Voters may exit with Clinton

June 10, 2008|By SUSAN REIMER

The feminist-baiting males in my life are asking, with barely contained glee, if I am sad that Hillary Clinton didn't win the Democratic nomination for president. They assume I wanted a female nominee.

No, I tell them, I wanted an electable nominee. And she was it.

It seems strange to say this now. I used to think that Hillary was the most unelectable of the Democratic contenders. Too much Clinton baggage, even for me.

I didn't know if I could hold my breath for four years, waiting for Bill to misbehave. (It turns out, I didn't have to wait nearly that long. His meltdowns during the campaign were not bimbo eruptions, but they were bad enough.)

I told people last fall that her nomination was an inevitability. "Put this one in the win column and go on vacation," I said. "The Clintons have the money connections and the campaign machinery to outspend and grind up anybody in their path. She is unbeatable."

Turns out, I was wrong about that, too. She started having money troubles midway through her campaign. And, if you believe an analysis in The New York Times last week, it was the superdelegates (aka the Democratic machinery) who failed her, refusing to commit or changing sides when they were the only ones who could tip the delegate count in her favor.

This means we will not only not have a female president, I am afraid we won't have a Democratic president, either. And after eight years of George Bush, this hardly seems possible. (That's the other thing I said last fall. "The local dog-catcher can beat a Republican, any Republican.")

As pleasing and smart and evocative as Barack Obama is, there are hard-core Democrats out there in working-class America who simply will not vote for a black man.

They won't vote for a Republican, either.

So they will stay home.

Trust me. This has been my instinct all along, and I have friends who confess to me that their small-town, working-class relatives liked Hillary's small-town, working-class pitch well enough to swallow the idea of a female president. She started to seem like a girlfriend to these older voters, especially older women.

But, despite the fact that he has a white mother, Barack Obama will never look like anything to them but a black man. And, whatever feminist labels Hillary had on her luggage, she was not a black man, and they cannot imagine voting for a black man.

There were questions during the primary process about whether voters were telling the truth when they said Obama's race was not a factor in their voting decisions. There were whispers that voters were saying out loud what they knew to be politically correct but, in the privacy of the voting booth, they would reveal their true feelings and those feelings were tinged with racism.

That's not what I am talking about here.

I am talking about voters who are not afraid to say that they will not vote for a black man and are surprised you even asked. Rather than hold their noses and vote for a Republican, they won't vote at all.

And I am talking about women who fought the early feminist wars, who were passed over for some younger guy early in their careers, who wanted to finally even the score with a female president.

For these women, the Hillary-Barack drama is deja vu all over again and they may stay home, too, out of angry frustration.

What I fear is that this refusal to vote will be the difference in states like New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Tennessee, states Hillary won, states Obama has to carry if he is going to beat John McCain. That too many of the 18 million people who voted for Hillary will not vote at all.

So, no. I am not angry that a woman will not be president, although I don't think a contender as strong as Hillary will come along again in my lifetime.

I am angry that a Democrat might not be president.

I just hope I am wrong about this, too.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

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To read more columns by Susan Reimer, go to baltimore sun.com/reimer

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