Wag The Blog: What You Had to Say
For the second straight week, we've had more than 100 comments in just a few hours of our Wag the Blog question on whether Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.) gender or Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) race represents an impediment to their path to the White House in 2008?
We appreciate your participation. Your thoughtful comments, analysis, and insights make The Fix a vibrant conversation hub. The following just a small sample of reader response to today's question. The discussion and debate is ongoing.
Both gender and race have been not only an obstacle, but an unmovable barrier in this country until relatively recently. In spite of many glaring exceptions around the country, I believe that we have evolved beyond that. Given the right woman, or the right African-American candidate, either can be elected president. I have also admired HRC, but do not believe that she is the right woman, simply because there is no human way to get beyond the extreme, unreasonable tho it be, hatred of her by a huge segment of the population that would leave us a highly polarized nation even if she were to be elected. We need a unifying president at this point, in reality, not in words! I do believe that Obama can be elected , and can unify this country in ways that no president ever has in the past. He has my complete support.
Posted by: Wayne P
I would say both can be an impediment and a strength
For women, there is an almost impossible balance between "too weak" and "she is a b*tch". I think this is the primary reason the Mrs. Clinton is so polarizing and in a primary that will emphasize strength and electability, the conundrum will be difficult for HRC.
For race, there is this image burned into the American psyche of the militant African American embodied in Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, and in some respects Jesse Jackson. America still has serious race issues, but most Amenricans just want to ignore it and move on. Mr. Obama provides a way for Americans to do that without the "race/slavery issue" that many white Americans would rather avoid confronting. Obama embodies the success of the civil rights movement with none of its baggage, a net plus and not placing any obstacle in his primary bid.
Posted by: JOToole
Unfortunately both are impediments. But to answer the question, being black is more of an impediment at this point. We'll have a female President before we have a black or hispanic one, if for no other reason than because women make up roughly 50% of the population while blacks and hispanics are a fraction of that.
Put another way, HRC and Obama start with the same 40/40 split of the populace, and have to win over 51% of the people who don't go in with an overwhelming bias to one party or the other. If HRC was a generic woman, it would be hands down easier for her to convince the general electorate to support her.
The fact is that black candidates have only won 5 statewide top of the ticket elections in US History. We just recently watched Harold Ford, who was as strong a candidate as you'll find, lose to an underwhelming opponent in TN in a Senate race that the margin was almost certainly all about race.
On the flipside, virtually every state in the Union has either had a female governor or at the very least a strong female contender for Governor. People will elect a qualified woman to the top slot in the state, and also to the US Senate. History would indicate that they will not do the same with blacks. Of the five blacks elected statewide, two were from Illinois, two from Mass, and one from Virginia. The two elections in IL were with only nominal opposition, the one in Virginia was a fluke, in that the Republican was so thoroughly despised that VA elected a black man to Governor as much as a rebuke to his opponent as an affirmative election of Gov. Wilder, as exemplified by Wilder's inability to win any further elective office.
I wish it weren't so, but Obama would be on the defensive just to keep the blue states blue. Heck, Tom Bradley, as admirable a candidate as you'll find, couldn't beat Geo. Dukmajian in California, and if you can't carry Cali, as a Dem, you cannot win the election.
Posted by: steve
I believe that, in order for somebody to become a viable candidate in the first place, race is a bigger issue than gender. The combination of a poor education system with the high number of entrenched (white) political elites means that the pool of well-positioned minority candidates is far smaller than the pool of well-positioned white candidates. True, there are many factors working against women as well, but a glance at the number of women who run for office (and particularly female governors) versus the number of black men shows that the bias against minority males is stronger than against white females.
When it comes to actual electability, however - for example, now that we have a viable black male and white female candidate for president - I believe the reverse is true. There is a crude paradox that keeps women from being as electable of men, regardless of ethnicity. Women are, as is frequently mentioned, stereotyped as weak and emotional; in order to overcome this stereotype, many female candidates rise to the top because they are reputed to be strong and dispassionate. Think Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel (Nancy Pelosi is a counterexample, but note that she has never won a national election, or indeed a statewide election). This type of personality is necessary for viability, and very damaging for actual electability - remember, the biggest criticism of HRC is that she doesn't seem "charismatic" or "warm." I believe that, because of cultural biases, HRC's biggest weaknesses are also some of the primary reasons she has risen to the position she is at currently. On the other hand, for black males, although there are cultural biases, they do not force candidates to assume very specific attitudes. Further, in terms of actual electability, the number of white voters who would feel great about getting to vote for a black candidate is far more significant than the number who would vote against a black candidate because of race (most of whom probably wouldn't vote for a Democrat anyway).
Of course, these are stereotypes. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama (the people, not the stereotypes) are far more than their gender and ethnicity; they are two brilliant, courageous politicians, and I believe either of them is electable and would make a great president.
Posted by: Jesse
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