There has been a roaring debate in my home the last few weeks: Clinton. Obama. I say Obama! But it has to be Clinton! In the comfort of my living room, it's a refreshing argument, since Democrats finally have two (or more) resolutely presidential possibilities. But then I open the pages of my paper, or my favorite left-leaning political websites, and find party leaders, pundits, and activist organizations rushing to endorse one or the other, fangs and all. It's a dangerous split and frankly, it makes me nervous. Haven't the Bush years done enough damage to make us put a democratic agenda first, regardless of the candidate?
Earlier this week, Ruth Rosen expressed her support for Obama at TPM Café. She stated her frustration over Clinton's "splitting the difference" between Bush's proposed 40-hour workweek for working mothers on TANF and the more reasonable 30-hour work week. Clinton settled on 35 hours. And this makes her unworthy to be president?
Meanwhile, Clinton endorsements are pushing all kinds of buttons among peer feminists, like Robin Morgan's fiery "Obama Girl" censure, embedded deep in the update to her 1970 essay, "Goodbye to All That."
I'm particularly weary of the reported divide among feminists. It's too tantalizing for outlets like the Wall Street Journal to resist, declaring just yesterday "Democratic Race Causes Feminist Rift." The article oversimplifies a complicated exchange of recent endorsements and fails to acknowledge the effort some feminists have made to align with one candidate but offer to back the other if nominated. Clinton supporter Gloria Steinem, for instance, wrote, "I'm not opposing Mr. Obama; if he's the nominee, I'll volunteer." And Katha Pollitt's Obama endorsement included the statement, "If [Clinton] is the nominee I will work my heart out for her." Still others, like Gloria Feldt and Kate Michelman have forwarded endorsements without opposing the other front-runner.
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I value all of these opinions. But I still haven't found what I'm looking for. It's not that the finer points don't merit discussion or that past voting records and campaign missteps shouldn't be brought to light and re-hashed. I am thrilled progressives have enough confidence in the Democrats to focus on such nuances. I'll even admit: I have an unwavering opinion about which of these two candidates I would like to be the next president. But I gave up the privilege of single-issue hairsplitting and individual candidate favoritism long ago. Who will be better for women? Who will be better for the poor? Who will take issues of race seriously? Who will develop more respectable global relationships? The answer is Democrats.
In the last two presidential terms, Republicans have done everything wrong. They've been caught in lies and the betrayal of hard-working Americans again and again. More than 4,000 coalition troops have died in Iraq; at least 151,000 Iraqis have died since the 2003 invasion. Katrina? Guantanamo? Refusing to sign the Kyoto Treaty? The wrongs are blatant and on record. Bush just posted his lowest approval rating to date. Sadly, the record hasn't been wrong enough to cement Democratic (and Independent) support for an unbeatable presidential ticket.
You know what I'm about to propose. It's time to insist on Obama and Clinton. Or Clinton and Obama. The ticket I want is the one that will win it all. Period. Democrats: nominate that team, but more importantly, get them in office. I don't think the soul of America can survive another Republican administration. Do you?
We are lucky to have new energy and new enthusiasm for this campaign, from voters of all stripes. More voters are voting in primaries; younger voters are registering and turning out in record numbers. But these optimistic trends are waylaid when the left plays by the old rules of campaigning. Pitting Clinton and Obama against each other is tired and predictable. If the left wants New Politics, stop taking up individual fights that fail to render individual wins.
There will be time, once a Democrat is elected, to pitch dearly held causes, such as lobbying for fair terms for TANF recipients. There may even be time to continue to dismantle the limitations of our two-party system, eliminating the binary and predictable thinking it causes.
But meanwhile, pre-nomination, how is the left served by dividing feminists? Dividing peace advocates? Dividing environmentalists? These are the people and the issues I care about most. Do we truly think that Obama or Clinton will have such a different impact in the long run that it is worth risking a Republican victory AGAIN?
Before it's too late, let's rally against the real opposition: our Republican president and any possibility of a Republican successor. I am no pundit. I am just a regular voting Democrat. And I want to see my party win.