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ISSUE 121 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/22/2008

Hillary vulnerable to discimination

By Kirstin Fawcett
Copy Editor

Friday, February 22, 2008

I was asked by the Manitou Messenger to write an editorial about the concepts of gender and race. Not just gender and race, mind you, although those subjects alone are enough to be considered controversial topics of discussion in today's increasingly politically correct climate.

No, I am clacking away on a keyboard, staring at a blank computer screen and gritting my teeth because I have been told to talk about how the aforementioned touchy topics pertain to the cutthroat race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Both are progressive liberals. Both are underrepresented minority figures in prominent public positions. Both dangle promises of a cloudless future in front of a war-tax-paying, Bush-jaded, post-911 American public. Is it a surprise then that liberals, moderates and even conservatives across the country are biting?

The problem is, though, that one of the fishermen (or, in this case, fisherwoman) is more castigated for her casting methods than her companion. Why is one fisher praised and the other vilified when discussing the Iraq war, America's health care system and public education are brandished on both of their hooks? Could it be that in the stormy waters of politics, criticism is considered bias in disguise?

Fishing metaphors aside, I'll state my topic quite bluntly: Are some party members wary of criticizing Barack's actions and public demeanor because they fear racist allegations? Is Hillary the subject of public disfavor because she is a woman, a figure just as susceptible to admittedly subtler, yet equally bigoted criticism?

First of all, I'll openly state my belief that a large percentage of the population's revulsion towards Hillary is due to the way she straddles gender roles. When Hillary fearlessly debates her opponents into a cramped corner, she is abhorred for being too aggressive and masculine. When she cries at primaries, fellow candidates, such as John Edwards, carp on her for being "weak," or womanly. Hillary is a woman with intelligence, strength and resolve that trumps most members of both sexes. Why is she continually compartmentalized as "manly" or "womanly" when her inherent abilities obviously transcend gender?

I will not, however, state that Barack Obama's race makes him impervious to negative judgment. Nor do I see Hillary's gender as the sole source of her victimization. Deeming that either's popularity, or lack thereof, is solely determined by race or gender would be equally narrow-minded as voting based on the same reasons.

Additionally, have people already forgotten about Jesse Jackson, the presidential hopeful whose extramarital affair and subsequent love child was revealed in 2001? Did political correctness hinder anyone from condemning the former Baptist minister's hypocrisy? Condoleeza Rice is yet another example of a public minority figure who is not safeguarded by her minority status. Is Rice's unpopular foreign policy any less criticized because she's African American and female?

Race and gender are easy, almost simplistic reasons for judging a candidate's popularity. The true underlining reasons why a presidential candidate either possesses or lacks mass appeal are always more complicated than they appear.

I am not claiming that gender or racial discrimination no longer exists in America. Surely some Americans are basing their ballots on issues such as black vs. white, male vs. female, rather than on the very campaign promises that will eventually shape America's future. Nevertheless, it is my view that Barack Obama is not impervious to censure and disapproval; it is the man's message that cannot be touched.

Personally, I am an avowed Hillary Clinton fan. Maybe I admire Hillary because I'm also an avowed cynic. I want Clinton to be America's next president because I see her pragmatic vision of reform as realistic. I have complete confidence that Hillary's savvy political skepticism will subtly yet surely improve my country's welfare.

Yet cynicism is not what many Americans want nor need. They covet hope, which Barack "Yes We Can!" Obama oozes in abundance. Optimism, when juxtaposed with cynicism, is hard to criticize. Barack, who is synonymous with optimism, is equally hard to dislike.

Democrats do not refrain from criticizing Barack Obama because he's African American. They choke back negativity because they want to believe in his promised rosy future. The measures that Obama uses to usher in his golden age are a matter some overlook. They're less concerned with Barack's means than his seemingly fortuitous ends.

America is polarized by cynicism and optimism, not race and gender. I wish I were on optimism's side. I wish I could pin a Barack Obama button, Ole Style, on a Northface fleece jacket. But I'm a realist, which means I'm voting for Hillary. I'm a realist, which means I'm choosing the candidate with more political experience. I'm a realist, which means that due to current polls, I foresee Barack Obama winning 2008's presidential election.

However, I'll admit that somewhere down in the depths of my body, I harbor a slight smidgen of uncharacteristic optimism. Why is that? Well, I guess I refuse to stop believing that Hillary has a chance.

Copy Editor Kirstin Fawcett '09 is from Bowie, Md. She majors in English with a concentration in Middle Eastern studies.

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