A little less than a year ago I wrote my first column on Hillary and Barack and the false alternatives “Change” (Barack) vs. “Experience” (Hillary). Hillary most definitely represents both; I am less certain about Obama.
Obama is celebrated—especially among whites—as one whose own family background, as well as his views, can transcend the racial divide: his mother is a Caucasian American, his father an African from Kenya.
But how is Hillary supposed to transcend the gender-divide? She does try, insofar as she mentions it as little as possible, thereby disappointing many women. But in no way can she “personify” such transcendence: biology may blend the skin-color of mother and father in their offspring but not (or very rarely) their sex. Besides, at this point in time a transgendered individual would have no chance. As it is, Clinton is more often criticized than praised for showing “masculine detachment,” i.e. transcending gender stereotypes.
In the meantime, many women have pointed out that it is easier for a Black male to gain political power in the U.S. than for a woman, be she white, Black, yellow or red. As Black Congresswoman (and one-time presidential candidate) Shirley Chisholm (1924-2004) observed, "Of my two 'handicaps,' being female put more obstacles in my path than being black."
So much for “Change.” Now we come to the real drama of the recent primary contest in New Hampshire.
The polls predicted everything accurately for the Republican contest, but for the Democrats they were off by 11-16 (!!) percentage points. While Obama had been predicted to beat Hillary by over 10 points, she in fact received 39% to his 36%. Such a gigantic error in polling has not occurred since 1948, when Democrat Harry Truman upset the “favorite,” Republican Thomas Dewey. The discredited guild of opinion pollsters was duly red-faced, and with them the gullible journalists who had repeatedly and enthusiastically trumpeted Obama’s expected win.
I had been quite alone in the view that I steadfastly maintained in spite of the devastating poll numbers, namely: “It’s quite clear what’s happening here. They’ve ignored the women once again—left them out of their calculations, not polled them nor adequately weighted their influence, especially the older women, Hillary’s own generation. And the Baby Boomers are plenty numerous…. You’ll see: they’ll come out and vote for Hillary—the weather is beautiful, the streets are free of ice and the women don’t need to worry about falling and breaking a hip.” Such were the thoughts of the seasoned author of the book “Die Frau ist nicht der Rede wert” (Women Aren’t Worth Mentioning) concerning the true importance of the granny-factor!
What I hadn’t known until then: the Democratic Party is sixty per cent women in the first place (although that proportion isn’t yet reflected in its highest ranks). And Democratic women are predominantly for Hillary, especially poor and older women, two groups which rarely make it onto the media’s radar screen. Sixty-five per cent of women over 65 voted for Hillary; only thirty-five per cent for Obama or Edwards. They had made their decision long before and acted on it, while the young voters so courted by the pollsters and seemingly so enthusiastic about Obama preferred to skip the bothersome voting and just enjoy the nice weather.
I sometimes get the impression that I am much more interested in this campaign than the American women I know, even though I’m a foreigner. Maybe that’s because as a German I’ve been able to watch a woman actually become head of state and really show the “boys” for once, especially former Chancellor Schroeder, who had rudely insisted on television that “she just can’t do the job.” And I’ve not forgotten how after the Merkel-Schroeder debate the media pronounced him souvereign and statesmanlike, while she was described as wooden and boring. They didn’t attribute “charisma” to Schroeder so often as now to Obama, but the reaction was very similar: irresistible radiant hero vs. middle-aged woman.
I was already a contrarian in the case of Merkel, and in the meantime the rest of the world has also seen that she can do much more (and looks much better) than the biased representations of the male media would have let one imagine. We were finally given a “reality check,” just like the one the Wise Women of New Hampshire have now delivered to the pollsters and the media.
It is perhaps even more important for women internationally than for the U.S. population that this male-dominated White House be stopped. Just as one cowboy president has plunged the entire world into such catastrophes as Iraq and global warming, one competent woman at the helm of the world’s most powerful nation could prevent much harm and bring about a wonderful world-wide—“Change!”:
“Around the world today, too many women are denied what we consider human rights. By honoring the contributions of women and reflecting on the progress we have made, we can inspire women around the world who are working to change their communities and their countries. ... Women’s rights are human rights.“ (Hillary Clinton)
“Hope” is (in addition to “Change”) the second battle-cry of the Obama campaign. My hope for the women of the world relies on the Wise Women and on Hillary.
(transl. Joey Horsley)