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Making History, or Imprisoned by it?

by Maureen Dowd


“The argument about which identity deserves the nomination (for President) more is getting rather ugly.

Some women in their 30s, 40s, and early 50s who favor Barack Obama have a phrase to describe what they don’t like about Hillary Clinton: shoulder-pad feminism.

They feel that women have moved past that men-are-pigs, woe-is-me, sisters-must-stick-together, pantsuits-are-powerful era that Hillary’s campaign has lately revived with a vengeance.

And they don’t like Gloria Steinem and other old-school feminists trying to impose gender discipline and a call to order on the sisters.

As a woman I know puts it: “Hillary doesn’t make it look like fun to be a woman. And her ‘I-have-been-victimized’ campaign is depressing.”

But Hillary - carried on the padded shoulders of the older women in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island who loved her ‘I Will Survive’ rallying cry that ‘I am a little older and I have earned every wrinkle on my face’ - has been saved to fight another day.

Exit polls have showed that fans of Hillary - who once said they would be happy with Obama if Hillary dropped out - were hardening their opposition to him (while Obama voters are not so harsh about her).

Three Hillary volunteers, older women from Boston, approached a New York Times reporter in an Austin, Texas, parking lot on Tuesday to vent that Hillary hasn’t gotten a fair shake from the press. They said that they used to like Obama but now can’t stand him because they think he has been cocky and disrespectful to Hillary.

As Hillary, remarkably, put Obama on the defensive about a real estate deal, health care and NAFTA, her campaign ratcheted up the retro battle of the sexes when they sent Dianne Feinstein onto the Fox News Sunday-morning talk show to promote the idea that Hillary should be able to keep campaigning, even if she lost both Texas and Ohio, simply because she’s a woman.

‘For those of us that are part of “a woman need not apply” generation that goes back to the time I went out to get my first job following college and a year of graduate work, this is an extraordinarily critical race,’ she said.

With Obama saying the hour is upon us to elect a black man and Hillary saying the hour is upon us to elect a woman, the Democratic primary has become the ultimate nightmare of liberal identity politics. All the historical victimizations go tripping over each other and colliding, a competition of historical guilts.

People will have to choose which of America’s sins are greater, and which stain will have to be removed first. Is misogyny worse than racism, or is racism worse than misogyny?

As it turns out, making history is actually a way of being imprisoned by history. It’s all about the past. Will America’s racial past be expunged or America’s sexist past be expunged?

As Ali Gallagher, a white Hillary volunteer in Austin told The Washington Post’s Krissah Williams: ‘A friend of mine, a black man, said to me, “My ancestors came to this country in chains; I’m voting for Barack.” I told him, “Well, my sisters came here in chains and on their periods; I’m voting for Hillary.”’

And meanwhile, the conventional white man sits on the Republican side and enjoys the spectacle of the Democrats’ identity pileup and victim lock. Just as Michelle Obama urged blacks to support her husband, many old-school feminists are growing more fierce in charging that women who let Obama leapfrog over Hillary are traitors.

Julie Acevedo, a precinct captain for Obama in Austin, noticed that things were getting ugly in the early voting, when she ‘saw some very angry women just stomping by us to go vote for Hillary. They cut us off when we tried to talk about Barack.’

‘I’m 46,’ Acevedo, a fundraiser for state politicians, said Tuesday night. ‘Maybe I missed it by a few years, but I don’t know why these women are so fueled by such hostility and think other women are misogynists if they don’t vote for Hillary. It’s insulting and disturbing.’

She said that if Obama definitely outpaces Hillary, she will work to ‘heal the wounds’ and woo back women who are now angry at him.

Watching Bill Clinton greet but not address - the Big Dog has been muzzled - an excited group of students at Texas State University on Tuesday, 19-year-old Allison Krolczyk said she was leaning toward Obama and felt no gender guilt about voting for him. ‘Not at all,’ she said. ‘I think they’re both pretty amazing.’

The crowd held up their camera phones to capture the former president, in his bright orange tie and orange-brown ostrich cowboy boots.

‘We love you, Bill!,’ yelled one boy. ‘You did a good job, except for Monica.’”

“Making History, or Imprisoned by it? The argument about which identity deserves the nomination more is getting rather ugly.” by Maureen Dowd of the New York Times Star Tribune, March 7, 2008, p. A13.

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