Post-primary statistics say 60% of women voters supported Hillary Clinton over her male opponent, Barack Obama. And no one seems to be disputing that feminism was very much at the heart of it. Stats also say a similar percentage of seniors (defined as 65 and older) backed Hillary.
So this morning I found myself wondering not “why did all those women support Hillary,” but rather, “why didn’t I?” I’m a 65-year-old white woman. I’ve supported women’s lib since the ’60s, in spirit if not in deed. Why didn’t I catch the feminist fever that seemed to grip Hillary’s camp? I’m only five years older than Hillary; why didn’t I feel some compulsion to support her in her historic bid for the presidency?
Something about me must have canceled out whatever I had in common with Hillary and all those other women. Maybe I’m on some cusp between the older women who were so suppressed in their lifetimes that they relished a chance to speak out and those young enough to believe “women can do anything so let’s elect a woman president.”
Politically, Hillary is described as being a centrist, and that puts her close to where I tend to be. I’m a moderate, independent voter now, but for most of my life I was a registered Republican. (My first presidential vote went to Barry Goldwater.) That allegiance gradually fell away as the Moral Majority and the pro-lifers took over the party. I am utterly put off by anyone or any group that tries to push their religious views on others, and their stance on abortion was pretty much the last straw (my dad was an ob-gyn who championed Planned Parenthood). The party of less government was getting way too intrusive.
By the time I moved to upstate New York in 1999, I’d decided to register as a Democrat. The following year I actually voted for Hillary in her successful bid to become New York’s junior senior. She made a good senator, too. But by 2006 I was so fed up with George Bush and the gridlock in Congress that I threw up my hands and registered Unaffiliated.
As for the sexism, I saw my share of it in the workplace. But maybe I was insulated from the worst of it because I came from a privileged family and had a college education. I grew up believing I could be and do anything I wanted. And for the most part, I did. It’s tough for me to imagine voting for Hillary just because she’s a woman.
Mention racism, and I can believe some people support Hillary just because she’s white. I grew up in a white bread, silver spoon, segregated world with a “colored” maid. My public schools were all white; blacks lived, literally, on the other side of the tracks in “colored town.” That’s just the way it was. But I was taught to treat everyone with respect, period. So voting for Hillary just because she’s white, or not black, doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It’s not about race.
Issues? The two candidates are virtually the same on issues, with two notable exceptions. First, I don’t see mandating that everyone buy health insurance, as Hillary proposes. Nor was I impressed with her earlier effort at universal health care when she was the First Lady. Health care has become a much bigger problem since then, but I’m not yet convinced her solution is the way to proceed. Obama’s plan looks slightly more flexible.
The second issue on which they differ is the war in Iraq. Hillary is more hawkish, voted to approve the invasion, and has talked about “obliterating” Iran. Obama said he would not have voted for the war had he been a Senator at the time, and he has even suggested talking to other leaders before bombing them. What a radical concept.
I watched with interest as all the candidates jumped into the race last year. I was an independent now, after all. I could support either side. No party loyalties. Okay gang, show me what you’ve got. Open mind here; who wants my vote?
That stance lasted until January, when Obama won Iowa. I was so wound up by then, so into the primaries, that when he beat Hillary and gave that great speech, I was actually cheering. From then on, try as I might, I couldn’t stay on the fence. I was too excited. His campaign was so well organized; he actually beat a Clinton! Any politician who could beat a Clinton at anything was a force to be reckoned with.
Bottom line, Obama looked like a winner, and I bought into his Hope and Change thing. I’ve seen so many years of ugly, greedy partisan politics, I’ve become so cynical about politicians and politics, I’ve been so angry at George Bush and virtually everything he’s done, I just couldn’t not support Obama.
Finally, maybe, here is someone different, someone who really might change things, someone who speaks of and believes in lofty ideals and goals. Here is an idealist like me. He may crash and burn, but I can’t pass up this chance, maybe the last chance I’ll get, to vote for what I’ve always thought America should be. There will be other women candidates, there will be other white candidates, there will be other centrist and senior candidates. But I don’t expect to see another Obama, ever.
Note: I was a lot less objective and a lot more personal when I wrote about Hillary last November.
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