This has been a grueling primary season and historic in so many ways- not the least of these being the first viable woman and the first African American with an real opportunity to become the presidential nominee of a major political party and potentially President of the United States. It was also a primary season that left people feeling a range of emotions. Should it surprise any of us that two strong candidates who represent history and constituencies long ignored inspired their core base and engendered strong emotions?
Many of us did not think we would ever see the day where we had potentially the first female President or the first African American President. One can either claim that this has been an ironic twist of fate – after years of waiting for either of these historic moments that it was the year to see both of these historic campaigns occur in competition. Or one can see it is an embarrassment of riches that is also an eloquent statement about the inclusiveness of the Democratic Party and the positive movement that our nation has made in dealing with gender and racial inequity.
Former President Bill Clinton waxed prosaic about the irony that he had been waiting his whole life to cast his vote for an African American running for President only to be in a position to find a woman running in the same election- a woman who was also his wife.
I tend to think of this choice we had as an embarrassment of riches, not a Solomon like quandary. Many supporters of Senator Clinton have said they would never vote for Senator Obama- they would vote for Senator McCain or stay home rather than vote for Senator Obama. I also acknowledge that some of Mr. Obama’s had the same level of passion and said similar things.
To those of you who are angry and leaning to voting for McCain or not voting, I plead with you to re-think this decision.
As fellow Democrats there is more than binds us than divides us. While this election is historic and it is easy to describe it in its starkest terms-black, female, age- it is more than that. This election should not be about being an African American’s turn, a woman’s turn or a septuagenarian’s turn for that matter.
Should women be proud of Senator Clinton’s campaign? Absolutely! Should women see Senator Clinton’s campaign as both historic and a real world lesson for their daughters’ hopes and of their mothers’ histories? Definitely! Was there a streak of misogyny apparent in the media’s coverage of the campaign? You bet there was!
Clearly African Americans have the same sense of pride about Mr. Obama and clearly there was overt and tacit racism present in the media’s coverage of this campaign as well.
While our nation has moved to a point where a woman and an African American have a real chance of leading our nation, there will still be those who will not vote for one or both of these candidates because they can’t pull that lever for either a woman or a black man. That is sad, but it is a fact. No matter what our arguments on behalf of Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama those people would never vote for one of these candidates- their prejudices (misogynistic and/or racist) are too ingrained and visceral to be swayed by intelligent discourse. I am not addressing my remarks to those who will not vote for Mr. Obama because he is black- those people will never vote for him. There is nothing I can say in a blog article that will erase their racism and frankly I won’t waste my time or their’s trying to do so.
This is open letter is to those of you who supported Mrs. Clinton and who are enlightened enough to see beyond gender and race.
While this election will always be historic and groundbreaking because of the demographics of the candidates- and that history should be acknowledged and celebrated; it should not be about their gender or race; it should not be about identity politics. It should be about the issues that we, as Democrats, care about and that bind us together.
The differences in policies between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama are nuanced and a pale shade of grey. The differences between Mr. Obama and Senator McCain are stark and black and white. We have a clear choice and an important one. In all due respect, if you supported Mrs. Clinton because of her stance on issues it would be insanity to vote for Mr. McCain or not to vote (effectively ceding your franchise and effectively helping Mr. McCain). I plead with you to think carefully.
First is the issue of the Supreme Court. The 44th President of the United States will likely appoint 2 new members to the Court and potentially 3. Justice John Paul Stevens is 88 and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 75 and both are likely to retire during the next presidential term. It has been rumored that Justice David Souter, although only 68, would love to return to his home in New Hampshire and retire.
If Mr. McCain becomes President the court will definitely move far to the right. It is clear that Mr. McCain would nominate justices that are in the vein of Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito- three justices that the candidate is on record admiring. The current court is tilting to the right, a McCain presidency would take it far to the right and there is no doubt that Roe v. Wade would be overturned and a woman’s right to choose would be in jeopardy. Clearly, Mr. Obama does not have an agenda to overturn Roe v. Wade and supports a woman’s right to choose.
Mr. Obama has sound policies to address not only the issue of choice but many other issues of concern to women- http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/womenissues
Mr. McCain’s policies on privatizing Social Security would put that program- a safety net for the nation’s elderly and disabled- at risk. The burden on elderly Americans is already significant and Mr. McCain’s policies would only exacerbate those burdens. Mr. Obama wants to shore up the Social Security Trust Fund. Would that mean higher taxes? It would raise taxes on 6% of Americans- the 6% that make over $97,000 a year. It has never made sense to me that there is a cap on Social security taxes that tax the poorest but do eliminate a tax liability for the richest. Let’s be honest about Social Security- it needs to be protected and in order to ensure that it functions and works for future generations raising or eliminating that cap makes sense. We should listen to Warren Buffet- the richest man in the country- he believes that folks like him should be paying a higher percentage of their income to taxes- including Social Security. In an interview he talked about how absurd it is that his administrative assistant pays a higher percentage of her income in taxes than he does. Mr. Obama’s removal of the cap for the Social Security tax will not be popular among the advocates for the wealthy but it is fair and will go a long way to keeping the program solvent. Mr. Obama is offering real solutions that do not burden middle and low income Americans to sustain Social Security to continue providing needed financial help for the elderly. Mr. Obama’s plans for social security can be found at http://www.barackobama.com/issues/seniors
Mr. Obama has a plan that would essentially offer universal coverage. It is true that Mrs. Clinton’s program went further than Mr. Obama’s does, but Mr. Obama’s is a plan that is light years better than the restructuring of the health care market place that Mr. McCain proposes. Essentially Mr. McCain offers no sort of health care reform. Ironically, Mr. McCain’s plan would make it difficult for people like him- Americans with preëxisting conditions- to obtain affordable care. Mr. Obama’s health care plan can be found at http://www.barackobama.com/issues/healthcare/
Mr. Obama actually has thoughts about education something on which Mr. McCain has not offered much of a position. Mr. Obama believes that we must equip poor and struggling districts, both rural and urban, with the support and resources they need to provide disadvantaged students with an opportunity to reach their full potential. Too often, our leaders present this issue as an either – or debate, divided between giving our schools more funding, or demanding more accountability. Mr. Obama believes that we have to do both and has offered a cogent plan available on his website http://www.barackobama.com/issues/education/ .
Mr. Obama’s position on the war in Iraq is well known and unlike Mr. McCain he acknowledges that this war is not worth more blood and treasure. Mr. Obama believes that this ill-conceived war that has done nothing to address the threat of terrorism has taken the lives of too many of our nation’s sons and daughters. This issue too is addressed on his website in depth http://www.barackobama.com/issues/iraq/ and a description of his sound foreign policy objectives can be found at http://www.barackobama.com/issues/foreignpolicy/
Today- we heard more disastrous economic news. Higher unemployment, more home foreclosures, skyrocketing oil prices, obscene gas prices. Mr. McCain acknowledges that economics is not his strong suit and he offers nothing more than more of the disastrous economic policies of Mr. Bush- policies that benefit the wealthiest among us and multinational corporations that ship jobs abroad and has no qualms about spending billions of dollars on a war while ignoring our domestic economic disaster and our crumbling infrastructure. Again there is more information at http://www.barackobama.com/issues/economy/
The Democratic Party must be unified in this election. It is a pivotal time for our nation. With 81% of all Americans having the opinion that the nation is headed in the wrong direction, the last thing we need is Mr. McCain’s replay of Mr. Bush.
Mr. McCain has a reputation as a maverick which is appealing to many. However whatever maverick tendency the Senator may once have possessed has evaporated in recent years. It is clear that Mr. McCain has consistently moved to the right in recent years- in ways that are troubling. His commendable comments about Jerry Falwell as an agent of intolerance were bold for a Republican but he later caved and embraced Falwell at Liberty University- not unlike the embrace he had, and continues to have, with George W. Bush.
So, my fellow citizens, my friends who supported Mrs. Clinton- please think about the significance of your action in November. A vote for no one or a vote for Mr. McCain is simply not an option for any one who agrees with Mrs. Clinton on the issues. Please join me and ensure that Mr. McCain does not become the next President. I know that you may never be the supporter of and believer in Mr. Obama that I am, but our nation needs you to make the right choice and ensure that we do not have four more years of a Bush presidency in the name of McCain and morphed into McBush.
Your party and your nation need you to cast your vote for Mr. Obama.