How desperate have Hillary Clinton's backers become? One of the more prominent supporters, Gloria Steinem, takes to the pages of the New York Times to complain about the ascendancy of Barack Obama because black men have had an easier time than American women. In doing so, she inadvertently makes the Republican case against the entire slate of choices on the Democratic side:
THE woman in question became a lawyer after some years as a community organizer, married a corporate lawyer and is the mother of two little girls, ages 9 and 6. Herself the daughter of a white American mother and a black African father — in this race-conscious country, she is considered black — she served as a state legislator for eight years, and became an inspirational voice for national unity.
Be honest: Do you think this is the biography of someone who could be elected to the United States Senate? After less than one term there, do you believe she could be a viable candidate to head the most powerful nation on earth?
If you answered no to either question, you’re not alone. Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House. This country is way down the list of countries electing women and, according to one study, it polarizes gender roles more than the average democracy.
Be honest with yourself. Does anyone here think that gender is the disqualifying agent in this scenario, or motherhood? Or wouldn't most voters be suspicious of handing the reins of power over to someone who had ten years or less in any elective public office? Steinem makes the argument that Republicans could make against any of the top three candidates in the Democratic race, and does so rather effectively.
Instead, she goes on a strange rant about how a female Barack would never have had a chance n this race, and how women are "never front-runners". Oddly, though, Hillary spent most of 2007 as the front-runner, both in terms of polling and in terms of fundraising. She raised more than Obama did, and far more than Edwards, and vastly more than any of the Republican males. She only stopped being a front-runner when she made a serious of unforced errors that caused everyone to question her ability as a candidate and a politician, including making Obama's kindergarten essays a point of criticism.
What Steinem demands is that voters stop considering Hillary as Hillary, and instead think of her as Generic Woman. Steinem doesn't want equality of opportunity; she wants grievances addressed. And she makes it clear that Women come before Black Men on the grievance agenda, writing "Black men were given the vote a half-century before women of any race were allowed to mark a ballot, and generally have ascended to positions of power, from the military to the boardroom, before any women[.]"
It's time for Generic Woman, not Black Man, on Steinem's dance card. Sorry, Barack. You're not scheduled to be Generic Black Man until 2016.
Hillary had a lot of advantages coming into this race, something Steinem fails to mention. Besides the identity politics angle Steinem pursued, she had a lot of goodwill left over in the party from her husband's administration, a big political machine waiting for her, and money raining all over her for a year. At some point, however, Hillary had to show that she was the best candidate for the job -- and she's been failing miserably at that task.
Steinem shows everything that's wrong with identity politics. It's crass, it's irrational, it assumes that people should get "turns", and in the end it's anti-democratic. Obama hasn't played that game like Hillary has -- and that may be why Obama's beating Hillary like a bongo drum in Iowa and New Hampshire.
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan: "Clinton is comfortable aroound this kind of victimology. Obama transcends it." Precisely. And Ann Althouse: "Ahem... Gloria? Can you say anything about the feminist issues entailed in a woman running for the presidency on her husband's accomplishments? If not, you're speaking as a Clinton partisan and not as someone who wants to seriously engage with feminism."
UPDATE II: I'm glad Baldilocks said it and not me.