Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Am I Doing the Right Thing?

I've been giving this a lot of thought over the last few days.

In January 2007, when Hillary announced her candidacy, I ran to her website and signed up. That was the first thing I did. The second was a pact I made with myself. No matter what happened, I would support the nominee. I even put it in writing. I am an emotional person and after so many elections of holding my nose (a progressive in West Virginia, enough said), I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to think rationally should my candidate be defeated.

But I’m beginning to question myself. It really began last Sunday when I was at dinner with friends. One of them, a neutral independent and a relative of a Democratic senator, asked me about my feelings on the Hillary-Obama unity rally. What ensued was an intense argument over party unity complete with fist pounding and raised voices. The sight of Hillary Clinton on stage with Barack Obama saying "change we can believe in" to the tune of "Obama" chants was more than I could handle. When asked why the Clinton people couldn't get on board fast enough, I responded, "Why the $*%& should we?"

Clearly, I was not, well, am not, "over it" yet.

What's made supporting Obama a little easier has been the hostility I received from some of the PUMA people. Some of them remain my friends, yet I've been really hurt by how quickly some of the others have really turned on my co-bloggers and I at Clintonistas for Obama. So after the primaries, when some of the PUMA people were calling me a traitor, supporting Obama actually became easier.

But things have begun to change. With Obama seemingly lurching toward the city with no real efforts in reaching out to the Clinton Democrats and with some of the Obama people telling me to get over it when I criticize the press, I feel as if I have no place to go. I have ended up in a sort of Clintonista purgatory, unable to give my enthusiasm to the nominee, yet unable to fall behind the PUMA movement.

Today, I watched Nanking for the first time. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. It's movie about the Japanese invasion and occupation of Nanjing, China from the perspective of those that survived it, the westerners, the Chinese, and even some Japanese soldiers. It's an emotional film and I stopped it more than once to cry. Perhaps it hit me harder because I have lived in China for five years now and I've been to Nanjing twice myself.

But this poem by German pastor Martin Niemoller has been jumping around my head since I watched the movie.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
If I believe that this process was rife with sexism--and I do--and if the nominee that benefited from that sexism won't stand up for it, why should I vote for him? What if Hillary were gay? Instead of the "cackle," what if the commentators and the bloggers had made fun of her "gay accent"? Would Maureen Dowd's columns had read differently if she had been joking around about Hillary trying to be straight instead of trying to be male?

And how would I have voted at the end of that process? Would I be angry that everybody just told me to "get over it" and line up behind the nominee? Would I be upset if they told me that the homophobia was all in my head? If the DNC waited until my candidate lost to speak out against homophobia, would I be satisfied? And if I looked around for somebody to stand up with me, would I be alone?

Supporting Obama is the pragmatic thing, but is it the right thing? I've been telling myself over and over again that someday my grandchildren would ask me how I voted in this election and that was enough for me to vote for Obama. But I always framed it as, "How did you vote in the election when war and peace was on the line?" But what if they asked me, "When sexism helped bring down the first female candidate, whose side were you on?"

Somebody tell me, because right now I'm wondering.


Citizen said...

Hey psychodrew, I share your unease. Backing one candidate does not necessarily transfer to their replacement, no matter if they are from the same party or not. Look at the differences among positions in the Democratic party, to say nothing of the personality differences. I didn't like the immediate and apparently full embracing of the Obama campaign by Hillary either. Look where it has led so far -- a direct route to the center right. That's not where I wish the Democrats were, and it's not even where Obama supporters wish they were!

But as for it all feeling right, that's something only you every individual can answer. It makes sense from a strategic POV to support Obama, but more and more, the strategy is feeling like a set-up.

Anonymous said...

Supporting the nominee is the pragmatic choice and I can't see myself not voting for the nominee. But the his campaign isn't making it easy.

DCDemocrat said...

During the seven years of George Bush's presidency, I have coped by not listening to him. I find Obama's voice and cadence kind of grates on me, too. He has my vote, because I can't vote for a Republican and failure to vote for Obama is implicitly or explicitly as assent to McCain, but I find myself doing with him the same thing I have done with Bush, shutting him out. I wish I were enthusiastic, but I am a Democrat.

Citizen said...

Now what, after the FISA vote? Hillary did the right thing. Obama *cough*...

Anonymous said...

If there is any comfort I can take away from the FISA vote, it's knowing that the Hillary haters are going ballistic.

I don't know. Voting for Obama would be a lot easier if people were talking about the sexism--and reforming the party. Jokes about Hillary "running in heels" don't help. It seems that everybody is so eager to defeat McCain that a "shut up and get in line" mentality has taken over. It reminds me of the Bush's "you're with us or you're with the terrorists" attitude.

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