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Racism vs. Sexism

The fascinating political article today is Shankar Vedantam's Department of Human Behavior column, in which he notes that the "bitter Democratic presidential primary battle has caused many supporters of Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton to feel that the campaign has pitted race against gender."

It's not the first time in American history. Vedantam writes that "In order to gain passage of the 19th Amendment, which in 1920 gave women the right to vote, leading feminists jettisoned issues important to African Americans to win support from women and politicians who would have nothing to do with people of color." And although the amendment passed, the argument is made that "abandoning solidarity with people of color weakened the women's movement."

This report comes the day after Clinton won the Puerto Rico primary yesterday but is regarded as certain to lose the Democratic nomination to Obama, who is biracial.

Some of our readers who comment are analytical, others are angry -- but not necessarily for the same reasons. There is the usual cheerleading for one candidate or the other, but also some intelligent commentary on this fascinating issue.

We'll start with scheduler, who wrote, "Thank you Shankar Vedantam...You are telling history as it needs to be told... As far as women go, Affirmative Action has created a ceiling for blacks, who are laid-off, arrested, accused at higher rates than whites, be they male or female..."

jey2 suggested hopefully that "Most voters think of these two candidates as two extraordinarily gifted people. That is why the race is so close...Whoever becomes the nominee should plead with the other person to become his or her Vice Presidential candidate. Imagine what the history books can say a hundred years from now!"

Simon23p offered that "The Woman's Suffrage also played to anti-immigrant sentiment, by asking why educated native-born women couldn't vote, while illiterate Irishmen and Italians could."

PMclaritygraph said, "This is what happens when a sexist and racist society has made it almost impossible for people of color and women to be elected, honored, paid, heared... We must support each other, and build a new society... There is room for all of us."

AsperGirl wrote, "I seriously question whether the Democratic Party is a great place for women anymore. My old assumptions about its priorities are clearly no longer really valid... I just don't see the Democratic Party as a woman's issue party anymore. Especially since the Republican men tend to be so much more respectful and treat their women with more class and decency than the behavior that has been leveled at Clinton..."

But tiredofstupidity said, "Republican men treat THEIR women... you mean like property? They used women for political gain period... We are still a society of racists and male chauvenists..."

dj333 said, "...the one think this piece fails to point out is that most of the people who have said they could never vote for a black man in November and the ones who have said they couldn't vote for a woman *are the same people*!...As a result, honest people on both sides end up looking a lot worse than they should."

TX4Obama wrote, "Hillary's Nixonian tactics won't work. Once upon a time in American, a politician could get away with base racial appeal. Thank God we live in better times. Obama has his shortcomings..who'd have thought that the Obama's problems would be about the Church he attends? Democrats who like to pay a lot for gas and keep the war going can vote for McCain."

celested9 said, "This is a straw man argument. We supporters of Hillary are not just upset because the media at large has favored Obama. What angers us is the obvious superiority of Hillary by almost every metric vs. Obama's lack of same... It is WE will be damned if an unqualified Sambo gets in before me. Understand now?"

RMGopal wrote, "...Along with escalations of the current wars, new and improved wars elsewhere, more and permanent tax cuts for the super rich, oil lobbyists authoring energy legislation and a couple more Scalia clones on the Supreme Court...If you prefer these assured outcomes to either an Obama presidency or a Clinton presidency, I very much doubt you would have voted for any Democrat in the first place."

jhbyer said, "...If Hillary wins on her negative campaigning it will be in part, because the Obama campaign refused to get down and dirty with her. Fortunately it appears sometimes good guys do win."

But Shannon6 wrote, "... If the nomination is handed to Obama by the Democratic Rules Committee's blatant hijacking of votes away from Hillary, mixed with unchallenged misogyny, it will be seen as a perverse travesty of affirmative action. Nobama, Not THIS Way."

marian60 said, "An excellent, thought-provoking article. The historic fight over a piece of the pie. No, make the pie bigger! [Kansas Gov.] Kathleen Sebelius for veep..."

mamacheryl wrote, "I have a simple question. Why is it ok for women to vote for Senator Clinton because she is a woman, but it is not ok for blacks to vote for Senator Obama because he is black?... If it can't be Barack Obama, I will wholeheartedly support Hillary Clinton. Can you Clinton supporters say the same?"

dunnhaupt said, "By deliberately pitting a black male against a white female the Democrats deliberately pitted race against gender...They invited the worst elements of racist, feministic and mysogynistic extremists to emerge. But apparently they have no idea how to get the genie back into the bottle..."

We'll close with jmbarrie, who wrote, "I am astonished that if you vote Sen. Obama because of his gender you are sexist (and with very good reason!!!), but voting Sen. Clinton because of her gender (as several people stated) is perfectly legitime and almost a reason of pride. Both cases are reason of shame!"

All comments on the Vedantam article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  June 2, 2008; 9:20 AM ET
Categories:  Clinton , Obama , Presidential Politics  
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Next: Obama's Win: Small States, Big Media

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