Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Clinton vs. Obama: Can't we all just get along?

The disconnect between the movements for suffrage between African-Americans and women in this country is still very apparent in the 2008 presidential election. Will we have our first black president or will the first female occupy the Oval Office? Does it matter? Does it lessen the accomplishment of one candidate if the other wins?

Sunday's New York Times ran a piece by Mark Leibovich about the issue of a possible breakthrough election as being "zero-sum". Leibovich harkens back to the falling out between abolitionists like Frederick Douglass with women's suffragists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Although both movements have been allies or at least held similar beliefs, there has always been something between the two groups. Obama and Clinton want the same thing (the presidency) just as Douglass and Stanton both wanted suffrage. And in both cases, the fight to be first has gone negative.

So who wins if Barack is our first African-American president? What about if Hillary uses the momentum gained in New Hampshire to carry her to the White House? If a woman gets there first does black America lose? Are women relegated to a lifetime of pregnancy and a permanent place in the kitchen if a black man wins out?

This is the never-ending problem of the left. We constantly pick at each other for not being progressive enough or for ignoring the needs of other marginalized groups when we champion the achievements of another. This is why we split our vote...or don't vote at all. The left does more to derail its own movements than the right ever could. It has to stop.

If Hillary Clinton wins the election, it will be a major breakthrough for all of us. The same goes for an Obama victory. Either breakthrough means that for the first time a member of a marginalized group (i.e. someone who's not a rich, old white guy) will hold the highest office in this country. This means that we all win. It's long overdue, but this could be the year there is a significant change in the direction of our government and who it represents.

It's about time that the left recognize that the need for change far outweighs the pettiness of a political campaign. African-Americans don't lose if Hillary wins or the vice-versa if Barack pulls it out. Either way, it should be one of the most important moments in US history.

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