidacy has opened the door for other women candidates, maybe even for Obama's (hat-tip to Donna Good).
I do feel disaffected by Hillary's campaign management, however, and I have changed my thinking on supporting Clinton. I feel disaffected that she ran a lousy campaign, she let Mark Penn make an ass of himself, she pursued a grassroots strategy stuck in 2000, and while proved she was tough, she failed to read her audience. I've no doubt sexism played a role. Do I want another woman presidential candidate in 2012? Absolutely! I want thousands of women candidates. I don't want Hillary anymore.
If feminists want Clinton to be seen as anything other than a token we need to recognize Clinton's merits, analyze her campaign's faults, and swiftly move on, as if a woman losing were the most normal thing in the world. Men lose all the time. Dwelling doth a token make, and then we'll be back in 1984, all over again.