If Canadians had anything to say about it, a certain rising Democratic star would be sworn in today as the new president of the United States. A Canadian Press/Harris-Decima poll released yesterday shows a crushing defeat of Republican candidate John McCain by Democrat Barack Obama âe" 56 per cent to 15 per cent âe" by supposed Canadian voters.
Hold onto your hypothetical voter registration cards, Canada, we may just get to see that showdown in action. A total of 103 pledged delegates were at stake in Tuesdayâe(TM)s Kentucky and Oregon primaries. Under Democratic party rules, a total of 3,253 pledged delegates means Obama needs 1,627 to claim a majority. On Tuesday, he reached that magic number.
By the only measure that officially counts, Obama has secured the nomination.
So why is Hillary Clinton still running?
Some recent responses to this question âe" though they smack of anti-woman sentiment akin to the anti-Black undercurrents that have had me enraged âe" couldnâe(TM)t be more on point if the head was this continent and the hammer fell from space. In the New York Daily News on May 8, columnist Mike Lupica blasted Clinton for a vanity campaign run amuck. And renowned Clinton doubter Maureen Dowd ratcheted up the sarcasm this week with a scathing satire. You canâe(TM)t go two clicks of the mouse through wired news without landing on more of the same eulogizing of Clinton.
With the odds so soundly stacked against her and the temperature rising among voters antsy to turn the campaign squarely against John McCain, why shouldnâe(TM)t we wonder: what is Hillary fighting for?
An outright win? Empirically impossible now. The geeky number crunchers are saying it ainâe(TM)t so, that even the strongest of a Clinton showing in the next primaries wonâe(TM)t be enough to tip the scale.
Most pundits suggest that even if Clinton manages to lure a few more superdelegates her way, Obama still holds a comfy lead. And Clintonâe(TM)s contention that party formulas be amended to include lost Florida and Michigan results (deemed illegal because those Democratic wings contravened party scheduling rules) didnâe(TM)t fly: how could the Democratic National Committee alter protocols at this 11th hour, especially in a way that would penalize Obama for abiding by party rules? So sheâe(TM)s updated her position, calling now for a do-over, banking that voters in those states would deliver her the same favourable results a second time.
Dignity? The longer Hillary stays in this race, the more imperiled hers is. Especially after Obamaâe(TM)s surpassing of 1627 on Tuesday. Everyone loves a fighter, but human nature requires us to cringe when that fighter stays past the moment when a win is viable.
For the sake of democracy, of process? The U.S. electoral system is legendarily skewed towards the dominant culture, the privileged. But Clintonâe(TM)s ongoing candidacy does not a crusade for electoral reform make. The longer we consider her unending run a testament to some romantic notion of democracy, the more we risk gift-wrapping a victory to the Republicans at the worst possible moment in global political history.
If progressives in America were really committed to democracy, Dennis Kucinich would have been a viable contender, Ralph Naderâe(TM)s candidacy would be celebrated instead of vilified, Clintonâe(TM)s personal injection of $11 million plus into her campaign would be condemned instead of excused. Even better, weâe(TM)d be looking at a plural party system down there with proportional representation thrown in for good measure. How quickly and easily we stomach our own hypocrisy.
Besides, democracy has already spoken. The numbers tell the story of a trialed-by-fire candidate named Obama who, on Tuesday, passed the post. What more could we possibly expect of him before green-lighting him into a general campaign? Heâe(TM)s weathered the âeoeupstartâe label. Heâe(TM)s weathered realtor-gate and Muslim-gate and every feigned gate erected for his passage. The most ominous obstacle weathered? A certain passionate and provocative preacher named Reverend Wright âe" dubious ally turned dubiously media-hungry.
But the anti-Obama backlash has inflicted some lasting damage. The audacity of his candidacy has made some go bonkers while others regard his popularity with suspicion, even disdain.
I used to believe it was the Hillary camp pulling those levers; that all those people whoâe(TM)d rather eat glass than see her not get her turn cranked up the heat on the other guy. I used to think thereâe(TM)s no length they wouldnâe(TM)t go to draw attention away from him and make people feel stupid for having affixed any on him in the first place.
I now understand the phenomenon as something more sinister. There is bona fide racism dancing in dangerous step with genuine sexism in this race. We are dazzled by the high voter turnout, the high-minded debate, the momentum, the history-making of it all. Yet this hot contest has re-exposed some painful histories, too: that the clearest path to electoral victory is still reserved for the distinguished white man; that s/he who dares challenge that status quo risks picking open the soft scabs of a far-from-equal society.
So what are Democratic Party members to do? They could go with the numeric victor and view the election as an opportunity to extract racist undercurrents and proclaim that the time for a Black leader has come. Or, go with the unpredictably safer candidate âe" one who appeals to those voters who would favour her not because she is a woman, but because of what she isnâe(TM)t.
Sexism abounds in this race. Check. So why, then, wonâe(TM)t Clinton acknowledge the racism it has revealed, too? While her victories in West Virginia and Kentucky have further confirmed the reticence of predominantly white, working class communities to elect a person of colour, Clinton repeatedly denies that there could be any racism in action. This, even in the face of public comments from her supporters who cite Obamaâe(TM)s race and perceived religion ("Muslim") as reasons they could never vote for him.
I thought feminism was about challenging oppression in all its forms. Clintonâe(TM)s convenient oversight of the racism that also abounds in this race has further damaged her credibility and those of women who rightly bemoan the misogyny provoked by her campaign.
Both Clinton and Obama run beneath the burden of the dreams of deeply disenfranchised demographics âe" but the likely Democratic candidate is thankfully the one seemingly more committed to acknowledging and correcting those inequalities than exploiting them.
The contest between Obama and Clinton exposes the racial, gender, and class divides that continue to cripple America. Maybe we in Canada should be grateful for a party system that hides the toxins that keep us divided, too. Maybe.
Thank you for reading this story…
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